It played out like a scene in a horror movie. A staccato of hits with the butt of a pistol and a hammer rapidly struck windows of the luxury V8 Toyota Land Cruiser, crumbling the glass shield in a pile.
Uniformed anti-riot policemen emerged to jet liquid pepper inside to saturate the vehicle carrying Uganda’s main opposition politician, Kizza Besigye. He and other occupants were left gasping for fresh air – their bodies burning.
Several cans of pepper had been downloaded, initially directly into the eyes of Dr Besigye, and later to soak his upper back after he hid his face in between the front seats of his luxury vehicle.
His driver, Fred Kato, suffered similar fate, forcing him to jump out of the saturated vehicle, only to land into a volley of kicks and punches unleashed by a cocktail of security operatives. At this time, the gun-totting and vicious operatives, had overpowered and arrested Dr Besigye’s aides; and grabbed him commando-style.
Uganda’s Black Mamba commandoes first played such a movie at the High Court in Kampala premises in 2005, coincidentally to re-arrest Besigye who by then had just been granted bail.
Face-down, the former personal physician to President Museveni, was dragged and thrown under seats on the back of a police pickup truck where patrol police usually carry unidentified corpses and accident victims.
Dr Besigye was none, but all the same menacingly thrown there, a filthy slot, outraging MPs during an afternoon debate and even the most conservative ruling NRM loyalists.
His crime according to Kampala Metropolitan police commander Grace Turyagumanawe, who was at the secene, was choosing to drive from Mulago Road junction to Wandegaya while police wanted him to take the Kitante Road. Moments later, the FDC president was a blind and deaf man.
As such when he later appeared before Nabweru Court Chief Magistrate Justine Atukwasa, head swollen and eyes blinded, the judicial officer stared at him in horror and let him go without a charge.
Ms Atukwasa had granted bail to the man at Nakasongola Magistrate’s Court only the previous day and a disfigured Besigye, leaning on shoulders of well-wishers to walk, contrasted with his Tuesday image who less than 24 hours ago offered spirited submission to secure bail after his defence attorneys failed to show up.
Nearby, several other gun-toting men in civilian stoked emotions outside by indiscriminately kicking and whipping perceived opposition supporters around.
This is Uganda, once described by former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the “Pearl of Africa”. It had turned into the paragon of violence as a combination of police and the military, alleging Besigye supporters pelted them with stones to provoke them, cracked teargas and live bullets on them.
The man of infamy who pepper-sprayed and shattered Dr Besigye’s vehicle window’s had hitherto been known to many as a quiet and obedient Christian.
The man in the picture
His name is Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe. But a UPDF deserter, now living in Europe, who says they were bosom friends and classmates at Ogut Primary School in Tororo Municipality, insists today’s showy Arinaitwe was by 1986 a bare-footed Jackson Kirunda receiving whips from teacher Okwakol almost on daily basis for failing Mathematics and English assignments.
The contrast of his known humble beginnings, a supposedly prayerful life and an introvert’s posture were yesterday betrayed when the hitherto concealed evil in Arinaitwe erupted, shocking and galling his friends and mentors.
Not least lecturers at Uganda Christian University where he obtained a Social Work and Social Administration Bachelor’s degree in 2006.“He used to be a class captain and a quiet guy. I am embarrassed by what he did (in arresting Besigye),” said his former lecturer.
He sauntered at the Mulago roundabout in Kampala, pistol tucked to the waist line, after using it to knock down Besigye’s car windows, re-enacting alleged rogues committed by Idi Amin’s berated forces.
Without a gun, light weight Arinaitwe would unlikely stage an average fight, except blurt out words in a quarrel as he does while translating for a top city pastor. He reportedly participated in investigating an unresolved sodomy case.
Associates, appalled and galled by his yesterday’s conduct, or rather misconduct, say he is a man of devotion, who prays while speaking in tongues.
On the streets, in the church and at shops, he starts his conversation with a calm Mukama ye bazibwe (Praise God) Christian tone. His wedding photos on face book page, scrambled after his unprecedented assault on Besigye, show him smiling in the tight embrace with his wife.
It would be odd that he chose to introduce himself to Ugandan tax payers who buy his food and dress him by tormenting a man his senior in wealth, power and contribution to the country’s 1986 ‘liberation’.
In lawful times, Arinaitwe, a CID officer attached to the Kireka-headquartered Rapid Response Unit, would be operating under cover like all civilised detectives, identifying and preventing crime.