Operation LANCE (UNAMIR)
International Operation Name: United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)
International Operation Dates: 1993/10/05 – 1996/03/08
Mandating Organization: United Nations
Region Name: Africa
Canadian Operation Name: Operation LANCE
Canadian Operation Dates: 1993/10/05 – 1996/02/15
The United Nations Security Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) on 5 October 1993, through its Resolution 872. The mandate was to support the parties complying with the Arusha Peace Agreement, including assisting in maintaining security in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, establishing demilitarized zones and demobilization procedures, and monitoring the security situation in the last phases of the transitional government.
With the outbreak of the genocide and renewal of the civil war, Resolution 912 (21 April 1994) expanded UNAMIR’s mandate to allow it to act as an intermediary to arrange a ceasefire, assist in the resumption of humanitarian activities, and monitor the safety and security of civilians who sought refuge with UNAMIR.
Resolution 918 of 17 May 1994 allowed UNAMIR to contribute to the protection and security of refugees and civilians, including the provision of security for relief operations. This subsequently expanded the size of the mission. UNAMIR was tasked to provide security for personnel of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (Resolution 965, 30 November 1994) who were investigating war crimes and genocide in Rwanda.
It was only in mid-1995, almost a year after a new government had been installed, that UNAMIR’s mandate was changed to reflect the new situation. On 9 June 1995, the Security Council approved Resolution 997 that adjusted UNAMIR’s mandate to assist the new government in national reconciliation and nation-building. One last change was made to the mandate on 12 December 1995, when the task of facilitating the safe return of refugees was added, by Resolution 1029.
Rwanda was a country of two extremes in 1994. The Hutus formed 90 percent of the population, while the Tutsis formed about eight percent. Both were highly agricultural people, with almost 95 percent of the population, estimated at 7.15 million in 1991, living in the countryside.
The former Belgian colony was rocked by factional violence almost from the moment of its independence. Some of it was tribal – between Hutus and Tutsis. The Belgians had segregated people by their ethnicity, with the Tutsis holding power in the Belgian colonial period, after Belgium had removed the Hutu chiefs and deputy chiefs and replaced them with a Tutsi monarchy. This continued until an emerging Hutu elite and a Tutsi counter-elite challenged the monarchy beginning in 1959. By the time Rwanda gained its independence as a republic on 1 July 1962, more than half the Tutsi chiefs and sub-chiefs had been killed or exiled.
Given the persistent violence associated with the early years of Rwandan independence, Tutsis exodus continued so that by 1994 an estimated 550,000 were living outside the country. Most had fled to Uganda, where in 1988 they were able to form the Rwandan Patriotic Front with the Rwandan Patriotic Army as its military arm. Although primarily Tutsi-led and manned, the Rwandan Patriotic Army had its share of Hutus who had been alienated by the regime in Kigali.
The Rwandan Patriotic Army launched its first attacks in northern Rwanda in October 1990. When these continued, neighbouring countries brokered a number of ceasefire agreements, all of which were broken until July 1992 when one arranged by the Organization of African Unity and the government of Tanzania seemed likely to hold. It provided for a fifty-person Neutral Military Observer Group (NMOG I) from the Organization of African Unity to operate in Uganda along its border with Rwanda. In February 1993, however, fighting resumed despite its presence, and the Organization of African Unity again sponsored talks. The Arusha Peace Agreement was signed on 4 August, and the Organization of African Unity deployed a second observer group (NMOG II) to Uganda. In the interim, both Rwanda and Uganda requested a UN presence – military observers, or UN military observers – along their common border to prevent its use by the Rwandan Patriotic Army.
On 22 June 1993, Security Council Resolution 929 created the United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR). The mandate of UNOMUR was simple: to ensure that no military aid reached Rwanda. This, in effect, meant the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which was lodged in the north, but also, the Rwandan government. The resolution included 81 United Nations military observers and incorporated the 54 members of NMOG II. UNOMUR’s operations would be on the Ugandan side of the border, but it was obvious to all that a mission would have to be based in Rwanda as well. Just under four months later, on 5 October 1993, the Security Council, through Resolution 872, created the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). UNAMIR was to support the Arusha Agreement, monitor the ceasefire, assist in humanitarian activities, and investigate non-compliance with the Arusha Agreement. The Security Council also agreed to integrate UNOMUR into UNAMIR.
The UNAMIR Force Commander, then Brigadier-General Roméo Dallaire from Canada, was also UNOMUR’s Chief Military Observer. He had spent most of his time in New York planning for UNAMIR, only arriving in Rwanda on 22 October; five days later, 21 members of the military advance party followed. The personnel from Organization of African Unity’s NMOG II were absorbed into UNAMIR, providing the first military personnel for the mission. Belgian and Bangladeshi troops arrived in early December.
The situation was complicated further by events in Burundi, where a Tutsi-led coup resulted in the murder of the democratically elected Hutu president. The subsequent violence saw some 580,000 people fleeing to refugee camps in southern Rwanda, while the Rwandan refugees who had fled to Burundi subsequently moved into neighbouring countries. Fighting in northern Rwanda created additional refugees, some fleeing to neighbouring countries. Another 350,000, primarily Hutus, were internally displaced, mainly in northern Rwanda.
Such instability did not bode well for the future, but there were some successes within Rwanda itself. Brigadier-General Dallaire received permission from the UN to create an additional UN sector in the south to assist in the Burundian refugee effort. Brigadier-General Dallaire was also able to create a weapons-secure area in Kigali by 24 December, and on the 28th UNAMIR forces escorted 600 Rwandan Patriotic Army troops, and designated ministers and staff officers, into Kigali, as per the Arusha Agreement. On the political side, UNAMIR also began assisting in the creation of a transitional government.
But institutional progress did not always trickle down to contending factions, and the formation and arrival of UNAMIR did not stop politically motivated killings or the arming and training of young men in and around the Burundi refugee camps. Indeed, through January and February 1994, the security situation in Kigali became increasingly perilous, with increasing numbers of violent demonstrations, assassinations of political leaders, and assaults on civilians, especially Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Interahamwe, a pro-government militia group that was active as early as March 1992, became increasingly active, and the death toll rose alarmingly. President Juvénal Habyarimana never spoke out against this ethnic-based violence.
More seriously, on 11 January 1994, Brigadier-General Dallaire sent a cable to UN headquarters reporting his conversation with a “top-level trainer” for the Interahamwe. The informant advised that there was a plan to exterminate Tutsis. The plot also included the killing of Belgian peacekeepers in an effort to persuade them to withdraw. Brigadier-General Dallaire was also aware of arms caches in the Kigali area and wanted to raid these caches and seize the arms. UN officials rejected his request and advised him to instead consult with government leaders. This resulted in the weapons being dispersed into the hands of the militias and government supporters.
The response from UN headquarters reflected how UNAMIR was viewed and managed at the highest levels. Already heavily involved in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, UN headquarters did not want to see any expansion of UNAMIR, and as a result, limited the actions Brigadier-General Dallaire could take in order to avoid the probability of “mission creep,” a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment. It also explains the lack of logistical support: too few vehicles, no reserve stocks of food, fuel, medical supplies, and water, and insufficient preparations to allow for self-defence, if it came to that.
At 8:30 p.m. on 6 April 1994, the aircraft carrying Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down by a surface-to-air missile as it approached Kigali airport. This set off three months of genocide in which more than 800,000 men, women, and children, both Tutsis and Hutus, were killed. Visual evidence of the slaughter was plentiful and widely broadcast. The Rwandan Patriotic Army began an all-out assault on the government forces on 8 April. The genocide only stopped when the Rwandan Patriotic Army took over control of the country.
Among the first casualties were moderate Hutu politicians and opponents of the regime. Rwandan government soldiers seized 10 Belgian peacekeepers and murdered them, leading the Belgian government to announce it would withdraw its peacekeepers. Bangladesh was to follow suit. The Belgian contingent commander, Colonel Luc Marchal, was able to delay his evacuation, until Ghanaian troops, ordered out of the north by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, arrived in Kigali.
The genocide began in Kigali and surrounding regions but as the Rwandan Patriotic Army began to move south, areas ahead of them began to be ethnically cleansed. The acts of genocide then moved south. It was not just the Interahamwe that was involved. The Gendarmerie, Rwandan government forces, pro-government militias, regional political leaders, and, as the violence spread, even peasants in villages were taking part. That there was planning behind the killings was noted in the meticulous manner in which the first targets were killed. First were Hutu opponents of the regime, including the president of the Constitutional Court and the minister of information as well as moderate Hutu. Next were prominent dissenting civilians, after which it was any Tutsis and moderate Hutu. As the genocide continued, regional and village leaders incited local Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbours, and anybody who tried to protect them.
Further inciting the violence were the inflammatory broadcasts of Radio-Télévision libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC). Starting in July 1993, the RTLMC began spreading hate messages against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. They were so extreme that few people took them seriously. But with the start of the genocide, RTLMC began broadcasting locations of Tutsis and moderate Hutus to be killed, even down to street addresses, so that the Interahamwe, Rwandan government soldiers, and the Rwandan gendarmerie could kill these people.
Initially, to many observers in the outside world, there was confusion about whether these were large-scale acts of violence against opponents of the regime, or a genocide, and questions about who the perpetrators were. Confusing the issue was that government officials denied or played down the evidence of the murders while Rwandan media, especially RTLMC, blamed the violence on the Rwandan Patriotic Army and its alleged breaking of the ceasefire. Further, Rwanda was at the time a member of the UN Security Council, where their denials held some sway in an organization that had been affected by the violence against American forces in Somalia.
To the UNAMIR staff in Rwanda, it was clear that the murders were a politically motivated action supported by both the former and the new interim government established on 9 April. Members of the new government had, in effect, stated that they could stop the genocide if there were a ceasefire.
Despite UNAMIR reports from Rwanda that systematic killings were underway, the UN emphasized the peace process. In his report of 20 April, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali focused on this, using the threat of UNAMIR’s withdrawal as a possible lever to use against the two sides and to provide safety to the UNAMIR troops. To support this, he provided three options: reinforce UNAMIR; reduce it to 270 people; or evacuate it from Rwanda altogether. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 912 on 21 April 1994, choosing the second option. UNAMIR was left with a force size of about 450, primarily soldiers from Ghana and Tunisia, in addition to some UN military observers.
In all of this, Major-General Dallaire (who had been promoted on 20 March 1994) attempted what he could to manage multiple priorities. He met with leaders of both sides in an attempt to arrange a ceasefire and to halt the genocide. He also attempted to have the Kigali airport declared a neutral site and to have large numbers of civilians moved from government-controlled areas to Rwandan Patriotic Army or UN controlled areas, and vice versa. Major-General Dallaire would go on to meet with Ugandan officials to allow the use of the airport at Entebbe as a UN base, and would always have time for journalists as he wanted the world to know what was happening in Rwanda. In effect, he was trying to do everything possible to stop the genocide and support civilians, but in the end to no avail.
Major-General Dallaire’s efforts to arrange a ceasefire were fruitless, and taking action to save the lives of Rwandan civilians was technically outside his initial mandate – although, where possible, such steps were taken. The few troops left with UNAMIR were able to provide some protection to about 20,000 civilians in the Amahoro Stadium, the Hôtel des Mille Collines, the Méridien Hotel and the King Faisal Hospital, but with few personnel and a limited presence in the rest of the country they were unable to do much more. It was impossible to try to even protect the estimated 10,000 refugees at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kigali.
Still, the presence of UNAMIR troops did have a deterrent effect in many cases. After the Bangladeshi battalion departed, 12 UN peacekeepers, armed with rifles and handguns and using barbed wire, were able to protect about 10,000 civilians in the Amahoro Stadium. In at least one case, Major-General Dallaire had unarmed UN military observers sleep in orphanages as a deterrent. But there were simply too few troops available to do this everywhere, and when the UN left an area, killings ensued. A Belgian platoon had protected approximately 2,000 civilians at the École Technique Officielle, but upon the Belgian’s withdrawal from Rwanda, these civilians were all killed. At times, force had to be met with force. A small party of Tunisians at the Hôtel des Mille Collines, along with UN military observers led by Major Victor Moigny from the Congo, held off three large attacks by Interahamwe as well as withstanding several bombardments.
In another instance, Rwandan government forces rounded up Tutsis and moved them into a church. These forces then called in the Interahamwe who proceeded to use machetes to attack the men, women, and children inside. Despite the pleading of the clergy and two UN military observers, who then had guns put to their throats, the government forces would not intercede. The presence of the UN military observers was clearly not a deterrent in this instance, such was the fever of rage. Major-General Dallaire tried to arrange protection as he could or to find ways of moving refugees, but this latter option was highly dangerous as the Interahamwe ruled the streets and were all-too-ready to remove people from UN vehicles. For those who could not be provided UNAMIR protection, daily visits were attempted to their place of shelter, bringing food and other supplies.
In the week after the genocide began, UNAMIR assisted in evacuating foreigners living in Rwanda, a responsibility that grew once Belgium removed its troops from the country. UNAMIR’s forces were routinely harassed in all these endeavours, and at times they came under direct attack; but while foreign governments were almost always ready to press for, assist in, and support the evacuation of foreign civilians, particularly their own nationals, few were willing to act to help UNAMIR stop the genocide. This played out especially clearly at the Security Council.
Resolution 912 authorized UNAMIR to act as an intermediary in attempts to arrange a ceasefire in Rwanda, to assist in the restoration of the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to monitor the safety and security of all civilians who sought refuge with UNAMIR. The key word was “monitor”; UNAMIR was not allowed to protect. With this level of violence more than 2 million Rwandans would become internally displaced and threatened with violence, creating a humanitarian crisis that overwhelmed the best efforts of non-governmental aid agencies and the UN. Yet despite the readily available journalistic proof of mass killings, as well as UNAMIR’s own reports, this new mandate did not allow UNAMIR to use force to stop the genocide or to support the aid agencies.
The UN began to see a need for change in mid-May, when Security Council Resolution 918, passed on 17 May, finally authorized UNAMIR to protect refugees and civilians at risk as well as to provide security for relief operations. The size of the force was expanded eleven-fold, from 500 to 5500. Perhaps because member states were hoping the UNAMIR could broker a lasting ceasefire – still at the core of the mandate – there was no sense of urgency when it came to dispatching these reinforcements. At least the 500-plus troops already in Rwanda were given permission to use force in their own self-defence and against those who “threatened protected sites and populations.” It was still a far cry from full protection of the population.
(After Resolution 918, with its expanded mandate, the mission is often mistakenly referred to as UNAMIR II. In high-level UN documents, UNAMIR II is only used in UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali’s 13 May 1994 report as his own designation for the revised mission. Neither the Security Council nor the Secretary-General (after his 13 May report) used UNAMIR II as the mission name in their documents.)
Outright permission to use force to assist others – in other words, transition to a Chapter VII operation – would come only with UN Security Council Resolution 929 of 22 June 1994. This was not, however, in support of UNAMIR. While UNAMIR was slowly brought up to strength and the UN tried to come up with the financing for the operation, the Security Council accepted France’s offer to protect displaced persons. The French mission, dubbed Operation TURQUOISE, began on 23 June and focused on the southwestern part of Rwanda, covering roughly one-fifth of the country. Widely publicized, the operation became almost too successful, placing great strain upon French resources to feed and house refugees as an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million internally displaced persons arrived in the zone. Unfortunately, the French mandate did not include disarming government forces, who then went on to form military camps near Bukavu in southern Zaire. It also did not include arresting individuals in connection with the genocide as they entered the zone. While paramilitary forces were disarmed as the French encountered them, Operation TURQUOISE forces did not conduct cordon and search operations to find the weapons of the militias. French forces began their withdrawal on 31 July, with UNAMIR taking control of the French area on 31 August.
By then – in fact, from about 19 July – the Rwandan Patriotic Army had effectively taken control of the country, creating a new government. Soldiers of the former regime withdrew into Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and urged many to come with them. More than 1.2 million refugees entered Zaire in July 1994 alone, where there were few resources to manage the flood of people. Not authorized to become involved in a Rwandan civil war, UNAMIR was powerless to stop any atrocities committed on those who were fleeing, while the aid agencies were simply unable to meet the challenges of this very fluid situation.
The refugee problem was enormous. More than 243,000 Rwandans were in Burundi, 589,000 in Tanzania, and 1.2 million in Zaire. These numbers swamped whatever facilities were available, making it clear that the only realistic solution to the humanitarian crisis that had spilled over into surrounding nations was to promote sufficient stability in Rwanda to convince the refugees that they should return home. Major-General Dallaire therefore deployed most of his still relatively small contingent to the northwest and southwest borderlands—where they could, perhaps, make the refugees’ return journey more secure and appealing. In the former area, the main threat was from former government soldiers infiltrating the columns of returnees to resume the struggle in Rwanda. In the southwest, meanwhile, the former soldiers had sought refuge in the French-controlled zone, and the new Rwandan government indicated that it would not actively seek them out if UNAMIR took control of the region. That increased the pressure on Major General Dallaire’s command: still only 500-plus strong, it was now being asked to secure these areas as well as to convince the rest of the country that they would remain safe.
UNAMIR reached its authorized strength of 5,500 in October 1994, so that Major-General Guy Claude Tousignant of Canada, who took over as force commander in August, finally had the personnel available that had been denied to Major-General Dallaire. They assisted with the transport of returning refugees, maintained a presence that provided a modicum of security, and assisted humanitarian efforts. UNAMIR also deployed military medical units to provide medical treatment for returning persons. In cooperation with the new government, UNAMIR attempted to develop a strategy to entice displaced persons and refugees to return to their homes. Up to 2 million people were internally displaced, another 2 million were in refugee camps in surrounding countries, and at least 800,000 had been killed, out of a pre-civil war population of 7.15 million.
Outside Rwanda, former Rwandan government officials, soldiers, and militias largely controlled the refugee camps, and it was clear that at times they were employing force to keep refugees from returning—perhaps, it was suspected, because they intended to conscript these refugees in some sort of liberation army. This was also the case in southwest Rwanda, the former French zone. After UNAMIR and the Rwandan Patriotic Army attempted to get internally displaced persons to return home from Kibeho camp, and many refused to leave, the decision was made to slowly reduce food supplies and to transport people out. At the Kibeho camp, the result was small scale attacks on Rwandan Patriotic Army troops on 18-19 April 1995, while on 20 April two efforts to break the cordon and alleged attacks on Rwandan Patriotic Army troops resulted in numerous casualties among the internally displaced persons. On the night of 22 April there were machete and sniper attacks against internally displaced persons.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council created the International Tribunal for Rwanda to bring to trial those responsible for human rights violations, including the genocide. UNAMIR was tasked on 30 November 1994 with providing protection for the members of the tribunal, as well as establishing and training a new police force.
As part of its mandate to provide a secure environment, UNAMIR began to inspect displaced persons camps within Rwanda for hidden arms and ammunition. This had some degree of success, but when Rwandan authorities caught former government soldiers mixed in with refugees returning home and carrying with them all manner of weapons, UNAMIR’s credibility was challenged. Government security forces began to impede its efforts, searching UN personnel and even seizing UN vehicles. Indeed, in short order the government made it clear that it wanted UNAMIR reduced in both size and scope. This process began on 9 June 1995, when the Security Council authorized Resolution 997 amending UNAMIR’s mandate: it was now to assist the new government in national reconciliation and nation-building and its personnel was reduced to about 2,650.
While its forces continued to transport humanitarian aid and provide assistance to humanitarian organizations, UNAMIR now paid increased attention to the rebuilding of bridges, roads, schools, and detention centres to relieve the overcrowding in Rwanda’s prisons. The force was further reduced to 2,100 in September 1995. However, in December 1995, the Rwandan government indicated that it wished UNAMIR to leave. Accordingly, Security Council Resolution 1029 of 12 December 1995 accepted that UNAMIR’s mandate was to end on 8 March 1996. Its troops began to leave on 9 April, and the withdrawal was complete on 19 April.
UNAMIR’s inability to protect the civilian population of Rwanda and to help develop some semblance of stability there was the subject of an independent inquiry authorized by the Security Council. It was concluded that the UNAMIR personnel on the ground had not failed; rather, the lack of will on the part of the international community at large to provide UNAMIR with the resources it needed was the overriding cause of the genocide.
Canadian participation in UNAMIR had two phases. The first was Operation LANCE, which continued the operations name used for UNOMUR. It started with the arrival of Brigadier-General Dallaire in Rwanda on 22 October 1993 and ended with the start of the genocide on 6 April 1994. The second phase embraced the expansion of UNAMIR’s mandate and increased international participation. This phase had three Canadian operations. The first, Operation LANCE, governed the Canadian headquarters and direct of UNAMIR. The second, Operation SCOTCH was the Canadian participation in the airlift into and out of Rwanda. The third operation, Operation PASSAGE, was humanitarian and saw the deployment of a field hospital.
With the approval of the Canadian government, Canadians were involved in planning for UNAMIR before it was authorized by the Security Council on 5 October 1993. Brigadier-General Dallaire was named Force Command two weeks later, and as such would be UNAMIR’s second-in-command (the political head of mission had overall responsibility) but in charge of all its military forces. He arrived in Rwanda on 22 October. His principal aide, Major Brent Beardsley, arrived on 25 November. Their initial task was to try to facilitate the implementation of the Arusha Agreement.
Canada’s participation in UNAMIR was limited to these two officers until after the start of the genocide. As events were to prove, the additional Canadian UN military observers who arrived in April 1994 were to play important roles in UNAMIR. As early as 9 December 1993, Brigadier-General Dallaire was noting the absence of Canadian bilingual officers, employed in UNAMIR Headquarters, where they would have been an example for the whole military component. With much of Rwanda’s leadership educated in Canada, they would have served to show Canadian support for the peace agreement. This was reinforced later in the month when J3 Peacekeeping, the National Defence Headquarters section responsible for overseeing peacekeeping operations, advised the Canadian Armed Forces Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff that the opportunity existed for Canada to support UNAMIR and the proposed new sector that Brigadier-General Dallaire was proposing in the south to manage the Burundian refugee issue.
Brigadier-General Dallaire requested additional UN military observers directly in his situation report of 27 January 1994; however, the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) would only agree to two UN military observers – Brigadier-General Dallaire and Major Beardsley. National Defence headquarters was prepared to send an additional seven. Department of National Defence again approached DFAIT in early February, with the same result. Finally, on 1 March, DFAIT agreed that up to 10 UN military observers could be provided.
Planning soon began but this meant that the Government of Canada would respond positively to a request from the UN. Up to 10 UN military observers in theatre would be provided until 31 December 1995. However, this formal approach to the UN was only made on 23 March. Six days later, the UN made the request official, requesting 10 additional UN military observers, advising that the positions for five had been determined. The UN hoped that they could be deployed by 15 April.
Events were to have a significant impact on the Canadian deployment. With the departure of Belgian and Bangladeshi contingents, the UN headquarters was greatly reduced. This left Major-General Dallaire and the remaining staff to manage a situation that had spiraled out of control, and to attempt it with fewer officers.
The UN made an urgent request of Canada on 14 April 1994 to provide 10 additional officers. Three were authorized from the Canadian contingent with the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II), which Canada was in the process of terminating. They arrived on 18 April and were put to work immediately.
Canadian UN military observers were to make an impact on UNAMIR. Major Beardsley was with Major-General Dallaire almost from the start of the operation. As the general’s personal assistant, he participated in many of the important meetings, taking minutes at each, as well as sending coded messages to UN headquarters. Major Beardsley was also in charge of rescue operations, taking requests from foreign embassies, the UN and other agencies, determining which ones were feasible, and then organizing the rescue. In his memoirs, Lieutenant-General Dallaire noted that Major Beardsley became adept at rescuing nuns, to the eternal gratitude of many orders. But making these decisions was stressful, because in essence it could involve determining who would live and who might die. Indeed, Lieutenant-General Dallaire likened it to playing God. At least twice during his tour Major Beardsley took individual action to save individuals under attack by a mob. Major Beardsley kept at it until an allergic reaction to new anti-malaria medication forced his return to Canada
The three UN military observers who arrived from UNOSOM II made an immediate impact. Major Michel “Mike” Bussières became the headquarters’ personnel officer and was initially tasked with finding out who was still in theatre. He managed this in a day, and then continued to keep track of the meagre number of personnel and where they were deployed as the operation downsized and its personnel were spread out to try gathering information, distribute food, and supplies, and to protect civilians.
Major Joseph Arthur Jean-Guy Plante became the media liaison officer, helping ensure that there was at least one media report about the situation in Rwanda each day. This was an important priority for Major-General Dallaire in his effort to have the international community take some action to stop the genocide. Lieutenant-Commander Robert John Read created a logistics base at the airport, even though he was not a logistics officer. This base was responsible for unloading, sorting, storing, and dispensing supplies coming by UN aircraft, including the Canadian Hercules. Major Plante and Lieutenant-Commander Read were also involved in rescue operations, often bringing their charges out from under the noses of hostile forces or through hostile lines.
A further seven officers arrived over three weeks in late April and early May. This allowed Major Bussières and Lieutenant-Commander Read to return to Canada, having already completed a tour in Somalia. Major Plante decided to stay. The number of Canadian Forces personnel in UNAMIR thus became nine, including Major-General Dallaire.
The newly arrived UN military observers were soon busy, making their mark as well. Major Donald MacNeil, Major Joseph Luc-André Racine, and Captain Pierre Frédéric André Demers were put to work in the humanitarian aid cell (HAC). Working in the HAC with other UN military observers meant not just delivering aid, but also conducting rescue missions in Kigali and environs. All three faced Interahamwe or pro-government forces and had to negotiate their way through the checkpoints. In one instance, Major Racine rammed his truck through checkpoints to get an injured journalist to the hospital.
Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Michael Austdal became the chief of operational plans as well as representing the mission in meetings with all of the combatants, including the Interahamwe, and acted as Major-General Dallaire’s personal representative. Major Philip Charles Lancaster replaced Major Beardsley as personal assistant to the general. To perform their duties they passed through the front lines daily, often under artillery, small arms, and mortar fire.
Major John Scott McComber became the Chief Logistics Officer assisted by Captain Jean-Yves St. Denis, trying to first find and, later, to coordinate the provision of supplies to the UN contingent and for centres of refuge. In one instance while the genocide was still underway, Major McComber volunteered to deliver fuel to an International Committee for the Red Cross hospital so they could keep their generator running. Under fire, he unloaded the fuel and then escorted two truckloads of Tutsis through the front lines to safety.
For such a small group of Canadians, the nature of their effect on the mission can be seen in the number of awards received. Major-General Dallaire and Major Beardsley were awarded the Meritorious Service Cross, Major Plante and Lieutenant-Commander Read the Meritorious Service Medal, while Lieutenant-Colonel Austdal, Major Philip Lancaster, Major McComber, Major Racine and Captain Demers were recognized with a Mention in Dispatches.
It took time for Canada – including the Canadian High Commissioner in Kigali – to understand that this was a genocide and not the first politically motivated killing of regime opponents (He was not alone.) But the confusion meant that until the UN recognized the genocide in Resolution 918, the Government of Canada was inclined to focus on the need for a ceasefire between the opposing factions – and even more so on UNAMIR’s apparent inability to achieve one. Indeed, the Honourable André Ouellet, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, even suggested that Canada was looking at the Organization of African Unity being brought in to arrange a ceasefire or play a mediating role. For Canada, part of the problem was that in order to conduct any operation on foreign soil, it had to have some mandate from an international organization, such as the UN. This was not forthcoming from the UN for over a month into the genocide
With Resolution 918 of 17 May, Canada was able to start moving to support an expanded UN mission. The UN had informally requested a signals squadron, a logistics unit, and 50 armoured personnel carriers. Because of existing Canadian commitments in the former Yugoslavia, a logistics unit and armoured personnel carriers were out of the question. By 18 May it was decided that the most effective contribution would be the signals squadron of about 350 personnel.
However, by 28 May a new UN request for the provision of UN military observers was being discussed and considered possible. There was also a request for the provision of a surgical team, which was turned down. The request for additional UN military observers was approved, and by August they were in Rwanda where they conducted patrols to help the sector commanders understand what was going on in their areas, conduct investigations, and liaise with Rwandan Patriot Army commanders and units. In their travels, they would be witness to the bodies that were in every Rwandan village and town, and through the countryside.
There were limits or caveats to the Canadian contribution. UNAMIR’s mandate had to be clarified in case there was no ceasefire; the rest of the UNAMIR force had to be properly equipped; and the rules of engagement had to be sufficiently robust that the UNAMIR forces could carry out their mandate. Also, the upper limit of the contribution to the expanded UNAMIR was initially set at 350. By the end of June, Department of National Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade agreed that the three pre-conditions were either met or about to be met.
Major-General Dallaire’s intent was that each UN sector would have an infantry battalion which would be in communications with UNAMIR headquarters in Kigali. Given the size of the UN deployment, this would require a brigade-sized formation, as well as the headquarters support with the necessary voice and data communications links. As UNAMIR would be expanding throughout the country it was important that the communications system was installed at the same time as each UN sector was occupied. The Canadians were suited and capable of filling this role.
On 21 June the Canadian government announced the deployment of a 350-strong communications unit to UNAMIR to support a mission that was supposed to grow to 5,500 personnel. Drawn principally from 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signals Regiment (1 CDHSR) and 79 Communications Regiment, in Kingston, Ontario, and arriving in late July, they provided all of the communications for UNAMIR. No. 8 platoon from 3 Commando, the Canadian Airborne Regiment, would provide security. Soldiers from 4 Engineer Support Regiment, 10 air traffic controllers (from 8 Air Communications and Control Squadron), 15 air force airfield engineers, personnel from 3 Canadian Support Group, and individuals from other units from across Canada filled out the contingent. The advance party of 40 soldiers from 1 CDHSR left for Kigali on 18 July with a second group of 120 personnel and some unit equipment arriving in Kigali on 30 July. The final group of personnel and the rest of the equipment came in stages by airlift and sealift in August and early September.
The mission of 1 CDHSR was not just to set up a communications network, as the existing one had been largely destroyed by the former Rwandan government at the start of the genocide while the rest had been destroyed in the fighting. This included television, satellite ground stations, and telephone systems. The personnel of 1 CDHSR also had to set up a headquarters for the newly enlarged UNAMIR mission. By early August, a headquarters staff was in place with an orderly room for information management, a computer support system, and a communications section, all of which could be taken over by follow-on UN troops. The final role was to assist the new Rwandan government in re-establishing their own communications system.
1 CDHSR tackled the problem in phases, beginning by dispatching two-man detachments to Cyangugu, Ginongoro, Gisenyi, and Kibuye to establish stable communications using high-frequency radio man packs and Inmarsat satellite telephone. When more equipment and personnel became available in August and September, these small detachments were replaced by more permanent facilities and larger comms sections. As the UN expanded its efforts, 1 CDHSR expanded their operations, setting up the comms systems for a total of 11 sector headquarters. That meant 1 CDHSR had personnel in Kigali, Butare, Byumba, Cyangugu, Gabiro, Gikengoro, Gisenyi, Kinungo, Kibuye, and Ruhengeri. Butare would become a further UN tactical headquarters. The unit was thus in all areas of the country and was witness to the many signs of the genocide.
In short, their task was not easy because of the country’s topography. The mountain range running north-south down the middle of the country had peaks as high as 4570 metres, while mountains in the rest of the country provided challenges for line-of-site comms. While the main road system of Rwanda was good, the secondary roads could be hazardous. With radio towers having to be installed on mountaintops, access on these roads was at times dangerous. In other cases, the sites could only be accessed by helicopter. 1 CDHSR personnel were involved in the reconnaissance of potential sites for the battalions as the communications had to be collocated with the battalion. In some cases, the personnel of 1 CDHSR had to persuade battalion commanders of the advantages of the co-location.
Throughout the reconstruction of the Rwandan government communications system, the men and women of 1 CDHSR worked closely with their Rwandan counter-parts. This at first required building up a level of trust as the new government was naturally suspicious of UN efforts. However, this was soon established and the unit’s personnel were able to fully assist the new government and to better access sites for the UN system.
In the final part of their operation, the transition to a UN system was achieved. The UN’s personnel consisted of civilians from the UN’s Field Services directorate while the Canadian military equipment was removed and replaced by a combination of radio, telephone lines, and satellite communications. The quality of the UN technicians and the cooperation between the two groups allowed for a smooth transition.
The personnel of 1 CDHSR participated in a single UNAMIR special operation. In December 1994, the UN sought to separate proper refugees from alleged militiamen and war criminals in one of the refugee camps west of Butare. The plan was for these coercive elements to be removed. 1 CDHSR brought in personnel from other sector for the four-day operation to provide comms support.
Rwanda was not just physically difficult. The men and women of 1 CDHSR saw bodies piled on bodies in almost every location they operated as well as the survivors, a great number of them bearing the wounds of machete attacks. The plight of the children, many of whom had lost their parents, was heartbreaking, and that led to the unit’s adoption of an orphanage in Ruhango, near Kigali. With the support of family and friends back home, they collected 15 tonnes of clothing and other supplies, and by the time they left are estimated to have helped more than 6,000 orphans.
The 10 air traffic controllers who were part of the contingent operated the airport and re-qualified the local air traffic controllers, thereby allowing the local staff to return to their jobs. Meanwhile, 15 airfield engineers restored electrical power there and provided a fire fighting capability, which allowed the airport to open to commercial as well as military flights. Although their work was airfield related, they deployed under Operation LANCE and not Operation SCOTCH, as they came under the control of the UNAMIR force commander.
The members of 3 Canadian Support Group (3 CSG) provided the logistical support for the Canadian contingent. With the large volume of equipment and supplies required by 1 CDHSR, to set up operations, maintain operations, and then return to Canada, they were fully occupied. When the next rotation of Canadians arrived, 3 CSG prepared a warehouse for them, while at the same time, conducting preparations for their own rotation’s departure.
In all, about 440 personnel participated in this deployment from late July 1994 to late January 1995. It was during this period that Major-General Tousignant replaced Major-General Dallaire as Force Commander, when the latter returned to Canada on 18 August 1994 (Major-General Tousignant would serve in that capacity until December 1995, a little more than a month before Canada terminated its commitment to UNAMIR altogether).
Upon completion of the communications unit’s mission, a completely different Canadian contingent followed. Formed in very quick time in late December 1994, Canada deployed the 95th Force Logistics Support Group (95 FLSG) in January with the main body arriving 17 January. Consisting of 85 personnel, including 10 reservists, and personnel from units across Canada, it provided vehicle maintenance, supply, and transport capabilities to the UNAMIR force, returning to Canada in late July 1995.
The role of 95 FLSG was to provide second-line support services to the UN’s deployed battalions and units. At the same time, it was tasked to help establish an integrated UN support system with contractor, military, and UN civilian staff. The largest number of personnel, 22 in all, were employed in the transportation section. Using a fleet of Canadian trucks—four 8-ton cargo trucks, two 5,000 litre tankers and two 15 ton container movers—the transport cell resupplied various UN contingents throughout Rwanda. This was done in coordination with a small fleet of civilian contracted trucks operated by Brown and Root, an international contracting and construction company, with the Canadians providing half the fleet. The convoy commanders were almost always Canadian at the Master Corporal level.
Complimentary to the transport section was the maintenance section. Consisting of 19 members, they provided a light and a heavy repair section, a heavy recovery section, and an ancillary repair section (electrical, refrigeration, and welding). The light and the heavy repair sections worked primarily out of their shops but would also deploy to conduct repairs of UN vehicles on the road when necessary. For its part, the heavy recovery section was the UN’s only such service and during their time of duty undertook 249 recovery missions. Meanwhile, in their spare time, mostly during the evening, the maintenance section fabricated a fire truck for UNAMIR.
The UN Supply Section had 18 Canadians and 13 UN civilian staff. This section controlled the ordering, distribution, and warehousing of supplies. They developed monthly scales of issues for consumable products, developed stock-taking and control of water and fuel supplies, and designed the computer data system for warehousing, control of stock, issuance of receipts, and requisitions. This facilitated the timely delivery of supplies and helped reduce the number of instances of shortages.
Although the genocide and civil war were over, Rwanda was still a dangerous place. Simple measures were taken to provide a measure of security, such as traveling in pairs in vehicles and pairs of vehicles, wearing flak vests, and carrying handguns when travelling outside the base camp. 95 FLSG also requested and received a security platoon, first from the Indian battalion and later from the Tunisian, guarding the perimeter of the supply base.
With the damage caused by the civil war and genocide the personnel of 95 FLSG found means of providing assistance. They supported more than ten orphanages around the country, providing money, repairing roofs, generators and vehicles, and building two “jungle gyms.” In addition to receiving an initial grant of $30,000 from the Canadian Embassy, they also raised $5,500 through their barbershop, a walk-a-thon, a fun run, and a golf tournament with local Rwandan authorities, among other events.
Although more personnel were required, the Government of Canada had imposed a cap of 120 personnel in total in Rwanda. The result was that members of this unit were working 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week, to fulfill their UN duties and their Canadian-mandated work.
During this period, 95 FLSG was not the only group of Canadians deployed to Rwanda. There were five Canadians in the 71-person UN headquarters, eight of the 69 military police were from Canada and 20 of the 302 military observers. At the headquarters, Canadians filled positions as deputy chief of staff operations (D COS Ops), G3 Air Operations (G3 Air Ops), staff officer information, public affairs, and medical advisor to the fire commander. The DCOS Ops position coordinated UN operations in the field. The G3 Air Ops coordinated air transport activity for UNAMIR, including the five rented Bell 412 helicopters the mission employed. Canadian military police provided the backbone of the UN Force Military Police Company, delivering much of the administrative and organizational support for the unit.
As for the Canadian UN military observers, additional ones arrived in August to augment those who had come in May. These UN military observers were employed in various UN sectors where they were the eyes and ears of the local contingent commander. The UN military observers would proceed by road to different locations in their sector, talking to locals to see what the security situation was or to investigate reports of attacks or other incidents. They also assisted the Canadian rotations with humanitarian work, especially with the orphanages that the Canadians were supporting, or bringing attention to a new one in dire need of assistance.
In late July 1995, 95 FLSG began its redeployment to Canada, stopping first in Nairobi, Kenya for some rest and relaxation and to de-stress after a lengthy and emotionally strenuous mission. They were not able to complete all of the integration tasks they had started, but some of this was beyond their control. Their services were vital to the success of UNAMIR’s mission and allowed the UN to transition to providing its own services through UN staff and contractors.
With the redeployment of the Logistics Support Group, Canada created the 95th Combined Mission Support Group, which deployed from July 1995 to January/February 1996. Their role was to provide administration, communications, finance, military police, supply, and transport functions to UNAMIR. In this they were integrated into existing UNAMIR structures.
The unit began its operations on 1 August 1995. Their biggest role was delivering fuel and water to the UN contingents and UN military observers throughout Rwanda. But they also transported building materials, heavy equipment, and many smaller items. These deliveries occurred daily, with units being resupplied as required. With the transport function came the role of vehicle recovery.
When new contingents arrived or existing personnel were rotated out of the country, 95 CMSG provided the transport to Kigali Airport. However, the UN was not the only recipient of their service. The unit installed two water bladders for Rwandan Patriotic Army forces in Kigali, filling them up at the end of the installation.
When Zaire began a forced repatriation of Rwandan refugees in August 1995, 95 CMSG was ready. The return began in earnest on 21 August, which caught the UN by surprise as they had not been informed even though they had been liaising with Zairian authorities. On the 22nd 95 CMSG provided 15 vehicles as part of the UN support to help transport the returnees. This continued through to the 25th when the repatriation then stopped. The Zairian government stated it would resume if the remaining refugees did not move voluntarily by the end of the year. . As with the previous rotation, it was the Canadian Master Corporals who were the convoy commanders.
The start of this rotation also saw the Rwandan Patriotic Army conducting more stringent checkpoints, which affected operations. By 15 August, one vehicle and its kit had already been searched although the UN was supposed to be exempt from such searches. This remained an issue through the deployment. Another hazard, despite the formal end to hostilities, was landmines. These were attributed to former Rwandan government soldiers who were attempting to destabilize the country. They were likely responsible for much of the acts of banditry along the border with Zaire, where they frequently provoked firefights with the Rwandan Patriotic Army.
95 CMSG continued their support to orphanages begun by their Canadian predecessors. They took 16 of these institutions under their wing, compiling lists of what was required at each – such as shower hook-ups, cots, bedding, and vehicle repairs– and then trying to fill these needs. In addition, they donated everyday items including cooking utensils, mops, and cleaning supplies.
At the same time as 95 CMSG deployed, there were still eight military policemen as part of the UNAMIR military police force of 69, five of the 71 personnel at headquarters and 20 of the 302 UN military observers. For the UN military observers, their travels in their respective sectors put them at the same risk as the men and women of 95 CMSG. However, in August 1995, just as 95 CMSG was finished deploying, the number of Canadians UN military observers was reduced from 20 to 10 while all of the MPs redeployed at the same time.
For all these deployments, the Canadian Armed Forces used their CC150 Airbus and CC130 Hercules aircraft to fly equipment and personnel into Rwanda. Some equipment was flown from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton in Antonov 124, Boeing 747, and Ilyushin 76 aircraft chartered by the UN. Most Canadian Armed Forces personnel were flown to Rwanda or Entebbe by Canadian Forces CC150 Airbus aircraft.
With the downsizing of UNAMIR and the dissolution of UNAMIR, the need for Canadian Armed Forces personnel was reduced. Canada signaled its intention to cease UNAMIR operations no later than January 1996. The last personnel of Operation LANCE departed on 15 February 1996. In all, about 700 personnel served on Operation LANCE.
The decision to issue a UN medal for a distinct UN mission rests with that organization only — not the Government of Canada or the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada authorizes the wearing of medals, along with the related rules and regulations, deemed appropriate by the UN for service on its missions. In addition, Canada issues its own Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.
Military personnel who served on this operation were eligible for the UN’s UNAMIR medal, and were also eligible for the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.
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