video 1 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)
video 3.68 MB)
video 1 (Medics)
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medical personnel attend a women and child recovered from
among the dead at Kibeho.
Photo by Cpl Geoff Fox, MSU
soldiers retrieve a casualty of the Kibeho massacre.
Photos provided by DDM
Officer Capt Susie Busch bathes the ulcerated foot of a
small child at Madam Carrs orphanage.
troops apply first aid to a civilians minor injuries.
The squalid living conditions in the camps meant any minor
cut or scratch was likely to become infected.
field of human skulls.
years have passed since Australian peacekeepers deployed to Rwanda
to bring sanity to a land gone mad. Cpl Cameron Jamieson talks
to veterans about their haunting experiences.
images on the television screen defied description. The slaughter
was on a horrific scale, and nowhere was safe.
Entire families were murdered in churches as they begged to be
spared from the genocide. Neighbour turned on neighbour as the
country descended into madness.
Before April 1994, Rwanda was a small and obscure African country
that figured little in international politics.
After April 1994, Rwanda became an international synonym for genocide.
It was into this scenario that two rotations of Australian troops
were sent to serve with the Second United Nations Assistance Mission
in Rwanda (UNAMIR II).
On July 25, 1994, the then Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating,
announced that Australia would provide financial aid and commit
a tri-service Medical Support Force to Rwanda, as part of Operation
This first contingent consisted of 302 personnel, including 293
personnel in the Medical Support Force, nine allocated to HQ UNAMIR
II and a Red Cross representative.
The contingent was committed to a six-month deployment, with the
option for the deployment of a second contingent for another six-months.
This option was taken and more than 600 ADF personnel served in
Rwanda with UNAMIR II.
The main function of the Australian Medical Support Force (AS
MSF) was to provide medical facilities, including a surgical capability,
to support the UN military forces, UN contractors and agencies
and some other UN employees.
Non-Government Organisation staff and some Rwandan officials were
later able to use the facilities.
Although the AS MSF was in Rwanda primarily to support the UN
workforce, there was still opportunity to assist the local population
and many Rwandans are alive today because of the Australian troops.
The force consisted of a HQ element and three companies
a medical company, a logistic company and a rifle company, which
provided security for the force.
The advance party departed Australia on August 6, 1994, and was
joined in Kigali by the main body on August 21.
Wayne Ramsey has retired from the ADF, but in 1994 he was a colonel
and was appointed as both the Chief Medical Officer for the UN
in Rwanda and the Australian National Commander.
He remembers the comradeship of his colleagues from the many nations
that made up UNAMIR II, but he also recalls the devastation that
greeted the Australians in Rwanda.
I have very clear recollections of the tragedy mass
graves, desecrated churches, looted hospitals, a desolated country
with village after village devoid of life, he says.
I also have memories of tens of thousands of people on the
move, carrying their lives possessions.
Col Beverley Wright was a major in 1994 and was appointed the
senior nursing officer and 2IC of the Medical Coy during the first
She remembers how her team hit the ground running.
We treated severe trauma from machete and gunshot wounds,
mine injuries and motor vehicle accidents, as well as various
infectious diseases not seen in Australia, she says.
We treated everyone, from the new born to the very aged.
We saw the stoicism that was displayed by the many who had
lost so much, and who still had a long way to go.
CO 2RAR Lt-Col John Frewen was at that time a captain and SO3
at the main HQ at Kigali, and vividly remembers the weeks he spent
with the advance party before the arrival of the main body.
It was during this period that we encountered the worst
conditions and greatest challenges, he says.
My various visits to the camps, including Kibeho
the most massive of the sprawling displaced persons camps
were also highly memorable.
For all involved, service with UNAMIR II was an eye-opening experience
that has remained with them ever since.
While great inroads were made into the stabilisation of the country,
and great efforts were made to allow the Displaced Persons (DPs)
to return home, many sinister overtones remained, making it difficult
for Rwanda to move towards peace.
The majority Hutu population had turned on the Tutsi populace
in an act of genocide.
Those Hutus who dared show empathy with the Tutsis were likewise
Now that the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) had
fought back and taken control of the country, they were eager
to clear the DP camps to prevent a resurgent Hutu militia from
This led to incidents of intimidation of the UN personnel, who
were sometimes perceived to be protecting the Hutus.
It also led to the horror of the Kibeho massacre, where powerless
Australian troops witnessed the slaughter of Hutu DPs who sheltered
in the Kibeho camp.
Gradually, the situation in Rwanda began to settle and the second
rotation began to wind back its operations, handing over the medical
role to Rwandans who had been trained by the Australians.
By the end of August 1995, the Australians of the second contingent
had returned home to their waiting families and to the thanks
of their government.
For the veterans themselves, they continue to experience a range
of emotions arising from their experiences.
Lt-Col Frewen believes the Australian contingents brought some
hope to the people of Rwanda.
Our efforts, as part of the international community, showed
[that] the world did care and our compassion gave some of them
the strength to face the future, he says.
We also, once again, displayed the great flexibility and
professionalism of the ADF in unusual and difficult circumstances
Im proud of that.
Mr Ramsay agrees that the ADF did more than their assigned role.
Although our primary mission and success was around the
health support we provided, by our presence we played a significant
part in promoting stability in the country, he says.
Col Wright saw the evidence of the stability returning during
her time in Rwanda.
Over my time in the country more and more Rwandans were
On Sundays, some families would go for a walk, and you could
see the confidence starting to increase the longer we were there.
But it was not all success for the UN and international community.
In some ways there were failings, which are perhaps best summed
up UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
We must never forget our collective failure to protect at
least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who perished
Neither the UN Secretariat, nor the Security Council, nor
member states in general, nor the international media, paid enough
attention to the gathering signs of disaster. Still less did we
take timely action.
Ten years on, Rwanda has become safer and more stable, and has
begun the process of healing. Although the road from genocide
to the present has not been smooth, Rwanda is slowly coming to
terms with itself and its past.
Its a positive process, to which a small number of Australians
Australian veterans of UNAMIR II can keep in touch through the
ADF Veterans of Somalia and Rwanda Contact Group. The site is
accessed via http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/adfvosr/index.html
You will first have to register with the mc2 group, which is a
free community service provided by the Victorian Government, and
then register with the contact group.