Tanzanian President John Magufuli has ordered the release 1 789 Ethiopians imprisoned for entering the country illegally.

President Magufuli’s pardon came after talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde, who was on an official tour of Tanzania.

Tanzania’s president says the pardon is a goodwill gesture to strengthen relations with Ethiopia.

“We have discussed a way for them to go back home. I also have promised that we will not take any legal action against them. This is because we are neighbors and relatives,” he says.

For several decades Tanzania has intercepted illegal immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia who enter the country illegally on their way to South Africa.

Last year, hundreds of people were flown back home from Tanzania with the support of the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration.

Tanzanian President orders release of Ethiopian prisoners:

Trade agreement

On another front, the two presidents have agreed to boost trade between the two countries, especially in the leather industry.

“I can assure you that we are ready for business to really bring the relationship between Tanzania and Ethiopia to a higher level,” says Sahle-Work Zewde.

The relationship between the two countries formally dates back to 1963 when Tanzania opened its embassy in Ethiopia, after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the current African Union. Report by SABC News correspondent in Dar Es salaam, Isaac Lukando.