DAR-ES-SALAAM, -- The Tanzanian government has dismissed claims published in a Kenyan newspaper suggesting that the former First Vice-President of South Sudan, Dr Riek Machar, is in Tanzania's designated capital of Dodoma and is seeking asylum.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation Dr Augustine Mahiga told the Daily News Monday that the government was unaware of the claim by The Star newspaper.

"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 Daily News was unable to reach Home Affairs (Interior) Minister Mwigulu Nchemba and Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Hamad Masauni declined to comment. Efforts to get a comment from the UNHCR office in Tanzania were not fruitful.

The former South Sudan vice-president returned to the capital, Juba, in April after the signing of 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 an ultimatum to return to 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 co-operate.

Source: Name News Network

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