Zimbabwe has begun releasing about 3,000 prisoners under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.
About 400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.
Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Those to be released had been convicted of non-violent crimes. Those convicted of crimes such as murder, treason, human trafficking, and sexual offenses will not benefit.
All females imprisoned for non-violent crimes and who served a third of their sentences are to be released, as will all disabled persons convicted of non-violent crimes. Mnangagwa also commuted death sentences to life sentences for many prisoners on death row. Zimbabwe still has the death penalty but has not hanged anyone in years.
The amnesty “will go a long way” to reduce expenditure and the threat of the spread of the virus in prisons, said Alvord Gapare, the commander for prisons in Harare. He said prisons in the capital had recorded 173 confirmed infections and one death.
Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of COVID-19, including 1,551 deaths by Apr. 17, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Authorities have suspended visits to prisons while plans are made to vaccinate inmates as part of measures to combat the spread of the virus, said Gapare.
The suspension of the visits was “tough” for inmates, said Patience Gabhure, who was among those released on Saturday.
“There is never enough food in prison so the lockdown meant we had to go hungry because our families could not bring us food. It was the hardest moment in my prison life,” said Ghabure, who had been jailed for six months for assault.
Political activists who have been sent to prison as part of a government crackdown on dissent have spoken of dire conditions, which they said put inmates at risk of both starvation and disease outbreak.
In another response to the pandemic, Zimbabwe has canceled the Independence Day celebrations planned for April 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Shooting between separatists, Cameroonian forces kills civilians
A civilian was killed in a shootout between separatist fighters and government forces in Mbalangi, southwest Cameroon.
Four other civilians were injured in the incident on Tuesday.
Government forces were heading to clear a roadblock when the incident occurred, said Cameroon News Agency, which added that an explosive device had been detonated in Ediki.
A faction of separatists in Cameroon had announced a two-week lockdown which it said will begin on September 15 and end on October 2, 2021.
In the Tatum Bui division, in the north-western region of the country, a soldier was killed on Monday by separatist fighters who seized his weapons and left his body in a bush.
The shootout between government forces and armed separatists seeking an independent state known as Ambazonia, has left scores of civilians dead and injured since the Cameroonian government headed by President Paul Biya failed in establishing a dialogue with aggrieved citizens.
Nigeria recaptures 108 inmates after prison outbreak
At least 108 out of 240 inmates who escaped from a prison in central Nigeria have been recaptured, a prison official said Tuesday.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed the Security Custodial Centre in Kabba, in Kogi State, late on Sunday, freeing scores of inmates.
It was unclear who the gunmen were but criminal gangs have terrorised central and northwest Nigeria for years.
“We have a total of 108 inmates rearrested,” Nigeria’s correctional service spokesman Francis Enobore told AFP by phone.
“But as the day progresses, the figure will definitely increase,” he added, saying “several processes have been activated to ensure all inmates are rearrested.”
At about 2245 GMT on Sunday, the spokesman had said earlier in a statement, numerous attackers “engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle.”
The gunmen invaded the prison, which had 294 prisoners in custody at the time, including 224 pre-trial detainees.
A soldier and a police officer lost their lives in the attack, Enobore later added.
Large prison outbreaks are not uncommon in Nigeria.
On April 5, gunmen raided Owerri police headquarters, in Nigeria’s southern Imo state, freeing more than 1,800 inmates.
In addition to fighting criminal gangs who also kidnap people for ransom and rustle cattle, Nigeria’s security forces are facing a violent jihadist insurgency in the northeast and separatist agitation in the southeast.
Biafran separatists to shut Nigeria’s eastern region on September 14
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a Biafran pro-independence group, has announced that the southeastern region of Nigeria will be closed on September 14, 2021, to mark what they call “saboteurs day”.
The separatist group said the “saboteurs day” is a day to remember— September 14, 2017, when government forces raided the home of its leader Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia, where they killed at least 28 civilians in an attempted assassinate the separatist leader.
It is also a day to remember all those who betrayed their comrades and sabotaged the struggle to restore the sovereign state of Biafra, said IPOB.
No official statement is made on the issue by the Federal Government of Nigeria which has almost lost control of the eastern region of the country.
Meanwhile, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the IPOB is still detained by the Nigerian authorities who had illegally repatriated him in July 2021 to Nigeria after his arrest in Kenya.
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