Refugee crisis in Congo 'horrific'
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Hard-bitten United Nations officials say that they have never seen such "horrific" conditions as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The officials who returned this week from the north-east of the country said that they had never witnessed such an appalling humanitarian crisis on such a large scale.
"We've seen the most horrible things in Bunia. Women who've lost their arms and legs, child amputees, men chopped to bits, women raped," U.N. Official, Carolyn McAskie, who returned from the Congo said.
More than 400 people have been killed in recent weeks in the north-east Ituri region.
The refugee crisis -- caused by fighting between rival Hema minority and Lendu majority -- erupted after the pullout of soldiers from neighboring Uganda in response to last year's peace accord to end the five-year war which has killed more than 3 million people.
McAskie said that more than 15,000 people were now crowded in a U.N. compound in Bunia under constant security threats and in deteriorating conditions.
She said that in South Kivu --south of Ituri -- women are being raped and murdered across the region.
"We're not just seeing women who have been raped, we're seeing women who have been torn apart, who have been cut up and who are on the edge of death," she said.
France has agreed to lead a emergency 1,000 member multinational force -- approved by the U.N. Security Council -- to work with U.N. peacekeepers there, in an attempt to restore order to the country.
"The situation in Ituri is critical. It is an emergency situation," said French Ambassador to the U.N., Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, describing the north-east region.
Congo Ambassador to the U.N. Ileka Atoki has welcomed the international intervention even though he believed that the security council's decision was surrounded by internal politics.
Neighboring countries Uganda and Rwanda have also given their support to the international force.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Williamson said that both countries were "onboard" but believed that, "the key is not to re fight the battles of four and a half years of civil war and mischief by nine different countries that had troops within the Congo at one time or another."
The U.N.'s own humanitarian and human rights agency has appealed three times to the U.N. Security Council about the atrocities in the Congo.
"I'm about to submit my third report on the subject to the security council. I am tired of presenting reports of mass human rights violations in the Congo on mass graves in the Congo and I believe it is time to take preventive measures," said U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello.
- CNN's Richard Roth contributed to this report.