Tanzanian troops, advancing eastwards through Uganda, captured the strategic industrial township of Jinja, fifty miles (80.5 kms) east of Kampala on Sunday (21 April).
Tanzanian troops, advancing eastwards through Uganda, captured the strategic industrial township of Jinja, fifty miles (80.5 kms) east of Kampala on Sunday (21 April). They met little resistance, and, in taking Jinja, secured the main source of Uganda's electrical power. But the fleeing forces of former President Idi Amin left behind a trail of atrocities.
SYNOPSIS: Some sixty civilians were believed to have been hurled to their deaths from the Owen Falls Dam by Amin's forces, before the Tanzania arrived. Witnesses said the victims were bound in pairs and tossed over the hundred-foot (30 metre) drop. When the Tanzanians attacked this bridge at dawn on Sunday (22 April), most of Amin's Nubian troops had long fled???, and only a token resistance was encountered.
There was no sign of Amin himself, although reports had earlier placed him in Jinja, where he had reportedly vowed to stand and fight until the end. The capture of Jinja gave Tanzanian troops their second big military victory since taking Kampala almost two weeks ago. Jinja supplies Uganda with almost all its electrical power, and its liberation from Amin's troops enables the Tanzanian forces to re-open the country's vital supply route to Kenya. Jinja is on a major trade route from land-locked Uganda to the Indian Ocean.
Jinja's streets were deserted when Tanzanian troops and tanks moved into the town. Many residents had fled into hiding, after suffering what one European businessman described as "two weeks of living hell" from Amin's soldiers. The anticipated confrontation with the fallen dictator and his surviving supporters did not happen. The liberating troops carefully checked the bodies they found to identify them, and to check, if possible, where they had come from. Heavy curfews had been imposed, and Jinja was left without proper food, water, or electricity supplies.
Journalists, who entered Jinja with the pro-government troops, said they had been rotting corpses -- reportedly victims of Amin's forces -- lying in the streets.
But once the last of Amin's straggling force was rounded up, the people of Jinja went wild with celebration. As the Tanzanian troop moved in orderly column through the town, civilians poured into the streets to welcome them, shouting "We are free, We are free, thank you, Nyerere." They danced round the troops, singing and showering the soldiers and their vehicles with flowers, notably bougainvillaea blossoms. The people also laid down green branches in front of the trucks -- a traditional Ugandan welcome sign. The force of Tanzanian regulars have taken four days to reach Jinja in their slow march eastwards from Kampala.
But, as had happened earlier in Kampala, the frenzied welcoming party ended in an orgy of looting and ransacking of shops. The Tanzanians ignored the rampage as residents raided stores, which they claimed belonged to Nubians for Amin's homeland in the north-west. They said Amin's troops had fled the ???own days ago, commandeering virtually all vehicles in Jinja to make their escape. The Tanzanian and Ugandan government forces are now expected to move further east to kenya and re-open Uganda's lifeline to the sea.