Yesterday morning started with torrents of rain across Kampala. It ended with blood dripping from the beaten, battered and bruised form of Dr Kizza Besigye and a host of his aides.
After two weeks in which he had been violently arrested thrice, and in which he had been forced to spend the Easter weekend – and his 55th birthday – in jail due to a magistrate being “too busy” to hear his bail application, Besigye might have been forgiven for thinking that the worst was behind him. But if the resurrection of Jesus Christ meant the forgiving of all sin, the commandos and state agents who turned up to intercept Besigye yesterday missed that part of the Gospel.
It started at 6am when police officers surrounded Besigye’s home in Kasangati and told him they were under orders not to allow him to walk out of his gate, lest he proceeds with the walk-to-work protest.
The opposition leader conceded, got into his white Land Cruiser SUV with his bodyguards, and drove out of the gate. Then the police stopped him and asked which part of the city he was headed to, Besigye said he wanted to go to the bank in Wandegeya and then proceed to his office in Najjanankumbi on the other side of town.
Three police patrol pick-up trucks followed his car up to Kalerwe where another police pick-up truck blocked his way. After haggling with Grace Turyagumanawe, the regional police commander in charge of Greater Kampala, Besigye was allowed to continue to Wandegeya on condition that he drives through the Kalerwe-Mulago road, not the main thoroughfare.
Trouble started at the Mulago-Wandegeya roundabout after the police blocked his way and said Besigye could not go to Wandegeya but take Kitante Road. As he talked to both local and international journalists, Dr Besigye said the events showed a government that had lost legitimacy and was ruling by force. “There is nothing to reconcile about me and Mr Museveni. It is for government to reconcile with the people of Uganda who have been wronged, whose funds have been stolen, who suffer from corruption, nepotism....”
As the verbal exchange continued, a crowd built up, until Besigye was ordered out of his car. When he declined to do so, the police and unidentified armed men in civilian attire broke loose, violently shuttered the vehicle windscreen, sprayed him and other occupants with pepper spray.
They proceeded to drag him out after thoroughly beating his security aides and injuring them. Using a combination of force, teargas and pepper spray, they hauled Besigye’s group off and into a waiting police van where the driver – also unidentified and in civilian attire – kept them at bay by pointing an AK-47 assault rifle in their faces at close range.
An unidentified man in civilian clothes approached the window of the car and drew a pistol. Holding its muzzle, he used the butt of the gun to repeatedly smash the windscreen. On the opposite side, another agent, also unidentified, was using a hammer to smash through the windscreens. Then came the liquid tear gas and pepper spray. The word spray is a bit inaccurate for it was more of a deluge than a spray. About four spray-filled cans were emptied into the car, quickly turning the previously air-conditioned safety of the car into a cauldron of chocking chaos.
The driver was the first to buckle. He threw his door open and slumped outside in a heap. A policeman – this one in uniform – quickly came over and whacked Dr Besigye and continued to kick him as he was led away to the waiting police patrol, gun drawn on him. He was slumped face down over the half-open back door of the pick-up. His right hand, still in a Plaster-of-Paris cast after it was shot in a previous protest walk, hung limply on the floor of the pick-up truck.
The commandos shoved him under the raised seat on the back of the pick-up and, with his limp legs hanging over the edge, slammed the door shut as the pick-up truck sped off. Shocked by the brutality of the arrest, Besigye’s supporters pelted the police with stones and other objects but they were no match for the tear-gas spraying, gun-firing, baton-wielding, attack-dog holding operatives.
They soon melted away, dejected like the disciples after Jesus’ crucifixion and hoping that their hero, like the star of the Bible, would rise again. It was rocket speed as the three police vehicles, two patrols and a van sped off through Kamwokya, Bukoto, Ntinda and finally to Kasangati where the military showed its might, buffalos and mambas all the time charging at building crowds.