Friday, September 7, 2007


Ugandans go on a looting spree

from Martha Honey in Kampala
Thursday April 12, 1979
The Guardian

Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exile forces spent their first day in Kampala trying to deal with small pockets of resistance and a population celebrating the fall of President Amin with a looting spree.
The final assault on Kampala started late on Tuesday and finished at dawn yesterday. The Tanzanian Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Mzekwa, ran ahead of his force of 800 men to lead charges on pockets of resistance and then stopped, when the city was taken, to take tea with the North Korean ambassador.

Article continues



In Dar Es Salaam exiles' leader Professor Yusufu Lule, aged 67, announced last night that he will preside over the new Government. A 14 member Cabinet which includes most members of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) executive, will be flown today to Kampala.
Professor Lule, a former vice-chancellor of Makerere University, Uganda, who describes himself as being apolitical, promised that elections would be held as soon as conditions permit.

Colonel Tito Okello was named commander of the Uganda National Liberation Army, which will have as its hard core the guerrilla groups which have been fighting President Amin's forces.

Small groups of Ugandan soldiers have been routed out of buildings and houses where they were hiding or sniping at Tanzanian troops. Other soldiers, some driving civilian cars, have been captured or killed as they were trying to flee. Some Amin troops have been beaten to death by civilians. By evening there was still frequent automatic weapon fire and occasional artillery blasts in the city centre.

According to a Tanzanian military officer commanding troops in the city centre, "We are still smoking out some of Amin's soldiers."

President Amin, who had promised to mount a strong defence of Kampala, was reportedly in Jinja, 80 miles to the east. It appears that what remains of Amin's own army has also fled to Jinja. He was also rumoured to be fleeing by car, launch and plane.

Tanzanian officials said they had left open the route to Jinja to encourage civilians and Libyan troops who had been supporting President Amin to flee before the final assault on the capital. No Libyan troops have been in evidence in the defence of Kampala.

While easily winning the military battle, Tanzanian and Ugandan forces are fighting a losing battle against looters.

Thousands of Ugandans have poured into the city and, amid much enthusiasm and cheering of the invading forces, have smashed shop and office window and grabbed every moveable object. Even new cars have been pushed out through showroom windows, loaded with stolen goods. They have been pushed out of town as the new owners do not have the keys.

In the residential areas located on the hillsides around the city Ugandan civilians have been breaking into empty houses, removing furniture, mattresses, clothes, lamps, television sets and other household possessions.

Most of the houses broken into belong to Amin regime officials who have deserted the city, but several homes of foreigners, including that of the French Ambassador, have been looted.

Tanzanian military officials have expressed concern over the scale of the looting. According to one officer, "President Nyerere ordered us to do as little damage to the city as possible. But now the local population is proceeding to wreck it."

Although some Tanzanian and anti-Amin Ugandan soldiers have been stationed around the city to discourage looting, military authorities say they cannot effectively control the local population because of the army's preoccupation with eliminating Amin's remaining soldiers.

Tanzanian soldiers tried to calm the civilian crowds, according to Ugandan eyewitnesses, who said "their conduct was exemplary." One woman said she had offered the invaders beer to celebrate but they refused and asked for water instead.

Tuesday evening's march into Kampala was the culmination of the Tanzanian army's 180 mile trek from the Tanzanian border to the Ugandan capital.

I walked the final 14 miles with the 800 soldiers of the 19th Division of the 108th Brigade. This division, commanded by Colonel Benjamin Msekwa, has been the spearhead force of the Tanzanian army throughout the six months of war with Uganda. Its assignment yesterday was to capture all strategic points in the city, including the radio station and President Amin's command post.

After sleeping on Monday night on a hill top encampment we began marching towards the capital at 5.00am As we proceeded in total darkness down the mud slit mountainside the sky was continually hit and the silence broken by artillery and mortar fire, most of it fired by the Tanzanian forces.

Once we reached the main tarmac road to Kampala we were joined by several other soldiers who had been encamped in surrounding fields. In a heavy downpour we advanced along the road led by three tanks and flanked on either side by soldiers cutting through the bush looking for President Amin's forces. We met no resistance although we passed one Ugandan armoured personnel carrier which had been destroyed by Tanzanian artillery forces during the previous night.

In the late afternoon as we reached the outskirts of Kampala thousands of local residents gathered along the roadside waving and shouting, "Welcome, thank you" and "You are our brothers."

Several local residents reported that small numbers of President Amin's soldiers had been in the area but had run away when the artillery fire came into their direction. In several places many houses had been hit by artillery. We passed one dead man lying in what was apparently the font door of his home.

By the time the tall buildings of Kampala became visible the road was filled with jubilant people who hugged the soldiers and climbed on top of the tanks, decorating them with flowers.

The holiday spirit was suddenly broken on the edge of the city by a barrage of small arms fire from Ugandan soldiers. As the local residents ran over for cover the Tanzanians retaliated with heavy artillery and automatic weapons fire. After 15 minutes an estimated 10 Ugandan soldiers had been killed.

Printable version | Send it to a friend | Save story

No comments: