An Australian’s eyewitness account of the Kibeho Massacre
Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2020
Paperback 188pp $24.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, November 2020
After experiencing several knockbacks in his effort to enlist in the Australian Army, Terry Rickard opted to preserve life and so joined the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (RAAMC). He saw service in various establishments around Australia including as an instructor at the Army School of Health in Healesville Victoria and a three-month tour with the 8th/9th Battalion in Malaysia. Maximizing his experiences by attending courses outside his own corps, and after seventeen years of Army life, Terry set his heart on being part of a medical company in a 300-strong Australian contingent with the United Nations in Rwanda in 1995.
With 31 other Australians, Terry was in Kibeho on 22nd April 1995 in a refugee camp. The living conditions for the tens of thousands in the camp beggared belief as there was virtually no food, water, sanitation or medical facilities. Whilst doing their utmost to provide for the refugees, without warning, in excess of 2000 Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers mercilessly attacked the unarmed refugees. Whilst being armed, the UN personnel were under strict orders ‘not to respond with force unless personally attacked’. The RPA did not attack the UN force, but did constantly provoke its members during the ensuing massacre. The force were concerned that eventually they would suffer the same fate as the refugees because they were witnesses to a mammoth war crime. [The reason for the RPA allowing them to walk out is still not known.] The scene and events as described by the witnesses was considered to be grossly over-exaggerated by many of their colleagues. On the UN force returning to the camp the next day, many of the bodies had been disposed of in order to reduce the apparent magnitude of the killing.
Rickard has faithfully described in detail what he witnessed. It is an extremely moving and disturbing account; and the disturbance, would in time, for him and others, manifest itself in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His account of how PTSD took hold of him, his reactions to it both before and after he acknowledged he was suffering from PTSD, makes a very extensive and complete case study. There is no holding back on his turbulent life in the decades that have followed, and seen him emerge, scarred but being able to cope with his situation and get on with life.
A most readable work that has been written with the author’s emotions fully exposed. Combat Medic makes a most valuable contribution to military history in that it makes the reader aware of the price that so often has to be paid by those who serve in our Defence forces.
Many photographs have been included in the text, but it is unfortunate that the poor quality of their reproduction renders most of their detail indiscernible.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.