Focus on Operation TAMAR

This article has photo gallery Published on LTCOL Phil Pyke (author), CPL Geoff Fox (photographer), CPL Mark Doran (photographer)

Location(s): Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory

Topic(s): Operations

Leading Aircraftwoman Jennifer Reilly,gives a young landmine victim some Christmas cheer in the Australian- run United Nations wing of the Kigali Central Hospital in Rwanda. (photo: Corporal Geoff Fox)
Leading Aircraftwoman Jennifer Reilly,gives a young landmine victim some Christmas cheer in the Australian- run United Nations wing of the Kigali Central Hospital in Rwanda.

With two decades passing since Australia’s contribution to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), a seminar will be held to focus on elements of leadership over the period of Operation TAMAR with a particular focus on the Kibeho massacre.

A Reflections on Leadership Seminar will be held at the Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics at Western Creek, Canberra, on 6 August - the 20th anniversary of the return of the second contingent.

Operation TAMAR was Australia’s contribution to the mission between July 1994 and March 1996 with 638 Australian Defence Force members serving over this period with supply, medical, infantry, engineering, signals and supporting elements.

Around 20 April 1995, members of the Australian contingent witnessed the massacre of thousands of internally displaced persons in the Kibeho refugee camp by the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Restricted by the UN Mandate and the Rules of Engagement, the Australians could only look on in horror as the massacre unfolded in front of them. 

Under fire and often under the threat of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Australians managed to set up a casualty evacuation station and conduct triage and treatment for the wounded Hutus. It was a response resulting in the award of four Medals for Gallantry – the first since Vietnam.

While debate remains as to how many people died in the massacre that horrific day, Australian reports counted 4,050 but observed many more bodies. The Rwandan Government placed the count at 330 and the UN 2,000.

Operation TAMAR was reclassified to war-like service in 2006.

Semianr coordinator, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Coates, said it was important to revisit key events around Australia’s peacekeeping operations, such as Rwanda, as there were lessons to be remembered and retained including from those who assisted in the planning and conduct of the operation.

“The seminar will focus on the leadership and ethical issues arising from the Australian Defence Force commitment to Rwanda, and at the Kibeho Camp massacre in particular, and the long term implications for Defence,” Lieutenant Colonel Coates said.

The Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics is coordinating the seminar, which will be facilitated by Air Commodore Tracy Smart, a doctor and a member who deployed.

“It will include presentations by members of both contingents, including those directly affected by the events at Kibeho.”

The seminar will commence at 1.30pm in the Blamey Theatre, Australian Defence College, Weston Creek.

Opportunities will arise for attendees to offer their personal experiences and to contribute to the discussions on the day. 

This wishing to attend should contact the Centre on +61 2 6266 0611.