Operation Tamar - Rwanda: History in Focus
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In August 1994 an Australian Defence Force (ADF) contingent was despatched to Rwanda, an African nation ravaged by civil war and genocide. The operation was to provide medical support to the existing UN assistance mission in Rwanda.
There were two Australian deployments to Rwanda as part of Operation Tamar. The first ran from August 1994 to February 1995 and the second from February until August 1995.
The Australian Medical Support Force set up in the capital Kigali. Australian infantrymen provided security for the Australian medical team. Engineers worked hard at restoring war damaged medical facilities that allowed the Australian contingent to operate within a reasonably workable environment. Although tasked with supporting UN personnel, high levels of assistance were provided to the civilian population, which included complex surgeries.
In April a 32-strong detachment of the support force was despatched to Kibeho, about 150 kilometres south-west of Kigali, to set up a Casualty Clearance Post (CCP).
Kibeho was home to approximately 150,000 displaced persons whom the new government wanted to move on. It was a complex situation, as many of the refugees did not wish to leave the camp as they feared for their safety and some had most certainly participated in the genocide. Between 18–22 April, members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army began to kill people indiscriminately.
The Australians arrived in the midst of a rapidly deteriorating situation. Unable to intervene, they had to concentrate on their work despite the slaughter unfolding around them. Despite these trying conditions the CCP team headed by Captain Carol Vaughan-Evans was able to treat many injured people.
Rwanda was one of the most difficult peacekeeping missions ever undertaken by the ADF, and those who served there did so courageously and selflessly.