KAMPALA – Police in Uganda said Saturday they were testing two piglets for “terrorism-related material” after they were sneaked into the country’s parliament by two anti-corruption protesters.
Seven police officers who were on duty outside parliament have also been suspended over the security breach and detained on charges of neglect of duty, police deputy spokeswoman Polly Namaye announced.
“The investigators are to test the animals for terrorism-related material. You never know,” she said, “there could have been another motive other than a protest. This is a standard practice in investigations, leaving out no chances.”
Officials said the two protesters had painted the animals in the colors of the ruling party of President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, and had written slogans on the animals insulting lawmakers as corrupt, including the word “MPigs.”
On Friday, relatives of the two culprits said they have been sent to prison awaiting trial on charges of “criminal trespass, conspiracy to sneak piglets into parliament, and interrupting parliament work.”
Uganda, which has troops in Somalia as part of the African Union force fighting al-Qaida-linked al-Shebab insurgents, is currently on high alert amid fears of attacks by the militants.
“In this era, every option must be explored,” Namaye said. “What is seen as a protest can be different, including terrorism, that’s why these tests must be done to ensure there is not any other motive by these protesters.”
The two protesters managed to sneak into the tightly guarded parliament last week and let loose the two piglets. Robert Mayanja and Norman Tumuhimbise are members of a protest movement that calls itself the “jobless brotherhood group.”
Uganda has been the subject of frequent criticism from foreign donors over allegations of rampant corruption, although local protests are rare.
The pair were protesting at what they said was corruption and extravagant spending by lawmakers. Earlier this year, lawmakers caused a storm after it emerged they had demanded a massive raise in their salaries, already 60 times higher than most state employees, and that the country’s chief auditor had complained deputies had failed to account for millions of dollars of expenses.