News / Africa

Cease-Fire Monitors to Deploy in South Sudan

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East African countries are sending envoys to South Sudan to monitor a shaky cease-fire between rebels and government forces.

The regional bloc IGAD ( Intergovernmental Authority on Development ) has directed special envoys to set up a monitoring presence in South Sudan within 48 hours.  The decision was announced Friday at the African Union summit in Ethiopia.

The monitors are the vanguard of a larger team that will monitor the cease-fire, brokered by IGAD last week.

Reuters news agency reports a British envoy at Friday's talks said the monitors will focus on four flashpoint towns that have been the scene of heavy fighting -- Bor, Bentui, Malakal and South Sudan's capital, Juba.

On Sunday, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous travels to South Sudan where he is expected to discuss implementation of the cease-fire plan with senior government officials.

He will also meet with U.N.'s staff about humanitarian efforts in the country.  U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan are protecting more than 85,000 displaced civilians, about half of them in the capital, Juba.

More than 500,000 people in all have been displaced since a dispute within the ruling SPLM party erupted into violence last month.

An African Union official said Friday the organization has no plans to request military or political assistance from the United States or other western countries to help resolve South Sudan's crisis.

In a VOA Swahili Service interview, AU Deputy Chairman Erastus Mwencha said AU-member countries have taken all necessary measures to help resolve the crisis.

In another development Friday, Doctors Without Borders said rising insecurity had forced its staff members and patients to flee from Leer Hospital, the only fully functional medical facility in Unity State.

The international relief group said more than 200 hospital workers, including 30 members of its staff team, had fled into the bush, taking the most critically ill patients with them.

Representatives for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and anti-government forces agreed to the cease-fire on January 23.  But since then, the fragile agreement has been tested, as each side accused the other of violations.

At the AU summit, U.S. South Sudan envoy Donald Booth warned "there will be consequences" for anyone who tries to undermine the peace process.

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