The unmarked white vans, known locally as “drones,” stop at marketplaces and on busy street corners across Uganda. A mix of uniformed and plainclothes security officers shove terrified captives into the vehicles and drive them to undisclosed locations. Many are never seen again. The pages of the Daily Monitor, an independent Ugandan newspaper, are awash with stories of families searching desperately for their missing loved ones.
Their crime: supporting opposition candidate Bobi Wine in the country’s January presidential election.
From his origins in a ghetto in the capital, Kampala, the popstar-turned-politician—whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi—rose to challenge long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni in one of the bloodiest elections in Uganda’s history. Over the course of two days in November, at least 54 opposition supporters and bystanders were killed when riots broke out across Kampala after Wine was briefly jailed for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions.