The two antagonists then kneel down opposite each other with their arms folded at their backs and they bend without touching the ground to drink a bitter solution made from Oput tree in a calabash. The drinking of the bitter herb, mixed with a lamb's blood, means that the two conflicting parties accept "the bitterness of the past and promise never to taste such bitterness again."
Kanyamunyu has been pardoned
The family of the Late child
rights activist Kenneth Akena Watmon, who was killed by Kampala Businessman Matthew
Kanyamunyu in 2016 has agreed to forgive him through Mato-Oput, an Acholi reconciliation
This follows a successful two-day
protracted dispute resolution negotiated by elders from the two families at the
Acholi Chiefdom in Gulu City. The discreet family centred-reconciliation was
witnessed by Rwot David Onen Acana II, the Acholi Paramount Chief backed by
Acholi religious leaders.
Kanyamunyu was arrested in 2016
on suspicion that he drew a gun at Akena after he reportedly knocked his car in
Lugogo, Kampala. Akena had reportedly gone to apologize to Kanyamunyu after the
accident but Kanyamunyu instead lowered the window of his car and shot him at
Akena died a few hours later at
Norvic Hospital on Bombo Road where he was Rushed by Kanyamunyu for emergency
treatment. Kanyamunyu has been facing trial for the last four years, together with
his girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari and elder brother Joseph Kanyamunyu. They all
pleaded not guilty to the offence.
In a twist of events, Kanyamunyu
confessed to committing the crime before the religious and cultural chiefs on Saturday.
He confessed during a rigorous interrogation by a select council of elders who
administer Matto-Oput. His remorseful confession earned him a penalty of 10
cows and three goats to facilitate the traditional justice process.
A close relative of Late Akena's
family who preferred anonymity disclosed that after Kanyamunyu confessed and
paid the requisite reparation, the clan chiefs agreed to forgive him - a
process to be confirmed and sealed by Mato-Oput.
“The negotiations ended very
successfully and we are now consulting on an appropriate date yet to be agreed
upon this week for the families to publicly and officially reconcile their
differences,” the family source said.
Mato-Oput is a reconciliation and
cleansing ritual in which an offender and the aggrieved agree to reconcile
and send the bitterness for the sake of peace. The event is preceded by the
slaughtering of a sheep, which is provided by the offender and a goat which is provided
by the victim's relatives.
The two animals are cut into
halves and exchanged by the two clans. The two antagonists then kneel down
opposite each other with their arms folded at their backs and they bend without
touching the ground to drink a bitter solution made from Oput tree in a calabash.
The drinking of the bitter herb, mixed with a lamb's blood, means that the two
conflicting parties accept "the bitterness of the past and promise never
to taste such bitterness again."
They conduct the 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 between them bringing true
healing in a way that formal justice system cannot. The process, according to
literature, doesn't aim at establishing whether an individual is guilty or not,
but to restore marred social harmony in the affected community.
But news of the negotiation has evoked mixed reactions from across
the divide. Members of the public are particularly suspicious about the events
Samuel Odonga Otto, the Aruu County MP who was at the helm
of mobilizing the public to demand justice for Akena criticized the deceased's
family for accepting to be manipulated. "They involved me in the beginning
but along the way they sidelined me. I don't even want to comment any more on
the matter, let them handle it," Odonga said.
Tonny Kitara, a Gulu-based lawyer
observed that Kanyamunyu must have sensed danger in the case and advised to
change strategy. "if I were his lawyer, I would do the same thing to find
closure to the case and restore sanity.
Walter Okidi Ladwar, another
lawyer observes that the exercise has been vastly misinterpreted by people who
do not know anything about the laws of the country and how the court works.
"Traditional justice system is parallel to the formal court, the two are
not the same although what happened at the Acholi Chiefdom has been done in the
absence of a guiding transitional justice law, yet to enacted." He said.
Henry Komakech Kilama, an activist asserts that the gesture
taken by Kanyamunyu and his legal team is commendable but remained sceptical.
"His confession was long overdue and he may not come out of it clean although
it may fetch him a plea bargain in court.
Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister
of Acholi Cultural Institution noted that there shouldn't be any cause for alarm
since the initiative is not new and was undertaken with the full participation of
the two families. He said the traditional justice system does not interfere
with the criminal prosecution process already ongoing in court.