The Untouchables: Cynthia, Matthew and Joseph — only the elite can laugh at murder charges.
The alleged murder of a humble social worker by a wealthy businessman with a beautiful wife has sparked outrage in Uganda, a country weighed down by 85% youth unemployment.
One version of the story says the lowly-paid social worker had accidentally scratched the businessman’s expensive car while reversing his own raggedly vehicle. When the social worker got out to apologize he was shot in his stomach by the enraged tycoon.
The fury grew more intense, judging by postings on social media, when the wealthy businessman, Matthew Kanyamunyu, who is well-connected, was seen laughing in a court room while seated next to his beautiful girlfriend Cynthia Munangwari; this was shortly after together with his brother, Joseph Kanyamunyu, they were charged with murder.
They had been at large since the killing on Saturday, November 19, and many Ugandans believe they were finally arrested after pressure mounted from the public.
The victim, Kenneth Akena Watmon, was fatally shot at Lugogo Game Stores, in Kampala and died of his injuries in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Matthew Kanyamunyu, the prominent city businessman, is the nephew of Ms. Winnie Byanyima, the Head of Oxfam and wife of Dr. Kiiza Besigye who is widely believed to have won Uganda’s disputed February presidential election.
Kanyamunyu had been in a car with his girlfriend Ms. Munangwari –referred to as his fiancée in some reports– when it is alleged that Watmon bumped into his vehicle, causing a scratch. It is alleged that Kanyamunyu then got out of his car and shot Watmon.
What happened next is still a mystery. It is however not disputed that Kanyamunyu drove the mortally wounded Watmon to two hospitals.
Why, one would ask? Did Kanyamunyu panic after he killed Watmon in a fit of rage for daring to scratch his expensive car?
Nonetheless, Watmon is now dead. A report in Uganda’s The Daily Monitor also refers to Kanyamunyu’s notorious rage.
Before dying, while at the hospital, Watmon reportedly told several in attendance that he had been shot by Kanyamunyu.
Since the story first broke, there has now been at least two other versions of the events possibly to cloud the facts. The second story is that Watmon and another person attempted to kill Kanyamunyu and in the scuffle, the other assailant accidentally shot Watmon, panicked and ran away. This version would have the public believe that Kanyamunyu, known for his rage, decided to drive the person who had just tried to kill him, in search of medical treatment.
Yet a third version is that unknown assailants may have wanted to kill Ms. Munangwari whose family is being politically persecuted in her native country of Burundi, and that a stray bullet may have hit Watmon.
There is much public relations spinning in the air.
The heart-broken family of Watmon just want justice for their son and brother.
One may wonder why there has been such widespread interest in this particular case, when unsolved murders are the norm in Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s lawless Uganda? Ugandans, tired of impunity from a callous regime also want individual members of the elite to face justice. Citizens are fed up with seemingly powerful people, with connections, acting with impunity as though they are above the law.
The brazen nature of the killing, the arrogant manner in which the couple clumsily tried to mislead the public, coupled with their privileged background sparked social media uproar which resulted in the hashtag #justiceforAkena.
The case was also an opportunity for many to vent their feeling of disillusionment with the ethnic inequities within Uganda society, another legacy of dictator of 32 years, Gen. Museveni’s ethno-chauvinism. Watmon comes from the northern part of the country, marginalized and ravaged by Gen. Museveni’s and LRA leader Joseph Kony’s wars. The accused killers are from Gen. Museveni’s cream-laced favored part of the country.
In addition to Matthew, his brother Joseph was arrested. It is alleged that Joseph got rid of any physical evidence, including the gun, and cleaned the car so that there was no trace of blood. This is futile since with modern technology it’s nearly impossible to conceal blood or DNA traces if Watmon was driven inside his alleged killer’s car.
On Tuesday November 22, after the accused were charged with Watmon’s murder, they were remanded to Luzira prison until December 6.
Well dressed, they appeared relaxed and jovial in court, exchanging high fives and laughing as if they were in a nightclub; not facing murder charges.
There was no regard for the pain and grief faced by Watmon’s family members who were in the same courtroom.
The rest of Uganda watch in disbelief at such maccabre display of privilege, wealth, arrogance and callousness.