Operation SCOTCH

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                   

Location: Rwanda                                    

Canadian Operation Name: Operation SCOTCH                 

Canadian Operation Dates: 1994/04/09 – 1994/10/01

Mission Mandate: To evacuate Canadian foreign nationals from Rwanda. Then the mandate changed to evacuating Belgian and other military personnel and finally to airlift supplies and personnel to the UN mission and evacuate special cases.    

Mission Notes:

Rwanda was a land divided. During the Belgian colonial period the division between the Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic groups was made apparent. This continued after the country gained its independence. The Hutu were in the majority and ruled the country; however, they were not unopposed. The Rwandan Patriotic Front representing both Tutsi and moderate Hutus opposed the government and in October 1990 began a campaign against it. The campaign resulted in over 900,000 people (about 13 percent of the population) being displaced and brought the United Nations into the fray in an effort to reach a peaceful conclusion. 

In August 1993, the Arusha Agreement was signed between the Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. On 5 October 1993, the UN authorized a peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in support of the Arusha Peace Agreement with the result that some 600,000 individuals began to return home. The Agreement had called for the establishment of a broad-based transitional government and a transitional national assembly. The implementation of this caused tensions between the parties but they continued to talk. All of this was brought to an end when on 6 April 1994, the aircraft carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi crashed at Kigali airport killing all onboard.

The death of President Habyarimana touched off country-wide massacres with both political and ethnic dimensions. Moderate Hutus, Hutu opposition members and intelligentsia, and Tutsis were all targeted by radical Hutus – civilian and military. The Rwandan Patriotic Front began to advance against Kigali from Gitarama, about 40 kms southwest of Kigali. Belgium and France sent in forces to secure the airport and support the evacuation of their own and other foreign nationals. While UNAMIR attempted to support as best they could the passage of evacuees to Kigali airport, other evacuees made their way by convoy to Burundi.

It was in these circumstances that the Canadian Armed Forces launched Operation SCOTCH.  The operation lasted from 9 April to 1 October 1994, making a major contribution to the UN effort to bring stability to the country and bring humanitarian aid to the millions of displaced persons. This operation went through many phases as the nature of the operation changed.  What was originally a mission to evacuate Belgian and foreign nationals became one of supporting a UN mission that was in trouble. With the evacuation complete, most of the other foreign military aircraft disappeared and the Canadian airlift effort became, for most of the period of Rwandan difficulties, the only aircraft providing support to UNAMIR. At the same time the mission tested the capabilities and skills of the command elements, aircrew and ground-crew supporting the operation as issues arose and had to be resolved, with most issues occurring in groups and not singly.

Operation SCOTCH began on 8 April when Air Transport Command issued a warning order and the next day ordered one of the counter-measures suite-equipped Op AIRBRIDGE CC130s to pre-position itself in Nairobi, Kenya. The mission was to support the evacuation of Belgian and foreign nationals and to bring humanitarian supplies into Kigali. The operation would be conducted under the direction of the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi, Ms. Lucy Edwards. Major J.E. Oliver of 436 Squadron was the interim commander of a group of 27 personnel from Ancona that included two crews – one from 429 Squadron under Major K.N. Pfander and one from 435 Squadron under Captain Andrukow.

In Canada, further aircraft and personnel were deployed on 11 April. A CC150 from 437 Squadron with Captain Barthel as commander transported the new Airlift Control Element commander, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Roeterink, CO of 429 Squadron as well as 23 other personnel. A CC130 from 436 Squadron with Captain J.D. Stevens as crew commander also deployed for the operation while a second CC130 from 429 Squadron with Captain A. Lucas as crew commander carried supplies. The CC150 arrived in Nairobi on the 12th while the two CC130s arrived the next day.

Major Oliver and his group from Ancona arrived in Nairobi on 9 April and that evening flew a mission to Bujumbura, Burundi to evacuate 75 Canadians who were arriving by convoy; however, the convoy arrived late by which time the Hercules had returned to Nairobi. It was not until the next day that this group of evacuees was evacuated. Over the course of the next 11 days the two Hercs flew 155.7 K lbs of freight and 303 passengers in 13 chalks. These flights were into Kigali and Bujumbura in support of the mandate to evacuate foreign nationals while the supplies flown in were in support of the UN and Médecins Sans Frontières. The CC150 returned to Canada on April 14th with Canadian evacuees and Rwandan orphans. The next day, one CC130 departed with Captain Andrukow’s crew and seven passengers. The Airlift Control Element was now established with two counter-measure suite-equipped CC130s and three crew, with ground-crew totalling of 71 personnel in all.

By April 17th Lieutenant-Colonel Roeterink saw the initial role of evacuation and delivering humanitarian supplies as complete; however, events were to lead to a new role for the Airlift Control Element.  In response to the start of the genocide, France deployed troops to Kigali on 8 April to secure the airport and allow for the evacuation of their own and other foreign nationals, with Belgium troops arriving on 10 April. France had completed their evacuations and withdrawn their troops by April 13th. Ten Belgian peacekeepers had been horribly murdered by Rwandan government forces on 7 April, and by mid-April the Rwandan Patriotic Front was making advances on Kigali. This helped sway the Belgian government to evacuate all of its troops from Rwanda and from UNAMIR. At the same time, the UN decided that most of the UNAMIR peacekeepers should be evacuated and that only a minimal residual force should be left by the 22nd. The Airlift Control Element was thus directed by the Canadian government to evacuate Belgian and Bangladeshi UNAMIR troops as requested by the UN.

The first Airlift Control Element flight in support of the Belgian evacuation took place on 18 April with one chalk while at the same time standing by to evacuate the last Canadians in Kigali and Bujumbura, the last of which occurred on the 20th. Control of the Canadian Hercules was then transferred to the UNAMIR Force Commander, Major-General Roméo Dallaire. On the 22nd 350 UNAMIR personnel were evacuated out of the 500 planned, the rest being withdrawn the next day. It was not only supplies that were flown into Kigali, it was also UN VIPs such as Mr. P. Hansen, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator who was to meet with Major-General Dallaire and the first three additional Canadian UN military observers requested by the UN for UNAMIR. Additional Canadian Armed Forces help for the Airlift Control Element had arrived the previous week when personnel from 8 Air Communication and Control Squadron (8 ACCS) arrived in theatre on 12 April on a Hercules flight from Trenton to provide communication support for the Airlift Control Element and the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi. 

By April 24th, the Airlift Control Element had flown 1080 passengers and airlifted 204.5 K lbs of freight, the freight all being loaded by hand as no forklifts were available. Severe weather and fog delayed operations but most irksome was the requirement to re-palletize some of the stores bound for Kigali in order to meet the customs regulations in Nairobi. The flights into Kigali were becoming more perilous as the Rwandan Patriotic Front was beginning its push to take Kigali. On the 25th several mortar rounds hit the airport shortly before and after the Hercules was off- and on-loading. The windows on the terminal were blown out, but the ramp and runway were not damaged. The next day saw more attacks on the airport as the Rwandan Government Forces used the airport as a strategic position with the result that chalk was cancelled as it neared Kigali.

In the meantime, Lieutenant-Colonel Roeterink had to contend with an uncertain deadline for Operation SCOTCH, looming flying hour / scheduled maintenance issues for aircraft 315 and 324 as they neared their supplementary checks, as well as losing their accommodations due to an already scheduled conference between 7 and 13 May. The Grand Regency Hotel being unsatisfactory the Airlift Control Element moved to the Safari Club Hotel where they stayed for the rest of the operation. As for aircraft 315, it was flown until the very last moment before returning to Canada for its periodic inspection. It returned in time to fly two chalks on 21 June.

In terms of deadlines, Operation SCOTCH was initially approved until 24 April. On 22 April the minister of national defence, David Collenette approved the extension of Operation SCOTCH to 30 April to allow time for UNAMIR forces to be evacuated. The mission was then extended until 8 May, then 16 May, 23 May, 6 June and finally 30 June. Thereafter the operation was extended roughly on a monthly basis.  As each deadline approached, extra work had to be done to prepare for the potential winding down of the mission.

With the second (30 April) deadline the CC130s kept flying – there was simply too much need as had been substantiated by Major-General Dallaire in a cable to UN Headquarters. In fact, with the shelling of Kigali airport on 24 April, the CC130s were the only aircraft flying into Kigali as the insurers of the UN aircraft refused to continue coverage.

The Canadian CC130 became the lifeline to complete the UNAMIR evacuation and provide supplies to those who remained once the UN was unable to find an insurer for its aircraft and once, on 4 June, Kenyan authorities grounded them because of the UN’s failure to pay two years-worth of landing and airport fees at Nairobi when that airport supported operations in Somalia in 1992-93. (Canadian aircraft were exempt from this grounding when, using considerable charm, the Canadian commander convinced the airport authorities that the Airlift Control Element Hercules were not UN aircraft.) That no insurance was available was hardly surprising. Fighting around Kigali airport had begun as early as 21 April, with the occasional mortar round landing near the runways.  Indeed, on 5 May one round landed 800 metres from a Canadian CC130 medical evacuation flight before its departure, and as it was on its take-off roll a second round landed precisely where it had parked. Shrapnel from one of the rounds seriously injured another soldier who was treated by the Airlift Control Element medical staff who were on this flight.

The airport was closed completely the next day due to fighting. Flights resumed on the 7th with word also being received that the mission was extended to 16 May. Fighting near the airport on the night of 8/9 May kept the CC130 from landing as the airport came under heavy attack when the aircraft was one hour out. Apparently, the Rwandan Patriotic Front had launched an attack that was designed to wrest the airport from the Rwandan Government Forces. Both sides finally gave permission for flights to resume on 10 May.

For the next week the CC130 normally flew two chalks a day to Kigali bringing much-needed humanitarian supplies, and food and water to the UNAMIR troops who remained in Kigali. By arrangement with the UN, these flights were almost split equally in support of UNAMIR and for humanitarian supplies. Fighting at the airport resumed on May 19th shutting down the airport for the next three days. By this time the fighting had damaged the airport to the extent that VOR (Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni-Directional Range – a navigation tool), DME (distance measuring equipment) and NDB (Non-Directional Beacon, a ground-based, low frequency radio transmitter used as an instrument approach for airports) were off the air while the ILS (instrument landing system) was questionable. Flights resumed to Kigali on the afternoon of May 23rd after the Rwandan Patriotic Front had taken the airport, with the first chalk carrying UNAMIR personnel being rotated. The control tower was heavily damaged but the runway was intact; however, there were no ground personnel to operate the unloading equipment.

Despite the promises made by both sides, it was only a matter of time before some damage would be done to one of the CC130s. On May 24th Hercules 324 returned to Nairobi where a bullet hole was discovered in the left wing, damaging structural member connecting the outer wing to the inner wing. The crew had not noticed anything unusual and suspected that the damage occurred while either flying into or out of Kigali. Not until the 28th would the aircraft be declared serviceable which was unfortunate as the intervening period saw a calm extend over the area of the airport – ideal conditions in which to fly in supplies and rotate personnel.

It was not just small arms fire that caused concern among the Canadian planners and aircrew. President Habyarimana’s aircraft had been shot down by a small surface-to-air missile (SAM), which raised the question of whether such a weapon would be used against the Hercules. Canada had recently equipped several Hercules with a counter-measures suite that warned of any missiles fired at the aircraft and then deployed active defensive measures. Additionally, armour plating had been added around the cockpit and on the paratroop doors to protect the crew.

Because of the threat, the aircrew would don their flak vests and helmets as they crossed the Tanzanian border and prepare for a combat entry check. The radars would be turned off, and lookouts posted to the upper fuselage and paratrooper doors. Approaches into and departures from Kigali would be made in two ways. The first was to approach at high altitude and steeply descend, but this left the aircraft open to SAM fire. The other approach was to fly along a valley and then pop up at the last minute to reduce the risk of exposure. Further, the chalks would only be flown after both parties had given clearances to the Airlift Control Element; however, there were times when fighting at the airport caused a chalk to return, such as 3, 9 and 15 May, or damage was done to the aircraft such as with 324. If no clearance was received chalks would be cancelled. 

At this time the chalks were bringing out various UN and non-governmental organization civilian and military personnel as well as medevacs but were also bringing in VIPs to witness the problems in Rwanda for themselves and perhaps help to find resolution. Among these was the Dutch Minister of Development who was delivered to Kigali on 14 May and brought out the next day and on 30 May it was the President of the Canadian International Development Agency who visited the Airlift Control Element. On 1 June it was the turn of the DND’s Deputy Minister, Robert Fowler and the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who were flown to Kigali and returned several days later. Perhaps one of the more satisfying air evacuations was of 31 children on 4 June. The chalk had been under planning for about a week as fifteen of the kids were stretcher-bound. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières as well as the Airlift Control Element’s medical team watched over the children on the flight from Kigali, with the Canadians assisting in their transfer.

The next day a CC130 had just parked at Kigali and was lowering its ramp when an artillery shell landed about 150 metres from the aircraft.  Realizing they were under attack, the crew immediately began to taxi in preparation for take-off. A second shell and then two more followed.  With a crew of eight and thirteen passengers, including six Italian diplomatic personnel, three medical personnel and one reporter, and 20,000 lbs of food and medical supplies, the flight had been guaranteed by both sides. Which side had fired was not known, but the crew and the UNAMIR troops at the airport were convinced that this was a deliberate attempt to destroy the aircraft.  The result was that Kigali airport was closed for several weeks.  Having been scouted during an earlier closure of Kigali, Entebbe airport in Uganda would take its place, the first flight landing there on 6 June.

Using a new airport meant starting all over again in terms of logistical and other support. A

Canadian helicopter company operating three Bell 212 helicopters in support of UNAMIR assured the Commander Airlift Control Element that it could provide emergency assistance despite having no combat search and rescue experience.  The Airlift Control Element mobile air movement section/logistics sorted out supply and infrastructure issues while the commander and Major-General Dallaire together secured ramp and hangar space for the Canadian CC130. In the beginning, however, the Hercules were not operating at full capacity because only the UN and Médecins Sans Frontières chose to transship supplies by road from Entebbe to Rwanda. The other non-governmental organizations decided to keep their supplies in Nairobi until the airport at Kigali reopened.

On 14 June the Airlift Control Element commander accompanied Major-General Dallaire to a meeting with various UN agencies and with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). One item that came up on the agenda was the need for airlift support to provide aid to the more than 500,000 refugees who had already arrived at Goma, Zaire. The Cdn CC130 was requested to be allowed to fly there. A second item was the reopening of Kigali airport. The planned reopening of Kigali had been reported several times, all of which proved false. The Commander indicated he would be ready to assist the ICAO in opening the airport, if required – it was. The ICAO planned on visiting Kigali the week of June 21st. Of course this depended upon the fighting in the Kigali area halting. Even on the 15th, the Rwandan Government Forces mortars that had fired on the Herc were still in place. 

Despite the threat posed at the airport and it being officially shut down, the opposing sides in the conflict could occasionally agree to allow the Canadian Herc into Kigali. On 17 June, UNAMIR HQ contacted the Airlift Control Element and advised them that two UN officers had been severely injured in a landmine or mortar attack and required medical evacuation. Both the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Rwandan Government Forces had already given their assurances that the medevac would be allowed to take place. Within 10 minutes of the Airlift Control Element receiving the request, the wing commander in Trenton had given his approval for the flight and within three hours of the call first being made, the Herc was in Kigali. Unfortunately, one of the officers died before the Herc had even departed Nairobi; however, the second was successfully airlifted and survived.

In preparation for the reopening of Kigali, the air force had sent a second CC130 to Nairobi at the request of Major-General Dallaire. This brought the return of aircraft 315. The plan was that there would be four chalks a day into Kigali once the airport reopened, there being over 340 tons of supplies in Nairobi. However, a further delay was experienced when the French launched Operation TURQUOISE. The result was that the Rwandan Patriotic Front erected barriers on the runways at Kigali on 20 June to prevent any French aircraft landing there.

Operations were never quiet at the Airlift Control Element. While there were chalks to plan and UN staff and soldiers to fly into and out of Entebbe on business and for rest and relaxation, other events kept the commander busy. On 23 June the commander requested extra security of the airport authorities in Nairobi due to increased minor looting. While this was being sorted out the Canadian reconnaissance team for the communications squadron of Operation LANCE arrived on 26 June and was flown to Entebbe the next day with their vehicles. The delayed opening of Kigali also resulted in the second Herc being recalled by the air force, a decision that Major-General Dallaire attempted to reverse through the UN. However, the lack of a clear date for the airport’s reopening led to aircraft 324 flying back to Canada on 2 July. Coincidentally, the departure of the Hercules was followed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front announcement that they would reopen the airport in Kigali on 7 July.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front reopened Kigali airport as promised. UNAMIR troops provided security while Major-General Dallaire and a Rwandan Patriotic Front representative were present for the first flight into the airport, the Canadian CC130 number 315. Flights to Entebbe continued as there were still personnel on the land-route between Rwanda and Entebbe who had to be processed. There were now two chalks daily, one to Kigali and one to Entebbe for the next period of time. Interspersed were flights to Bukavu and Goma to deliver humanitarian supplies while other flights conducted a circuit that included Entebbe and Kigali. On 9 July the Rwandan Patriotic Front gave the Airlift Control Element blanket clearance to land at Kigali, the flights of which were now mainly the airlift of military personnel and medevacs to and from this city, although cargo would become an important part of the airlift within a week.

The reopening of Kigali airport led to another important role for the Airlift Control Element – that of transporting VIPs into and out of Kigali. The first such group, Rwandan Patriotic Front representatives arriving for peace talks, flew in on 14 July. Next was the US ambassador into Kigali on 24 July and on 25 July the Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [and Emergency Relief Coordinator] and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Rwanda who were on a whirlwind tour of refugee camps. On 30 July a crew from 429 Squadron flew the newly appointed President of Rwanda, Pasteur Bizimungu to Bujumbura, Burundi.

The Canadian recce team for Operation LANCE had already come and gone by this time; however, the first week of July saw planning begin for further support to the UN, in this case supporting UNAMIR troops to be sent to Goma and Bukavu in Zaire. The first chalk of UN military observers and French liaison officers occurred on 11 July. The advance party of 40 members of the Canadian Contingent UNAMIR were flown to Kigali on 20 July. Three days later, the Airlift Control Element commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Jacques Migneault; Mobile Air Movement Section and 8 ACCS personnel and an ICAO team arrived to evaluate the airport and infrastructure. They found that all communications and navigation aids were functional, and that the immediate need was to restore the larger power generator. There was no firefighting equipment, or off- loading equipment (only one small forklift was serviceable, while the three larger ones were not). The aerodrome lighting was damaged and there was a lack of air traffic control personnel (there was only one air traffic control-qualified person in UNAMIR). They also found the air traffic control tower with blood and human flesh on the walls from one of the battles in May. The commander concluded that the airfield could be operational if a concerted effort was made to rectify the deficiencies. 

The main contingent from 8 ACCS arrived on 30 July and began setting up for operations at a frantic pace. The repairs were quickly made and on 1 August the Kigali airfield was open to civilian flights. The services of the Canadian air traffic control personnel were certainly both appreciated and required as the airfield was now operating 24/7 and had increased its operations from an average 16 flights a day to 60. (The air traffic controllers were actually deployed under Operation LANCE.) While 8 ACCS personnel controlled the air, a team of six traffic technicians from No. 3 Canadian Support Group was in place on 31 July to help off-load aircraft. American personnel performed the majority of ground duties in Kigali and British forces also in support.

There had been a sense of urgency to the work required to get the Kigali airfield fully operational. Large numbers of refugees were heading towards Kigali, a cholera outbreak had started in the Goma area where the airfield was operating beyond capacity, and non-governmental organizations were now clambering for chalks on the Herc into Kigali. As a result, the Airlift Control Element recommended that two air traffic control personnel arriving in theatre on 28 July be seconded to the UN air ops cell to assist in coordinating the large number of flights anticipated. The airlift was also expanding with aircraft from the military services of Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States joining the Canadians. ercHerc Civilian aircraft were also now in abundance conducting flights for the non-governmental organizations).

The end of July saw the Canadian effort in Rwanda increase. On 28 July, the recce team for Operation PASSAGE, the medical support mission in Rwanda, was airlifted to Kigali. On 1 August, the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signals Regiment Detachment for Operation LANCE began deploying to Kigali in what would be more than 22 chalks of Antonov 124 and Boeing 747 aircraft. Their operation would require one sustainment flight from the Airlift Control Element per week. At the same time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees advised that chalks would also be needed to and from Mombasa, Kenya; Bujumbura, Burundi; and Bukavu, Zaire as these were staging areas for humanitarian supplies to the refugees. The Airlift Control Element was already flying into Goma bringing medical supplies with each flight, often for the Canadian International Development Agency; however, the airfield and ramps there were so busy that on several occasions the Canadian CC130 was in the circuit waiting for landing clearance for more than one hour and had to return to Nairobi or fly to Kigali as minimum fuel was reached.

As events began to ramp up for a larger UN presence and a greater humanitarian effort, the arrival of the second Herc, number 337 from Canada was much anticipated and appreciated by the Airlift Control Element and the non-governmental organizations. This allowed the Airlift Control Element to support chalks to both Goma and Kigali, supporting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNAMIR. A chalk to Goma on 28 July delivered a shipment of medical supplies from Canada including cholera vaccine, while a chalk flown by Captain Bernie Castonguay on 1 August also brought an important piece of equipment to Goma – a reverse osmosis water purification unit. The cholera outbreak had been caused by the lack of clean water; the reverse osmosis water purification unit would help fight this deadly disease. August routinely saw four chalks a day, with most going to Kigali although United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees flights would often go to Goma and occasionally to Bukavu. The chalks were normally divided equally between UNAMIR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The flights into Goma were characterized by uneven offloading times depending on what equipment was available and by children on the runway, who appeared to understand that aircraft had the right of way as they were considered a distraction but not a flight safety hazard. While the emphasis during the first half of August remained on supporting humanitarian operations, especially with the situation in Goma, the movement of troops resumed again in mid-August, with eight chalks of Ethiopian troops.

On 6 August, two Hercules aircraft arrived from Canada carrying supplies for the Red Cross. Both remained in Nairobi to fly the backlog of Operation LANCE and Operation PASSAGE equipment and supplies from Entebbe to Kigali, there being 30 pallets for Operation PASSAGE and 66 for Operation LANCE. This airlift began on 11 August and continued until 15 August, consisting of 10 chalks altogether. With the completion of this special tasking, two Hercs returned to Canada. The brisk pace brought crew fatigue and some flights had to be cancelled to allow some rest before new crews arrived on 24 August.

A high profile set of chalks was to begin on 15 August when refugee orphans were to be flown from Bukavu back to Kigali. Unfortunately, things were not ready in Bukavu and the Herc returned to Nairobi. The plan was then delayed until the “situation in Kigali has returned to normal.” Other flights were unplanned and more close to home. On 20 August one chalk was cancelled for an emergency medevac of a sergeant from 2 Field Ambulance with intestinal haemorrhage. A Canadian civilian helicopter airlifted the sergeant to Kigali after which the Herc carried out the transport to Nairobi. Seven members of the Airlift Control Element donated blood for the patient. The same day Mobile Air Movement Section servicing and medical staff assisted three airport workers who had been injured in a ramp vehicle accident.

The Airlift Control Element members had more to worry about than injuries to local support staff. The initial group of Canadians from 8 Wing Trenton did not have all of their medical shots, such was the urgency to get them to Kenya. Several came down with malaria as a result and the Airlift Control Element medical staff had to remain observant for signs of other exotic diseases not normally be found in Canada. The resumption of flights into Kigali in July also brought almost daily medevacs with no prior notice. Airlift Control Element medical staff were thus on standby or on the chalks thereafter.

For the Mobile Air Movement Section teams, there were the issues of palletizing or repalletizing the loads and supplies as they arrived. This could be pallets from Canada or for a non-governmental organization or sometimes loose supplies for a non-governmental organization. The flights from Canada did present some difficulties for the Airlift Control Element staff. Non-governmental organization pallets from Canada often had freight for two different destinations thus requiring the pallets be broken down and repacked. Mail for Operation LANCE and Operation PASSAGE was also lost somewhere between the commercial carriers to Nairobi and the UNAMIR system, which required considerable effort to track down and then set the system straight.

These pallets then had to be loaded onto the Hercs. Five sometimes six chalks in a day in August were not uncommon, although four was the norm. Mobile Air Movement Section personnel were also used to coordinate UN logistics operations in Entebbe and for UN operations out of Dar-es-Salaam in September.

On 23 August the Airlift Control Element was advised that the UN was not interested in extending the CC130 operations beyond 31 August, the reason being cost. National Defence Operations Centre accepted this on 25 August and plans began to redeploy one aircraft, number 337 on 1 September and the second, number 334 the next day. However, this too changed at the last minute and the UN found that it did in fact need one Canadian Hercules. Aircraft 337 thus redeployed on 2 September while 334 continued operations.

The start of September saw two chalks daily into Goma for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but by the second week of the month, it was back to Kigali as refugees were returning to that city and supplies were needed there. The anticipated sustainment flights for Operation LANCE and Operation PASSAGE did not materialize. Flights from Canada were able to land directly at Kigali, whence the supplies were taken by truck to these missions.

When the Americans decided to leave Kigali there was considerable concern that no ground-crew would be available to offload aircraft. However, Rwanda Air staff stepped in and on 2 September off-loaded a Canadian Armed Forces Boeing in 50 minutes. That ended any doubts about cargo off-loading. The Boeing returned to Canada with the outgoing rotation, leaving the Airlift Control Element with a strength of 44 vice the earlier mid-60s. 

In early September planning began for a potential move to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The UN stockpile in Nairobi was being reduced while that in Dar-es-Salaam was quite large, between 30 and 40 chalks. The options were to move the entire Airlift Control Element there, or to fly from Nairobi to Dar and then to Kigali. The latter option was chosen and the officer-in-charge of the Mobile Air Movement Section of the Airlift Control Element proceeded to Dar-es-Salaam with three other members. The first flight from Dar-es-Salaam was on 16 September but the effort was fraught with problems as the airport authorities there would not accept the flight clearance provided by the Tanzanian High Commission in Kenya. There were also issues with pallet prioritization which the officer in charge of the Mobile Air Movement Section quickly sorted out.  

Flights were now routed Nairobi to Dar-es-Salaam then on to Goma, then Kigali and later to Bukavu. Because of the distance involved only one chalk a day was possible. The United States Air Force flew additional chalks, which helped to quickly reduce the stockpile. The diplomatic clearance issue at Dar-es-Salaam was not so easily fixed as the flight on 20 September again encountered problems. So the flight from there was cancelled on the 21st and flew Nairobi to Kigali and Bukavu instead. The 22nd saw the return of the Dar-es-Salaam flights which proceeded without problem for the rest of the mission. The last flight was on 27 September.  This chalk carried the last of the UN supplies and the forklift which the US contingent in Nairobi had kindly lent them, as well as bringing back the Mobile Air Movement Section detachment.

By mid-September, the Airlift Control Element had been operating for five months and had managed a range of pressures and issues. On 16 September the commander learned from a Canadian International Development Agency representative that the Operation SCOTCH mandate would probably terminate on 27 September. While there had been previous end of mission dates in the early days of the operation, in this case the termination date was finally correct, and the last chalk was flown on 27 September. Service flights from Canada removed the 45 members of 8 ACCS and their equipment from Kigali on 29 September and the Airlift Control Element left Nairobi several days later. 

A total of about 350 personnel served on Operation SCOTCH. At the end of the day the Airlift Control Element had flown 312 chalks carrying 5,871,200 lbs (2,663 kg) of freight and 6340 passengers. They were the sole lifeline into Kigali between 24 April and 31 July. They were able to achieve this with very few chalks lost due to unserviceability and operating often under trying conditions. They had overcome administrative and operational obstacles and had proudly represented Canada and supported the UN in its darkest days in Rwanda. Flexibility was a key in being able to rapidly adjust to changing roles, loads and passengers while a sense of humour was an obvious asset in handling the many issues that arose.

The Airlift Control Element personnel had supported UNAMIR through the provision of food, fuel, water, transportation of personnel and vehicles and most importantly hope. The knowledge that a Canadian Hercules could come quickly to provide any of these items, when nobody else could or would, was an obvious morale booster. The transportation of VIPs, especially for meetings, was an important part of the process to return to what could be considered a minor sense of normalcy and in the provision of aid to refugees. The evacuation of Canadian nationals from Rwanda and Burundi supported the government’s commitment to Canadians. Even individual personnel of Operation SCOTCH could make a major contribution. The Canadian Mobile Air Movement Section officer was also important in helping the UN organize its supply operations from Entebbe, when Kigali was shut down.

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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