John Frewen - Headquarters at Butare

Running time
2 min 3 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The French had conducted an operation, Operation Turquoise, down in the southwest of the country where they had sealed off a portion of the country. At the time, they said as a humanitarian gesture, now we'd never really understood what the politics of that was, whether they had economic interests or they had some more nefarious sort of interest, what their role in the genocide had been at that stage. It was sort of very unclear. But the result of that was there was a portion of the country that had been sealed off.

And these large camps such as Kibeho had formed down in that area. But the French were about to pull out, and there was to be a handover of the French sort of boundaries with the UN. And there was a headquarters that was being established or had been established down in the south and a town called Butare to help with that transition. They were looking to man it, and they wanted a representative from the medical support force. So I was then selected to go down and join this headquarters.

So during the course of the advanced party, I was sent off as an individual down to the south as a representative of the medical support force. And I joined , what was like a small brigade headquarters that was notionally led by a Ghanaian Brigadier, a one-star, but in effect was being run by the Canadian brigade major that was down there with a bunch of Canadian staff. So I fell in on that headquarters, with the dual role of being an ops captain in the headquarters itself, but also providing medical support force advice. I had a bit of trouble convincing people that I wasn't a doctor. The Ghanaian Brigadier in particular, was convinced that I was a doctor and kept coming and describing his many ailments to him. And I eventually just gave up and started prescribing him sort of placebos, various.

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