Kanyamunyu, DPP hold talks over plea bargain

Monday October 26 2020
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Matthew Kanyamunyu and Cynthia Munwangari in the dock at the High Court in Kampala in February during a trial session. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

By Anthony Wesaka

Businessman Matthew Kanyamunyu has entered into negotiations with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), seeking to embrace the plea bargain process in a case where he is accused of murdering Kenneth Akena.

The DPP, in an October 21 letter, agreed to discuss Mr Kanyamunyu’s earlier request for plea bargain.
“Refer to yours dated October 20, 2020, in which you request for plea bargain for your client, Mr Matthew Kanyamunyu. We have considered your request and accordingly, invite you for a meeting for plea bargain negotiations this Friday, October 23, 2020, at our offices at 10am,” DPP Jane Frances Abodo wrote.

Sources privy to the Friday meeting said the negotiations did not yield much as both parties were not satisfied with the offer given by either side. This newspaper was unable to establish which offers were proposed by both sides as a way of settling the murder case.

Sources said Mr Kanyamunyu defended his constitutional right to enroll for plea bargain.
However, under plea bargain process, an innovation by the Judiciary that is intended to reduce case backlog, the accused person voluntarily pleads guilty to the charges in exchange for a lenient sentence. For example, if an accused person is facing murder charges, once he/she voluntarily pleads guilty to the crime, the court may hand them a 10-year jail term instead of a life sentence or death sentence since the accused saved court’s time for a trial.

In an earlier response to Mr Kanyamunyu’s desire to enroll for plea bargain, the DPP said on October 19 that the request was welcome but the trial would proceed as scheduled. The case had been adjourned since January.

DPP’s position
“In your said letter, you requested that your client (Kanyamunyu) is allowed time to complete the mato-oput [Acholi traditional justice system] reconciliation process with a view to entering into a plea bargain agreement. You also suggest that the matter is removed from the session beginning October 20, before Justice Stephen Mubiru to await the said mato-oput process,” reads the DPP response to Mr Kanyamunyu’s lawyers Tumusiime, Kabega and Company Advocates.

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“Our position is that whereas the proposal for plea bargain is welcome, the trial process shall continue as scheduled until your client opts for the said plea bargain, in which case the normal process as provided under the Judicature (plea bargain), 2016 shall apply,” the DPP added.

The talks continue today  while the case resumes tomorrow with the prosecution side expected to report back to the trial judge about the progress of plea bargain negotiations.

Mid this month, Mr Kanyamunyu’s lawyers requested the DPP to halt his murder trial to allow him time to complete the Acholi traditional justice process of mato-oput before he could be enrolled for the plea bargain programme.
Mr Kanyamunyu and Akena’s family have been engaged in out of court negotiations for more than a year, which climaxed with the public event last month.  

Mr Kanyamunyu’s family is said to have sought the intervention of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and the Acholi Cultural Institution to reconcile the two groups.  

The meeting, which happened on September 12 in Gulu, was made possible by Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama and Rwot David Onena Acana II, the paramount chief of Acholi.

Background
Kanyamunyu’s trial had been adjourned for more than eight months after the criminal session ended in in January. Mr Kanyamunyu and Akena’s family have been engaged in out of court negotiations for more than a year, which climaxed with the public event last month.  

A council of six elders cross-examined Kanyamunyu as is required during Mato-oput. The process is yet to conclude.

awesaka@ug.nationmedia.com



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