From a bedroom window in Idi Amin's Entebbe statehouse, one looks out over lovely English-styled formal gardens to the immense expanse of Lake Victoria. In this tranquility the signs of Amin's former luxurious lifestyle are in sharp juxtaposition with the present war.
The scale of destruction we have see, and in fact the scale of the entire war, is overwhelming to a journalist who until now has been able to cover it only from outside Uganda, using reports from Tanzanian and exile Ugandan sources.
Artillery, mortar fire and spiteful arson have destroyed large portions of towns and cities between Kampala and the Tanzanian border.
Despite this destruction, indications are that relatively few people have been killed. Tanzanian Army officers say that perhaps fewer than a thousand Ugandan soldiers and a much smaller number of Tanzanians have died in the last three months of fighting .Tanzanians say, however, that as many as 400 Libyan troops fighting on the side of Uganda were killed last week in the battle for Entebbe.
Here Sunday, the Tanzanians are very much in control.
A Tanzanian soldier lay on a Persian carpet near his antiaircraft gun on the immaculately manicured front lawn of Amin's statehouse. Senior Tanzanian army officers slept in ballroom-size bedrooms in the house.
The lawn was strewn with empty cartons for radios, watches, liquor and television sets-luxuries imported to appease Amin's often rebellious army.
Tanzanian soldiers, weary from six months of bush fighting, had a field day Saturday looting and ransacking the statehouse store. One Tanzanian officer who apparently felt helpless to stop his soldiers shrugged and said, "These goods were imported for the army. It's just that now they are going to Tanzanian rather than Ugandan boy's."
Throughout the town, Entebbe residents and nearby villagers have been looting deserted stores and houses, many of which belonged to army and government personnel. Saturday the road coming into twown was filled with people carrying or hauling on bicycles stolen beds, chairs, tables, radios, clothing, and other items.
Tanzanians army officials say similar scenes occured over the past three months as the combined Tanzanian and anti-Amin Ugandan forces occupied town between the border at Mutakula and Entebbe.
A Tanzanian officer said, "One of our biggest problems had been how to stop Ugandans from destroying the town. They frequently loot and then burn stores, houses, government buildings or any other symbols of Amin's regime. While we understand their anger, we know it will only make it more difficult for them to rebuild Uganda after Amin goes.
(Reports reaching Nairobi, Kenya, from Ugandan exiles said Tanzanian soldiers were looting and raping women in some captured town, news agencies reported.)
Artillery and mortar fire from the combined Tanzanian and anti-Amin forces have destroyed numerous buildings, Masaka, a town 80 miles south of Kampala, appeared to be particularly bombed or burned.
Amin's soldiers invaded and pillaged northwestern Tanzania last October. Since then Ugandan, and recently Libyan, planes have bombed in Tanzania.
In late February, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere ordered Tanzanian troops into Uganda to stop what he felt would be further Ugandan aggression.
Since then the combined Tanzanian and anti-Amin Ugandan army has been moving by stages closer to Kampala. Tanazian officials say that only in mid-March did Nyerere finally decide his forces should go into Kampala.
"The Ugandan army was highly mechanized and could only operate along the main roads" one Tanzanian officer said. We would hide in the bush and swamps and as soon as the ambush beganm Amin's soldiers ran. We captured a great deal of equipment, some of it brand new."
By the time they reached Entebbe, the Tanzanians say, they were facing analmost totally Libyan army. In recent weeks Libyan leader Col. Mu ammar Qaddafi flew thousands of troops as well as massive amounts of equipment, to Uganda to try to save fellow Moslem Amin.
According to Tanzanian military officials, however, Qaddafi's soldiers r proved themselves no more motivated than Amin's.
One Tanzanian officer said, "They were told they were coming here to help put down some civil unrest or to take part in some military exercise with the Ugandan army. They didn't know how to survive the mud and mosquitoes in Uganda. They've tried to run away just like Amin's soldiers."
In the two-day battle for Entebbe at least 120 Libyan soldiers reportedly were killed and at least several dozen captured. One Tanzanian officer estimated that 400 Libyans had been killed in the fighting around Entebbe and Kampala before Libyan troops returned to Libya last week.
Entebbe airport, site of the 1976 Israeli commando raid, is now partially destroyed.
Below a life-size painting of Idi Amin that hangs on the modern main terminal buildings are piles of rubble-broken glass, office furniture and equipment, gift shop curios.
The runaways are littered with Amin's disabled civilian and military aircraft, including a damaged Boeing 707 Uganda Airways plane and a dozen crippled Migs.
A U.S-made Libyan C130 military transport plane, hit by Tanzanian artillery on Friday, was still smoldering at the far end of a runway.
According to Tanzanian army officials, Entebbe airport has been a target of Tanzanian artillery for several weeks. A week ago tanzanian Migs bombed the runway and evidently hit several planes.*tAs Tanzanian troops closed in on Entebbe last Thursday and Friday, the shelling was intensified, driving the shelling was intensified, driving out the mainly Libyan force guarding the airport. In a mopping up operation later, Tanzanian soldiers went through each building, causing more damage.
The combined Tanzanian and anti-Amin army reportedly is popular with the Ugandan population. Soldiers say they have been cheered as they entered newly captured towns.
On our drive form the Tanzanian border to Entebbe, Ugandan villagers waved and greeted the Tanzanian military vehicles. In one village a crudely painted wall poster read, "The tanzanian army is helping us."
Not only is the Tanzanian army helping to overthrow Amin, who by all indications is widely unpopular, but Tanzanian soldiers have also been giving villagers free salt, sugar, kerozene and other basic commodities long in short supply in Uganda.
As the fighting nears its decisive stage, it is unclear how long the Tanzanian army will remain in Uganda. One Tanzanian officer said, "we do not want to stay long after Amin goes."
But there is also a feeling that following this war, which has cost both Tanzanians and Ugandans a great deal, the Tanzanians will stay until at least the rudiments of a new government are established. CAPTION: Picture, Civilian-clad Ugandan soldiers who surrendered during fighting last weekend at Entebbe are guarded by troops of Tanzania's army, at right, in uniforms. AP