Operation LEGATION

International Information

International Operation Name: Operation LEGATION

International Mission Name: Operation LEGATION

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Africa

Location: Zaire

Mission Date: 2 November 1996 - 6 December 1996

Mission Mandate: To provide VIP transport services for the UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

Mission/Operation Notes: After the Rwandan genocide, more than one million ethnic Hutu refugees were living in camps in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaire). The refugees included armed Hutu militiamen and former Rwandan soldiers who had taken part in the genocide of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus. These militiamen and former soldiers were using Congo as both a refuge and a launching pad for raids into Rwanda.

In October 1996, Laurent Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, with support from the Rwandan Army, began a military campaign against the refugee camps, where most of the victims were women and children.

Despite widespread publicity, major nations were slow in responding to the crisis. In the interim, the UN Secretary-General appointed a Canadian diplomat, Raymond Chrétien, as his Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region in October 1996. Having been Canadian Ambassador to Zaire from 1978 to 1981, and accredited to Burundi, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo, he was familiar with the area. Chretien's role was to assess the crisis and examine a range of options to defuse it. What he found was that 600,000 refugees had already rushed back to Rwanda, another 400,000 were in Zaire and 200,000 were unaccounted for, at least according to UN figures. By the time a report was ready and a UN force authorized, the crisis was over.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (LEGATION)

CF Mission/Operation Notes: The Canadian Forces were involved in two ways in the refugee crisis in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Humanitarian aid flights were conducted under the name Operation ASSURANCE. Assistance was also provided to Special Envoy Chretien. On 2 November 1996, the Minister of National Defence authorized CF support to the Special Envoy through the provision of aircraft to transport him as required. This was given the name Operation LEGATION.

A CP-144 Challenger aircraft from 412 Squadron was tasked with this duty. The crew and aircraft ferried Ambassador Chretien to various capitals in Africa, especially around the Great Lakes region. Because of the frequency of travel, there were several crews for the aircraft, plus ground crew.

Op LEGATION's strength was increased by one CC-130 Hercules and various personnel when the Strategic Reconnaissance Team for the planned Op ASSURANCE arrived in Rwanda and Uganda. On 20 November, as Canada was considering whether to go ahead with a full-scale humanitarian mission under Op ASSURANCE, the decision was made that the Op LEGATION personnel would also act as the in-theatre support for the advance units of Op ASSURANCE. As a result, the Op LEGATION establishment was now three CC-130 Hercules and required personnel, and an airlift control element. The primary mission of Op LEGATION remained supporting the Ambassador.

On 6 December, with Op ASSURANCE now functioning, the duties of the Op LEGATION team were transferred to Op ASSURANCE. Accordingly, Op LEGATION was terminated.

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