Squealing, the ten tiny piglets ran around in panic as policemen booted them with such force that they flew into the air.
What ought to have been a comical sight, painted pigs dashing around outside Uganda’s parliament, was marred by the same violence that is meted out to all opposition, no matter how peaceful, against the government of Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years.
The pigs were released on September 15th by two activists from the self-styled Jobless Brotherhood in protest against a decision by MPs (or “MPigs” as the group calls them) to award themselves 200m Ugandan shillings ($59,000) each to spend on fancy new cars.
It was not the Brotherhood’s first porcine protest. In June 2014 two members made it into the lawmakers’ car park with animals.
Last year they dropped piglets in Kampala and Jinja (in the latter a police chief accused the Brotherhood of “holding an unlawful assembly and violating the rights of pigs”).
“If you started feeding a pig in the morning...it will continue eating up to evening,” one activist told the local press. “This is the same way our MPs are behaving; they never get tired of money.”
Graft in Uganda made headlines in 2012 when it emerged that $12.7m in donor funds had been siphoned from the Office of the Prime Minister, prompting a number of European nations to suspend aid.
Pig protests are a form of dissent that is also used in neighbouring Kenya, which is also under the microscope amid allegations of corruption.
Both countries are seen as equally crooked by foreign investors: they are tied at 139th out of 167 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (where number 1 is the cleanest country).
The Brotherhood, which claims to have 5,000 members, blames graft and cronyism for Uganda’s high rate of underemployment.
Norman Tumuhimbise, one of the group’s founders, angrily recalls being turned down for a job as a policeman after finishing six months of training because better-connected Ugandans were hired instead.
The official unemployment rate in Uganda is only 1.4%. But there is a catch: some 90% of Ugandan workers have informal jobs, says Gemma Ahaibwe of the Economic Policy Research Centre in Kampala.
Those jobs are often ill-paid and unproductive. The growth of the formal economy is hampered by red tape and bad infrastructure, just as millions of young people are entering the labour market (almost half of Ugandans are under the age of 15).
Economic growth, which was rapid from 1987 to 2010, has fallen dramatically and is now barely faster than the rise in Uganda’s population.
Small wonder that disaffected youngsters are demanding that their rulers take their snouts out of the trough.