“I met with the Interhamwe leaders and when I shook their hand, they were cold, not cold as in temperature, cold as if another body, although they had a human form their eyes were not human. Their eyes were reflecting the most evil I could ever imagine. It was being personified and that personification was the devil”
Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda 1994 Rwanda, a tiny land-locked central African nation is no stranger to violence. But nothing matched the orgy of killing that engulfed the country in 1994. As the world watched, a genocide not seen since the Hitler horrors of WWII, erupted. Estimates put the toll of those shot and hacked to death at around one million men, women and children. It was into this cauldron of death that a group of Australian peacekeepers, were sent to help alleviate the suffering and bring some order back into shattered lives. For this group of soldiers the daily horrors of their mission were to take on a even more sinister and sickening mantle when they were witness to another massacre a year after the genocide this time at the Kibeho Displaced Persons Camp. On 22nd April 1995 in full view of the Australian peacekeepers, over 4,000 died in a hail of bullets and machete blades at the hands of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. Hamstrung by their UN peacekeeping rules-of-engagement the soldiers could do little to stop the killing. They could only watch the carnage and try, under the gaze of the trigger-happy killers to help the wounded.
Pure Massacre is a record of what happened during this peacekeeping mission. Kevin “Irish” O’Halloran, a Platoon Sergeant at the time, stresses the weaknesses of the UN charter and what happens when “good men do nothing”. He pulls together the perspectives of the Australian personnel who served in Rwanda at this time. Pure Massacre gives a new and personal voice to the Kibeho Massacre. It took a special brand of bravery, discipline, compassion and nerve to do what they did. And while no Australian died during and immediately after the massacre at Kibeho their service was not without cost as Pure Massacre testifies, the suffering and tragedy is embedded in their memories.
Kevin ‘Irish’ O’Halloran joined the Army and has served on four operational tours of duty, all in the Royal Australian Infantry Corps (RAInf ); two with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) and two with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR). He retired from the Army in 2011 after 30 years’ service.