Kanyamunyu meets Acholi elders over Akena’s killing

Monday September 14 2020
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Matthew Kanyamunyu, the suspect in the murder of Kenneth Akena, at the High Court recently. He had appeared for a bail application. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

By Anthony Wesaka
By Cissy Makumbi

Kampala businessman, Matthew Kanyamunyu, braved a drizzle last Saturday afternoon to kneel before the Paramount Acholi cultural leader Rwot David Onen Acan II,  in a bid to reconcile with the family of deceased child rights activist, Kenneth Akena, whose death in 2016 has been blamed on Kanyamunyu.
Mr Kanyamunyu willingly subjected himself to the Acholi traditional reconciliation process (traditional justice), dubbed “mato-oput”.
The process mainly involves the accused person acknowledging his/her wrong, confessing the same wrong before cultural leaders/elders and the family of the victims before compensating for the loss he or she caused.
“He (Kanyamunyu) was clear that he caused the death of Akena and that he was the one in the wrong when the accident happened and that when the late came out, a quarrel ensued which escalated and turned physical,” a source at the secret mato-oput meeting at paramount’s palace in Bar-Dege Division in Gulu City , told Daily Monitor yesterday.
“Kanyamunyu went on to say that when the quarrel had heated up, he pulled out his gun that accidently released a bullet and ended Akena’s life, a day after the incident,” the source added.
However, Daily Monitor could not independently verify the alleged confessions by Kanyamunyu before the mato-oput meeting.  When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Kanyamunyu yesterday, he acknowledged he had a private meeting with the Acholi paramount chief at the weekend, but did not confirm or deny that he had admitted liability for Akena’s death.
“We had a private meeting with the paramount chief but unfortunately, it has gone viral on social media. I cannot comment about it now though at an appropriate time, I will say something about it,” Mr Kanyamunyu said.
Sources at the meeting in Gulu said Acholi cultural elders upon hearing Kanyamunyu’s remorsefulness, fined him 10 cows and five goats to atone for Akna’s death.  “This morning (yesterday morning), we are at stage two of mato-oput process with the last stage expected to be in the near future where the general public will be part at a function that involves prayers, which will be held at Akena’s family home,” the source said, but Daily Monitor could not independently verify this claim either.
Mr Kanyamunyu subjected himself to the mato-oput process presided over by a council of six elders.
His trial over Akena’s death was indefinitely suspended in February by Justice Stephen Mubiru. He is jointly charged with his girlfriend, Cynthia Munwangari. They are accused of murdering Akena on November 12, 2016, opposite Uganda Manufacturers Association in Lugogo, Kampala. They both denied the charges.  The trial was halted after the prosecution’s 13th and last witness had testified. The witness was only left to be cross-examined by the defence lawyer.

Kanyamunyu hands self to Acholi ritual
Sources told Daily Monitor that about a month ago, Mr Kanyamunyu approached Acholi religious leaders including Archbishop John Baptist Odama seeking their mediation in the mato-oput process between him and the late Akena’s family.
The sources further said a week later, the Acholi king also approached Akena’s family over the reconciliation process.
“Akena’s family told the king that the religious leaders had already approached them and he said; if the issue is about mato-oput, then it falls under his jurisdiction and that he should be the one to lead the process which started on Saturday,” the source said.
Mr Ambrose Oola, the Acholi prime minister,  yesterday said the mato-oput process applies to both Acholi and non-Acholi offenders who come genuinely to confess their wrongs.
He also clarified that the mato-oput process that Kanyamunyu had embarked upon will not affect the criminal case in court.
An elder,  Mr Ocitti Ochora, said mato-oput is an Acholi traditional justice system meant to restore relationship between clans that have been affected by either an intentional murder or accidental killing.
He said the process brings together two conflicting parties/ families to promote forgiveness and reconciliation rather than revenge.
“For mato-oput to happen, there must be sincerity and that means Mr Kanyamunyu must have acknowledged to Akena’s family members that he had a hand in his death,” Mr Ocitti reasoned.
“The Acholi conduct mato-oput ceremony because they believe that after the ceremony, the hearts of the offender and the offended will be free from holding any grudge among them,” he added.
When asked about how Akena’s family received the news about Kanyamunyu’s mato-oput move, sources said the family had been prepared before by religious and cultural leaders and they had since calmed down and are ready to listen to Kanyamunyu’s submissions.
“From the arrogance that Kanyamunyu exhibited and to see him yesterday very remorseful and even kneeling down, I think he is genuinely feeling sorry for what happened and Akena’s family is willing to listen to him,” a source said.

Legal experts speak out
Counsel Francis Onyango Owor said Mr Kanyamunyu has now one option out if he confessed under mato-oput, saying he will also confess in court under the Plea Bargain mechanism so that he gets a lenient sentence.
“This will show he is remorseful. But this is a wake up call to the formal criminal justice which we adopted from foreigners to incorporate the traditional justice system which people understand most,” Mr Onyango said.
Another lawyer, Mr Evans Ochieng, said the reported confession by Mr Kanyamunyu before the Acholi cultural leaders has no bearing on the criminal trial in court unless he makes the same confession before court.
Additional reporting by Stephen Okello & Polycap Kalokwera