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S 9 Namibia

18 February 1989 - 10 April 1990

Namibia – UN Transition Assistance Group 1989 - 1990

In April 1989, the United Nations (UN) established the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia (and to a limited extent neighbouring countries) to supervise the return of refugees, a general election, the withdrawal of South African forces, and Namibia's transition to independence. Australia provided the engineer squadron, the United Kingdom a signals unit, Italy a helicopter squadron to name but a few of the larger contributing nations.

The initial Australian contingent arrived in three groups between mid March and mid April 1989, and was rotated in three groups in early September, late September and early October 1989. The first contingent of 309 personnel commanded by Lieutenant Colonel KW Pippard comprised a Chief Engineer Works Staff, 17 Construction Squadron, and 17 Construction Squadron Workshop.  The second contingent (with senior officers being Lieutenant Colonels PM Boyd and KJ Gillespie) consisted of 309 personnel due to the addition of a five man military police detachment, and included one RAAF officer and 14 New Zealand personnel.

Field Engineer Operations

15th Field Troop deployed as part of the advance element of the Australian Service Contingent (ASC).  The field engineers developed mine search techniques applicable to Namibian soil conditions. The ASC bomb disposal technicians were kept busy during this time destroying much of the unexploded ordnance found by UN personnel.

Operation Safe Passage – 1 April 1989

Border clashes between Security Forces and South West African Police Organisation (SWAPO) threatened the implementation of the UNTAG mission, and so ASC joined the UNTAG planning team to establish Border Assembly Points.

UNTAG officials found that SWAPO soldiers intended to enter Namibia, avoiding the South African Defence Force (SADFO, and establish bases in Namibia under UN supervision.

The subsequent Operation Safe Passage was a joint British and Australian operation with the two contingent commanders forming a joint command creating a UN presence at the assembly points from 1 April to 26 April, when it was handed over to UNTAG monitors.

Approximately 70 ASC troops were involved in various stages of Operation Safe Passage, living in operational conditions in the combat area and subject to the constant attention of SWAPO and SADF.  Four civilian personnel, four civilian police and eleven UNTAG military personnel were killed.

Support to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)

ASC Namibia was involved in assisting the UNHCR Returnee Program.  ASC construction engineers commenced work to support UNHCR entry points and reception areas at Grootfontein and Ondangwa in early May.  This was followed by substantial construction support for returnee centres at Maria Bronn, Ongwediva and Engela.  It also carried out essential maintenance and emergency repairs.

The ASC was withdrawn progressively from Namibia from February 1990 to 9 April 1990.

<a href="//">Allotment for Duty Certificate



Alexander M Palmer, 1996, Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers, Military Minded, Perth.