Why Kanyamunyu got Only 5 Years for Killing Akena

Why Kanyamunyu got Only 5 Years for Killing Akena   On the exact 4th anniversary since he fatally shot Kenneth Akena at Lugogo in Kampala, Mathew Kanyamunyu has been sentenced to five years in prison.   The sentence appears rather light, but it comes after a protracted process combining diplomacy, legal maneuvers and serious lobbying to defuse a potentially explosive conflict that had initially  taken a sectarian character given that the shooter was from a privileged background and from Ankole while the deceased victim was from the long suffering Acholi community.  
When the hot tempered Kanyamunyu shot Akena after he accidentally scratched his car on November 12th 2016, his good-natured girlfriend Cynthia Munangwari who was with him in the  car insisted that they take the injured Akena to hospital. It is Cynthia’s insistence that both spoilt Kanyamunyu’s chances of getting away with the killing, but which has also been the most decisive factor in making it possible to reduce the murder charge to manslaughter that  earns a lighter sentence.   Kanyamunyu initially pleaded not guilty. At the time, ethnic sentiments were high and another  man with a hot temper, Aruu MP Odonga Otto started to mobilise the Acholi community to seek justice for Akena.

Otto started readying to mobilise for transporting busloads of Acholi people to Kampala for the trial sessions. Matters were not helped when another hothead,  Edith Byanyima who is Kanyamunyu’s aunt, countered that she was going to mobilise her  Baganda allies (the trial was taking place in Kampala, in Buganda Kingdom where she has very high connections in the royal family) to fight the Acholis.   As tempers were getting out of hand, Kanyamunyu’s cooler headed aunties including world UNAIDS boss Winnie Byanyima, top businesswoman Mrs Merian Sebunya took up the matters  and sued for peace, opting for diplomacy and lobbying.

  The highly respected ladies reached out to the late Akena’s family and senior Acholi religious and cultural leaders and lengthy negotiations got under way. In the end, Mathew Kanyamunyu  put all his social trappings aside and submitted to the Acholi cultural rituals of Mato Oput seeking  forgiveness and reconciliation. A smuggled video from the event showed Kanyamunyu ‘walking’ on  his knees towards the elders in Acholi and making his confession. He was made to pay ten cows and three goats.   But the move to seek forgiveness and reconciliation did not go down well with his lawyers Caleb Alaka, Mc Dusman Kabega and Evans Ochieng. When Kanyamunyu returned to court  and for the proceedings to be put on hold so he completes the Mato Oput as well as the plea bargaining  prosecution, his angry lawyers simply abandoned him.   

Apparently agreeing with the defendant’s lawyers who however never gave a reason for abandoning the case (they did not even pull out officially), Justice Stephen Mubiru flatly refused to mix Mato Oput with modern legal procedures, saying particularly that there is no established structure or authority over the cultural ritual. He explained to Kanyamunyu  that if got shortchanged in the Mato Oput, there was no known way for him to seek remedy. Besides, the cultural ritual had no time framework to work in. He also reminded Kanyamunyu that his co-accused, Cynthia Munangwari, was not party to the Mato Oput and so the delay he was seeking would deny her a speedy trial.

Team Kanyamunyu moved into top gear  
He hired another lawyer of no mean credentials, Peter Kabatsi who like Kabega, had been DPP and knows the workings of the state legal machine in and out. In a couple of days, the plea bargaining process got underway. And this Thursday, the parties returned to court with a deal done.   

Kanyamunyu pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got six years, reduced to five and one month,  to which he was further advised that he can appeal of he finds it too harsh. Munangwari was acquitted.   In his ruling and possibly for the benefit of the public, the judge explained Kanyamunyu is aged  43 years and he is a first offender, that after shooting Akena, he realised the gravity of his actions and rushed the deceased to hospital where he told the doctors what had happened and attempted to save his life, that he sought out the deceased’s family and community leaders and asked for forgiveness, that he suffers from hypertension and is a single parent to 4 minor children.” 

One aspect of the deal that we shall never know is the ‘fate’ of the killer weapon. Whose gun was it? Was Kanyamunyu licensed to carry a gun? Was he a state security agent authorized to have a gun?  Did it belong to another person authorized to have it? How was it disposed? Will the state separately  deal with him over illegal possession of the gun if it wasn’t his? What measures would be taken against the actual owner of the gun, the least of which would be  a charge of failure to secure the  firearm? Those questions will never be answered in public. So now it is forgiveness and reconciliation to  allow for healing.

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