Tanzanian President John Magufuli has pardoned more than 5,000 prisoners in a move aimed at reducing congestion in prisons.

The president made the announcement on Monday as the country marked its 58th anniversary of independence.

He ordered that 5,533 prisoners be should released with the process starting on Tuesday.

This is the highest number of prisoners to be freed in this way and accounts for about 15% of all prisoners in the country.

Some of these prisoners have been jailed over minor offences: stealing chickens, insulting his friend, having an argument with a lover,” the president explained.

“But some were detained because they lacked lawyers to defend them well in their cases, while others for a failure to pay fines,” he added.

Among those who are set to be pardoned include those given a one-year jail term and those with only one year left on their sentence.

President Magufuli said the country’s jails had 35,803 inmates and more than half of those were still waiting to go on trial.