As the war against Dictator Idi Amin raged in 1978, prominent Ugandan families were fleeing to exile.
Suspected collaborators of the Ugandan rebels were routinely kidnapped and executed.
James Arthur Kanyamunyu, a reputable evangelist and businessman would later seek refuge in Nairobi, Kenya.
Amin at the time thought America’s espionage organisation, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had infiltrated what was known then as deliverance churches.
Kanyamunyu was therefore a legitimate target of the ruthless dictator.
In June 1978, Kanyamunyu was lured from Kenya to Kampala by a businessman.
He was last seen meeting a high ranking government official known as Kaggwa in Kampala. It is believed Kanyamunyu was subsequently kidnapped and murdered.
Up to now, Kanyamunyu’s body has never been seen.
The widow, Jolly Ndyamuba Kanyamunyu was a Muhima housewife.
With Kanyamunyu gone, Jolly would struggle to raise the little children who included Joseph Kanyamunyu, Mathew Kanyamunyu, Michael Kanyamunyu, Moses and lastly Joel who passed away this past year.
Jolly, a princess from the royal Bahinda Clan of Ankole Kingdom would later pass on.
Raising up the Kanyamunyus
At the age of 23, Edith Byanyima took over responsibility of Joseph Kanyamunyu who was then 5 years old while her sisters including Winnie Byanyima raised his other brothers.
It was a difficult journey for both the Byanyimas and Kanyamunyus as the country grappled with wars.
When Amin was toppled in 1979, Milton Obote returned to power.
His regime was equally repressive as it struggled to defeat a hardened rebel movement led by president Museveni.
In Obote’s military were Jolly Kanyamunyu’s two brothers who were killed on suspicion of being collaborators of the National Resistance Army under Yoweri Museveni.
The most famous close relation of the Kanyamunyu’s was RO/00012 Maj. Fred Nkuranga Rubereza who died in 1981, the first year of the bush struggle that led to the overthrow of the Obote government.
When Mathew Kanyamunyu was arrested on suspicion of murdering Kenneth Akena; the Byanyimas were devastated.
They had just laid to rest Joel Kanyamunyu. Here was another shocking incident that would change their lives forever.
Following Mathew’s arrest, Joseph tried to secure lawyers to commence a litigation process.
A few days later, Joseph was also apprehended on allegations of picking the ‘killer gun’ from Mathew at Nakasero Hospital.
Both brothers and Mathew’s girlfriend Cynthia Munwangari were charged with murder and remanded to Luzira Prison.
When Winnie Byanyima appeared in court as a surety, hell broke loose with Akena’s relatives hurling insults and threatening her.
Winnie was shocked but maintained her composure. Akena’s relatives expressed shock that Winnie could bear surety for the Kanyamunyus.
They further vowed to mobilise four buses of supporters from Acholi to Kampala during the next hearing.
Having raised Joseph and Mathew, the Byanyimas were astonished that anyone would expect them to turn a blind eye during this trying period.
“These boys are our nephews. Their parents were our cousins. Their father was picked up by Idi Amin soldiers and has never been seen again. Their uncles were picked from western Uganda and killed,” said Edith Byanyima when we met at a restaurant in Kampala on Friday afternoon.
“We are the surviving relatives after a great injustice was committed to this family. We are the parents. They are just suspects; not criminals. Even if they were convicted, they have rights which must be respected,” she added.
During the interview with ChimpReports, Edith was so emotional; breaking down several times. He used a white handkerchief to wipe tears from her face.
She recalled what she went through raising Joseph; paying his school fees at Lake Victoria Primary School, Ntare School and Namilyango College.
Kanyamunyu’s associates believe Akena wanted to kill Mathew. The alleged shooting took place outside a bond warehouse in Lugogo, Kampala.
It is said Cynthia was driving as Kanyamunyu spoke on the phone.
Akena had a colleague in his car which scratched Mathew’s vehicle. Akena is said to have swiftly drove faster and blocked Mathew’s car from the front side.
Mathew emerged out of the car before confronting Akena. In a space of seconds, a bullet hit Akena whom Mathew would later rush to Nakasero for urgent medical attention.
Mathew is said to have tried to save Akena’s life so as to know his particulars and understand why he was trailing him.
Cynthia, a trained clinical psychologist, recently started a movement known as Ubuntu which is suspected of raising funds to topple the regime of Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi.
Cynthia’s brother, Rahoul Mangari, is hiding in Uganda with bullet wounds.
Cynthia and Mathew had already obtained air tickets and visas to France to attend a football match.
This version of events was rejected by the court of public opinion which had already declared Mathew guilty of murder.
Realizing this challenge, the Byanyimas decided to keep a low profile.
But the charged tribalistic remarks at the High Court have unsettled the Byanyimas, a prominent family in Ruti, Mbarara.
“I would love to feel sorry with them (Akena’s relatives) but this is not possible in these circumstances,” said Edith.
“They come in a group of thugs to attack people. They have managed to convince the public that these boys (Joseph and Mathew) are criminals.”
She said several people who lost their relatives to Amin’s soldiers have pledged to stand with the Kanyamunyus.
“We have got many victims of Amin soldiers. They are telling us not to allow intimidation of our children,” she added, tearfully.
“It’s a travesty if we can’t get justice. Our people died to bring this justice. We don’t hold the entire Acholi tribe for our people’s disappearance. But our people died to get justice. These people (Akena’s associates) are abusing justice earned through blood,” said Edith.
“We have been quiet for two months. What do they mean by ferrying people in four buses to court in Kampala? Where is the guarantee that those buses will return to Acholi? We also have friends in Buganda. We will not allow them,” warned Edith.
Asked to comment on the heckling after the court hearing, Edith was unforgiving and did not mince words: “Our people are entitled to bail. Why would anyone assault her (Winnie)? Our forefathers were killed as they fought for these courts and then they come to abuse us?”
Every time Edith recalled the ethnic comments made by Akena’s relatives, her face would turn blue.
“It’s so annoying. They remind us of injustice. They are trying to commit the same injustice. If they had power, we would not be in court. Do they want me to tell them no one has monopoly of violence? This is totally unacceptable.”
She added: “If these boys (Joseph and Mathew) had their father, maybe we would not be in court. We are in court because they killed him. We have been quiet hoping that something fair would come up. Even then what kind of justice can be obtained under these circumstances?”
“They should stop threatening us. May be we should form an association? These people are in Parliament, security everywhere. In their days we would have vanished. They are playing with justice ushered in by blood of our relatives. These boys’ relatives died for justice.”
Edith blamed police for not taking action to maintain order in court.
“It’s so frustrating when you see the police doing nothing. There are anti sectarianism acts; nobody has done anything. Nobody has been questioned,” charged Edith.
She further accused police investigators of trying to frame the Kanyamunyus. Upon arrest, Joseph was led by cops to his home in Kiwafu, Kansanga for a search.
According to Edith, the search certificate left behind showed the activity was carried out in the presence of “suspect 1, Joseph; Suspect 2, Racheal Asasira (Joseph’s wife) and Suspect 3, Edith Byanyima.”
She wonders why police would list her among suspects. “They fell short of including the baby on the suspects’ list.”
Edith said Joseph was taken to an identification parade at Kiira Division Police in what she thought was a plot to link her to the murder case.
“Joseph is a tall Muhima man. At the parade, they brought short fellows to stand around him. They should have brought tall people with almost same complexion,” said Edith.
The person who reportedly saw Joseph picking a gun from Mathew at Nakasero Hospital picked another person at the identification parade.
“Joseph was not at the scene of crime. Even if he had taken a gun, you accuse him of being an accessory but not murder. He was remanded so that he does not get bail,” said Edith.
“The whole thing smirks of framing. They put a video of a witness account on NTV showing Mathew had killed Akena. When we challenged the television; they pretended to retract the statement. We have never seen a full retraction. We may have to go to court.”
Edith urged authorities to take interest in the case so as to deliver justice.
“We want a fair trial. We will appeal to authorities to ensure people stop interfering with the process of the law. We are considering a petition to show that in these circumstances we cannot get a fair trial.”