Ugandan businessman, Mathew Kanyamunyu, on Saturday afternoon, September 12, 2020, admitted to killing a child rights activist, Kenneth Akena Watson and agreed to pay 10 cows and three goats reparation for the offence.
Born on November 29, 1983, in Gandyang town, Kitgum district, the late Watson, pictured above was working with ACODEV as a child protection specialist under a USAID project at the time of his death in 2016.
It was gathered that Mr Watson accidentally knocked Mr Kanyamunyu’s car in a parking lot in Lugogo, Kampala, and had reportedly gone to apologise to Mr Kanyamunyu after the accident when Mr Kanyamunyu lowered the window of his car and shot him in the stomach with a pistol at close range. According to the family, a postmortem report revealed two bullets inside Mr Watson’s body.
He died a few hours later at Norvic Hospital, where he had been taken by the accused.
Mr Kanyamunyu has since then been on trial together with his Burundian girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari and sibling Joseph Kanyamunyu who allegedly hid the killer gun. But throughout the trial, Mr Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend insisted that they only took Mr Watson to the hospital as good Samaritans.
However, in an alleged dying declaration, Mr Watson reportedly told his relatives that he was shot by the same people who took him to the hospital.
Last month, Mr Kanyamunyu’s family sought the intervention of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and Acholi Cultural Institution to broker a reconciliation agreement between them and the deceased’s family to find a closure to the case.
Dr John Baptist Odama, the Gulu Archbishop, backed by Rwot David Onena Acana II, the paramount chief of Acholi, persuaded Mr Watson’s family who in turn opened up to the negotiations. The peacemakers summoned the two families for the first meeting that was held on Saturday, in Gulu.
The meeting that was held under tents at Ker Kwaro Acholi compound, was presided over by Rwot Acana II as a chief witness. A council of six elders cross-examined Mr Kanyamunyu as a requisite to Mato Oput – a clan or family-centred reconciliation practice.
A family source privy to the negotiations said Mr Kanyamunyu, made a step-by-step recount of what happened between him and the late Watson on November 12, 2016, at Forest Shopping Mall in Lugogo before he pleaded for clemency from Ogom chiefs, Mr Watson’s clan leaders.
“He admitted that he will make the same confession before the High Court in Kampala where he is being prosecuted to allow him to enter a plea bargain,” a source said.
The same source added that after the confession, the elders on the protocol of Mato Oput made an assessment of 10 cows and three goats to be paid by Mr Kanyamunyu’s family to which they agreed.
Asked what drove him to pull a trigger on an innocent man, Mr Kanyamunyu said up to this day, he has never comprehended the level of “stupidity”, “foolishness” or “evil” that he even did not know he had in him on that fateful day when he pulled the trigger.
“To be honest I would be lying to you if I told you that I have fully comprehended the tragedy of that day to date. The stupidity, the foolishness, the evil that I exhibited on that day is not something I knew was in. But now I recognise, now I recognise within me, deep within me, there is evil that I did not know about,” he said.
Under the ultimate Acholi tradition justice system of Mato Oput, the accused person must admit his/her mistake through a meaningful confession and must also accept to pay reparations for the damages caused.
Ambrose Olaa, the prime minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, confirmed the reconciliation meeting. He said the exercise was conducted at Ker Kwaro Acholi by the Ogom clan under the Payira chiefdom of Acholi ethnic group.
The trial of Mr Kanyamunyu and his co-accused was earlier this year adjourned indefinitely by presiding judge Stephen Mubiru, the Gulu resident judge.
However, Mr Watson’s family members remain optimistic about the pursuit of traditional justice.