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Ceasefire Monitors to Deploy in South Sudan

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

The bloc known as IGAD has directed special envoys to set up a monitoring presence in South Sudan within 48 hours.

Seyoum Mefin, the lead mediator in South Sudan peace talks, announced the decision Friday as IGAD ministers met on the sidelines of 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.

According to Reuters, 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.

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 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 says 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 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.

South Sudan erupted in unrest last month after President Kiir accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of attempting a coup -- a charge Machar has denied.

The ensuing violence is believed to have left thousands of people dead. More than a half million people have been displaced.