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Uganda’s 'Piglet Protesters' say Their Work has Just Begun

Norman Tumuhimbise says he and Robert Mayanja brought piglets into parliament to protest political corruption and greed, Kampala. July 9, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

On June 17, two young men calling themselves the Jobless Brotherhood grabbed headlines when they snuck two piglets, painted in the ruling party’s signature yellow, into the Ugandan parliament. Wearing signs saying “M-Pigs,” the piglets managed to get as far as the parliamentary chambers before being stopped by police.

Norman Tumuhimbise and Robert Mayanja were arrested for the stunt, and released several weeks later on bail. The pair has since been re-arrested for illegal assembly under Uganda’s Public Order Management Act.

Tumuhimbise and Mayanja say they represent millions of desperate and unemployed Ugandan youth. Their rallying cry, “Don’t lead us into temptation," carries the veiled threat of violence.

The pigs, says Tumuhimbise, are symbols of political corruption and greed.

“Besides a hyena, some other most greedy animal is a pig. When it gets hungry and greedy, it just eats its piglets," he said. "These MPs are eating us alive. We have those of us who read Animal Farm. In this country we have so many Napoleons and Snowballs now, either in opposition or in government. These are national M-Pigs who are sitting in that house.”

Animal Farm was a George Orwell novel about a government exploiting its people.

The piglets were confiscated as evidence. Police later claimed they were testing the animals for terrorism-related material.

But Tumuhimbise says he and Mayanja want their pigs back.

"These are our pigs. This is our envelope where we always package our message. These are our delivery boys, and by the way they did us proud, because they delivered the message very well. I think they deserve another turn,” said Tumuhimbise.

Corruption scandals in Uganda have proliferated under the country’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni. No official unemployment statistics exist, but a report last year by Action Aid International found 62 percent of Ugandan youth surveyed were jobless.

Tumuhimbise and Mayanja say that despite the charges against them, their activism is far from over. Their next step, they say, will be to hold a youth convention in Kampala.