Fury as Tanzania Pardons Two Child Rapists and Targets Pregnant Schoolgirls for Arrest

The Tanzanian government's decision to release two child rapists has sparked outrage, with rights groups claiming it promotes a culture of human rights violations in the East African nation.

President John Pombe Magufuli pardoned the two men, along with nearly 1,830 other prisoners, during a speech to mark the country's 56th independence anniversary on Saturday (December 9).

The convicted men, rumba singer Nguza Viking, also known as Babu Seya, and his son Johnson Nguza, known as Papii Kocha, were sentenced to life in prison in 2003 after being found guilty of raping 10 girls aged between six and 10. They had spent 13 years in prison.

Fazia Mohamed, Director of Equality Now's Africa office said in a statement: "While "President Mungafuli is pardoning convicted child rapists, regional commissioner John Mongella is calling on pregnant school girls to be arrested and taken to court, in a move to force girls to testify against those who impregnated them.

"Tanzania's leaders are promoting a culture of human rights violations in which young victims of sexual violence are being punished while perpetrators are going free.

"It is unacceptable that convicted child molesters walk free by order of a president who simultaneously denies victims of assault access to education if they become pregnant," she continued.

The two men were freed hours after Magufuli's speech.

One day later, the State House released a statement claiming that Magufuli had signed documents to effectively release the convicts, local news site The Citizen reported.

"I decided to use Article 45(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania although it has never been used before," the leader was quoted as saying.

"You know, it is astonishing to hear that someone, who was sentenced to die by hanging, has been pardoned. It has never happened before, but I decided to use it for the good of Tanzanians."

Dr. Kate McAlpine, director of the Arusha-based Community for Children Rights said that recent developments will further stigmatize victims of violence.

"It reflects an environment that is increasingly hostile towards human rights [abuse] victims and increasingly punitive towards young people. And it does not reflect the government's claimed efforts to be combating violence against children," she told Newsweek.

"It signals a complete lack of understanding about the experience of being a victim of violence and a stigmatizaiton of victims rather than the pursuit of perpetrators," she continued.

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli
Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli speaks during a joint press conference with the Kenyan President on October 31, 2016 at the State House in Nairobi. Magufuli sparked outrage after he pardoned two child rapists sentenced to live in prison for the rape of 10 girls aged between six and 10. SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

Pregnant schoolgirls ban

The presidential pardon came just months after Magufuli faced backlash after calling for a ban of pregnant girls from schools.

The leader said during a public address in June that female students who fall pregnant should be expelled from primary and secondary schools. He added that they should not be allowed back after they deliver, arguing that they would not be able to concentrate.

More than 67,000 people have since signed a petition calling on the president to retract his statements and allow pregnant students to complete their education.

Tanzania has already banned teen mothers from continuing their education, in a move critizised by rights campaigners. In 2002, the country introduced a law allowing school staff to expel pregnant teens on grounds of "offense against morality."

McAlpine said: The country had a new policy in 2015 that would enable the re-entry of pregnant schoolgirls into school. Earlier this year the president announced that pregnant schoolgirls should not be allowed back into school, so this undermines the government policy."