Even for a man who was no stranger to government shackles, Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye's arrest last Thursday was particularly vicious.
Though it was Besigye's fourth arrest since April 11, when he and his supporters began holding "walk to work" protests against rising fuel and commodity prices, this one was met with disbelief across this East African nation of 33 million. A day after being released on bail following his previous arrest, Besigye was intercepted in his vehicle at a Kampala roundabout by plainclothes officers, who smashed the car's windows with a hammer and a pistol, and doused Besigye's face with pepper spray, leaving him partially blinded. As other officers beat his bodyguards, Besigye was dragged into a police pick-up truck, stuffed under a metal bench and driven away.
Caught on video, the episode soon went viral, sparking riots in Kampala and around the country. Security forces responded by firing tear gas and live ammunition, killing five and injuring more than 100. The brutality brought comparisons to tactics used by Idi Amin, the country's dictator during the 1970s who is thought to have killed at least 100,000 Ugandans during his eight years in power.*