The government of Tanzania has refuted claims published in Kenyan newspaper suggesting that the former First Vice-President of South Sudan, Dr Riek Machar, is in Tanzania’s designated capital of Dodoma where he is seeking asylum.
In a telephone interview with the ‘Daily News’ yesterday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, said the government was unaware of the said claim by ‘The Star’.
“We are not aware of such news; why should he (Dr Machar) go to Dodoma to seek asylum and yet the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is based in Dar es Salaam?“What is more, to arrive in Tanzania he should have landed at either Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) but we are not aware of his arrival,” the veteran diplomat stated.
Dr Mahiga referred this paper to the Ministry of Home Affairs since it is the one in charge of refugees but by the time we went to press we could not get hold of its Minister Mwigulu Nchemba. The Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Engineer Hamad Masauni, declined to comment, stating that the minister was best placed to comment on the matter.
Efforts to get comment from the UNHCR office in Tanzania were not fruitful. The Kenyan newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, alleged that the embattled Machar gained entry into Tanzania four days ago, and was later spotted on Satellite.
It claimed further that the presence of Dr Machar in Tanzania coincides with the visit of Cord leader Raila Odinga into the country. The former vice-president returned to the capital Juba in April after a peace deal, but left again last month when new clashes broke out.
President Salva Kiir of South Sudan sacked Dr Machar and replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, his former ally after he failed to honour ultimatum to return to capital Juba. Dr Machar has never made any statement since he was replaced as vice-president with Gai, according to the source.
The former vice-president and the SPLM-IO group he leads have been caught up with more than two years of on-and-off, ethnically charged fighting with supporters of the country’s President Kiir.
Machar’s alleged entry into Tanzania comes as the UN Security Council on Friday authorized the deployment of a 4,000-strong protection force in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
The authorisation is part of the UN peacekeeping mission and threatened an arms embargo if the government does not cooperate.