Kampala businessman Mathew Kanyamunyu, a prime suspect in the shooting of child rights activist Kenneth Akena Watmon, is seeking traditional mediation in the case.
Recently, Kanyamunyu’s family sought the intervention of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) and the Acholi Cultural Institution to broker a reconciliation agreement between them and Akena’s family to find closure to the case.
Dr John Baptist Odama, the Gulu Archbishop backed by Rwot David Onena Acana II, the Paramount Chief of Acholi helped bring Akena’s family to the negotiations. The two elders summoned the two families for the first meeting that was held on Saturday in Gulu.
The meeting held under tents at the Ker Kwaro Acholi compound was presided over by Rwot Acana II as a chief witness. A council of six elders cross-examined Kanyamunyu as is required during Mato Oput – a clan and family-centred reconciliation tradition.
A family source privy to the negotiations says that Kanyamunyu made a step by step recount of what happened between him and Akena on November 12, 2016, at Forest Shopping Mall in Lugogo before he pleaded for clemency from Ogom chiefs, Akena’s clan leaders.
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 Kanyamunyu’s family.
Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of Acholi Cultural Institution confirmed the decisions.
What is Mato put?
Mato Oput in the Acholi language literally means “to drink a bitter potion made from the leaves of the ‘oput’ tree” is one of the mechanisms for forgiveness and reconciliation among the Acholi in Northern Uganda.
Under the ultimate Acholi tradition justice system of Mato Oput, the accused person must admit his or her mistake through a meaningful confession and must also accept to pay reparations for the damages caused.
The ‘drinking of the bitter herb’ means that the two conflicting parties accept the bitterness of the past and promise never to taste such bitterness again. The payment of compensation follows the ceremony.
The Acholi believe that Mato Oput “can bring true healing in a way that formal justice system cannot.” The way Mato Put is conducted, doesn’t aim at establishing whether an individual is guilty or not, rather it seeks to restore marred social harmony in the affected community.
The Kanyamunyu case
Kanyamunyu was arrested in 2016 on suspicion that he drew a gun and shot Akena after he reportedly knocked his car in Lugogo, Kampala. Akena had reportedly gone to apologize to Kanyamunyu after the accident but Kanyamunyu is accused of lowering the window of his car and shooting him at close range.
Akena died a few hours later at Norvik Hospital on Bombo Road where he had been taken by the accused. He has since then been on trial together with his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari and sibling Joseph Kanyamunyu. But throughout the trial, Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend insisted that they took Akena to hospital as good Samaritans.
Early this year, the trial of Kanyamunyu and his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari as Akena’s key murder suspects was adjourned indefinitely by presiding judge Stephen Mubiru.
Sources however reveal that some of Akena’s family members remain optimistic that the pursuit of traditional justice by Kanyamunyu’s family will not derail them from continuing with criminal proceedings already before the court.