Operation LANCE (UNOMUR)

International Operation Name: United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR)

International Operation Dates:  1993/06/22 – 1994/09/21

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name:  Africa

Location:  Uganda and Rwanda

Canadian Operation Name: Operation LANCE

Canadian Operation Dates: 1993/06/22 – 1994/09/21

Mission Mandate: United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR) was deployed in Uganda bordering Rwanda in accordance with Security Council Resolution 846 of 22 June 1993. Its mandate was to monitor that border “to verify that no military assistance reaches Rwanda, focus being put primarily in this regard on transit or transport, by roads or tracks which could accommodate vehicles, of lethal weapons and ammunition across the border, as well as any other material which could be of military use”.

Mission Notes:

The former Belgian colony of Rwanda was racked by factional violence almost from the moment of its independence. Some of it was tribal—between Hutus and Tutsis—with the former having secured the reins of power in a 1959 coup d’état   Many Tutsis were expelled then, and more still following another coup in 1973. Most of the Tutsis who fled went to Uganda where, having formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in the late 1980s, they launched cross-border attacks into Rwanda beginning in October 1990. Over the next year, a number of cease-fires were brokered by neighbouring states, but all were broken. As a result of yet another such arrangement, initiated by the Organization of African Unity and the government of Tanzania on 22 July 1992, a 50-person Neutral Military Observer Group (NMOG I) was deployed by the Organization of African Unity, but fighting resumed in February 1993 despite its presence. The Organization of African Unity again sponsored talks, and the Arusha Peace Agreement, signed in August, again called for an Organization of African Unity observer group, this second Neutral Military Observer Group called NMOG II. In the interim, however, both Rwanda and Uganda requested a UN presence along their common border in order to prevent its use by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

On 22 June 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 846, which created the United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR). The mandate of UNOMUR was to ensure no military aid reached Rwanda. The Security Council’s rationale for preventing weapons and war materiel from reaching the Rwandan Patriotic Front was to prevent any further outbreak of violence between them and the Rwandan government. UNOMUR, operating on the Ugandan side of the border, would also assist NMOG II by placing two military experts in logistics at NMOG II’s disposal.

UNOMUR could not deploy to Uganda before a status of mission agreement had been reached. This was not concluded until 16 August 1993. The advance party arrived two days later, setting up UNOMUR headquarters in Kabale, Uganda, about 20 kilometres north of the border. By the end of September, UNOMUR had reached its authorized strength of 81 United Nations Military Observers from nine countries, including two from Canada (Brigadier-General Roméo Dallaire’s position was not considered as being a military observer).

To conduct its operations, UNOMUR established two observation posts: one at Cyanika and the second at Katuna, both in Uganda, and three secondary posts at minor crossings, where suspect traffic could be inspected.These activities were augmented by mobile foot patrols through bamboo forests and mountainous terrain. UNOMUR also assisted in the timely passage of trucks carrying food and medical supplies across the Ugandan border into Rwanda. UNOMUR did not, however, patrol the entire border. But, in his first progress report on UNOMUR, issued on 15 December 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali wrote that UNOMUR had played a useful role as a confidence-building mechanism.

UNOMUR’s contingent of military observers built up slowly. By mid-November, the arrival of additional United Nations Military Observers allowed UNOMUR to deploy day and night observation of the border. The mission’s capabilities increased further with the arrival shortly thereafter of three helicopters, which enabled a rapid response capability to any potential scene of border violation or breach of the UNOMUR mission mandate.

The status of UNOMUR also changed during this first period. On 5 October 1993, the Security Council created the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). UNAMIR was to support the Arusha Agreement, monitoring the cease-fire, assisting in humanitarian activities, and investigating non-compliance with the Agreement. The UN Security Council also agreed to integrate UNOMUR into UNAMIR. The 54 Neutral Military Observer Group II observers, from the Organization of African Unity, and the 81 United Nations Military Observers were transferred to UNAMIR control, although UNOMUR remained a UN operation.

On 6 April 1994, the airplane carrying Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana crashed at Kigali airport in Rwanda, setting off three months of genocide. More than 800,000 men, women, and children, primarily Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed. The genocide ceased only when the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country.

When the genocide began, UNOMUR extended its area of coverage to the entire border. UNOMUR’s patrols continued, and with the use of three helicopters, UNOMUR’s capabilities were strengthened. UNOMUR was able to assist UNAMIR to some extent in addressing the question of outside interference in the civil war and genocide in Rwanda. With the ability to patrol the entire border, they quickly discovered that the Rwandan Government Forces were receiving supplies over land from Bukavu and Goma in Zaire, and by boat, across Lake Kivu. UNOMUR also noted that the Ugandan Army was hindering UNOMUR operations. To counter this, UNOMUR Deputy Chief Military Observer Colonel Azrul Haque of Bangladesh, deployed United Nations Military Observers along the full border, who reported significant traffic between Rwanda and Uganda. This brought a truer picture of the state of supplies going to the two sides.

Perhaps of greater significance was the assistance UNOMUR military and civilian staff provided directly to UNAMIR. UNOMUR personnel coordinated logistics activities at Entebbe airport for UNAMIR when the airport at Kigali in Rwanda was shut down from 5 June to 6 July 1994. UNOMUR personnel escorted, convoys of food, materiel, and incoming UNAMIR personnel to the border. UNOMUR staff also assisted with the evacuation of UNAMIR casualties from Rwanda.

In June 1994 UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali suggested in his report to the Security Council that there was little value in patrolling only one of Rwanda’s borders while the civil war raged. He therefore recommended UNOMUR’s mandate be extended only until 21 September and that its operations be phased down starting in August. The mission was terminated on schedule on 21 September 1994.

Operation LANCE

Canada’s participation in UNOMUR was named Operation LANCE. In May 1993, then Brigadier-General Roméo Dallaire was advised he was to be the UNOMUR Chief Military Observer (CMO) once the UN Security Council approved the mission. In June the minister of National Defence had approved the provision of Brigadier-General Dallaire and eight UNMOs; however, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade would only approve two Canadian Armed Forces personnel – BGen Dallaire and one major.

As Chief Military Observer of UNOMUR, Brigadier-General Dallaire did not immediately proceed to Rwanda. Rather, until October 1993 he spent considerable time in New York at UN Headquarters, preparing for a formal UN mission in Rwanda.   Almost all his time thereafter was associated with that mission, of which he was appointed Force Commander in October 1993 and on 20 March 1994 he was promoted to Major-General.

Brigadier-General Dallaire found the reports he was receiving from UNOMUR helpful in dealing with Rwandan government of President Habyarimana. On occasion, members of the cabinet would make assertions about the RPF and/or the Ugandan military massing to invade Rwanda.  UNOMUR reports showed this not to be the case.

In all, four Canadian officers served with UNAMIR, their participation more administrative than operational due to the requirements of setting up two missions at the same time. After his departure from Africa in August 1994, Major-General Guy Tousignant replaced Major-General Dallaire as Chief Military Observer for UNOMUR as well as UNAMIR Force Commander. Major-General Tousignant remained in his post until UNOMUR was terminated on 21 September 1994.

Two Canadian officers served with BGen Dallaire.  Major Brent Beardsley spent most of his time in New York helping set up the UNOMUR mission.  When UNAMIR was formed he went to Rwanda with Brigadier-General Dallaire to help organize that mission there. Lieutenant (Navy) Eric Gagnon served in Uganda, helping organize the operation there; In October 1993, he was rotated back to Canada and not replaced.


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 UNOMUR medal, and were also eligible for the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.




Medic WO. Gagne helps a little girl in Rwanda.

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