A case in which businessman Mathew Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari are accused of murdering child rights activist Kenneth Watmon Akena has taken a new twist after the key suspect admitted guilt as he seeks inter-family reconciliation through the Acholi justice system.
In November 2016, police arrested Kanyamunyu, 37, in connection with the death of Akena, 32, after a shooting at Lugogo in Kampala.
Akena was reportedly shot by Kanyamunyu after the social worker’s car scratched his. It is said that Akena had moved to Kanyumunyu to apologize only for the Quantum Express Logistics boss to shoot at him.
It was also Kanyamunyu and Munwangari that drove Akena to hospital.
Hours before his death, Akena reportedly told relatives he had been shot by the people who brought him to hospital.
Although he has for years denied guilt, Kanyamunyu has asked for forgiveness from Akena’s family and Acholi leaders.
“To be honest, I will be lying to you if I told you that I have fully comprehended the tragedy of that fateful day. The primitivity, stupidity, foolishness and evil that exhibited on that day is not something that I knew was in me but I now recognize,” Kanyamunyu is heard saying in a video showing him kneeling before Ogom chiefs, the heads of Akena’s clan, at the Ker Kwaro Acholi.
“I now recognize that deep within me, there is evil that I did not know about. That is the reason that I am remorseful, I am sorry and that is the reason that I ask for forgiveness. I ask for your understanding and time for this healing process to begin and for time to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy.”
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Akena’s ghost had haunted Kanyamunyu, prompting him to seek forgiveness.
His family would later contact the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) and the Acholi Cultural Institution to mediate efforts for reconciliation between the two families.
Before the September 12 plea for mercy, high profile Acholi leaders had undertaken efforts to bring the two sides together.
These included Gulu Archdiocese Archbishop Dr John Baptist Odama and Rwot David Onena Acana II, the Paramount Chief of Acholi.
Paramount Chief Rwot Acana II was the key witness at the reconciliation ceremony that kicked off a traditional healing process called Mato Oput.
Mato Oput is a process aimed at restoring social harmony between two clans after premeditated or accidental murder.
It aims at truth telling and healing on both sides: the clan of the victim and that of the perpetrator.
The next step is compensation for the killing, and then a ceremony for drinking a bitter potion made from the leaves of the oput tree.
But with presiding judge Stephen Mubiru having suspended the hearing of the Akena case, it remains to be seen if the state will jump on Kanyamunyu’s confession and use it as evidence to convict him of murder.
There is also a likelihood that the charge will be revised from murder to manslaughter, where the accused can now plead that he didn’t commit the crime out of malice aforethought.
Although there is no guarantee that the Akena family’s decision to go for a traditional justice system will not necessarily compel the deceased’s relatives to opt out of the court case, there are chances Kanyamunyu and his co-accused could be given a lesser sentence.