Will Our Tears For Akena Drop In Vain
By David Martin Aliker
Sunday, November 20th, 2016 marked a week since Akena Watmon, a child rights specialist was brutally murdered in cold blood. The President of the Democratic Party Hon. Norbert Mao opined an article, Individual responsibility for individual crime in the Daily Monitor.
In his last sentence he mentions, “If the case is handled well then Akena’s blood and the tears of his loved ones will not have flowed in vain.
Incidentally, these were the words of an elder during the petitions for mass as we buried Akena in Kitgum. I believe Hon. Mao as a national politician is only being smart with his words but the bitter elder said, “May our tears and the tears of Akena not drop in vain!” and a few people murmured “Owot ki wiye”.
These sentiments of Owot kiwiye were also so common on social media among the Acholi folks who felt bitter at the gruesome way in which Akena was murdered innocently and the chances that they may never find justice in our judicial system.
But what does Owot kiwiye mean? Why do Acholi say Owot kiwiye whenever confronted with the frustrations of murder?
In Acholi, Owot Kiwiye is like a curse which is said when an innocent person is murdered and the culprit does not seem to accept responsibility of his actions or to culu kwo or offer compensation to restore broken relationship by the act of murder.
The Acholi sense of justice is built on the idea of reforming broken relationship but in the event that the perpetrator is not willing then this word is mentioned for the spirits of the dead to seek justice in death.
The Acholi believe, when this words are mentioned, the perpetrators family will face unexplained circumstantial deaths and sicknesses in the family until the family seeks to mato oput or culu kwo with the family of the believed.
Besides, Owot kiwiye is fundamentally to seek the accurate truth hence it will compel the perpetrator to open up and tell the whole truth that the family needs; to come to terms with the death of their own. It’s only then that reconciliation can take place. Other than that Akena’s clan cannot live in harmony with whoever is presumed responsible for his death.
Owot Kiwiye literally means may the pain we find ourselves in continue to be faced by the family of whoever is responsible and cannot humble self and admit guilt and negotiate reparations.
Fr. Dr. Joseph Okumu says, “cen which is loosely translated to mean the conscience which practically enables you to judge good or evil in your heart will haunt you until you humble yourself and ask to seek freedom by opening up to the truth and ask for pardon”. It’s in this way that misfortune is invited into the family of the perpetrator.
These processes may take time but so is the pain and burden of responsibility of guilt that a perpetrator lives with and keeps building on in his heart. Sometimes, it transcends to the next generation now that Akena’s clan generation have experienced and witnessed this gruesome act and so will their children know and uphold this verdict.
Therefore, the action of an individual crime does not remain the responsibility of the individual but of his people. For instance, Hon. Winnie Byanyima and her husband Dr. Kizza Besigye whose nephew is believed to be responsible have been compelled to send condolence messages and ask for justice.
Mindful of the fact that Akena made a dying declaration which was narrated during his burial; for millions of his clan mates, it is in the interest of the family of Mathew [Editor’s NOTE: Mathew Kanyamunyu, his girlfriend and brother are suspects in the murder, not convicted] to seek restitution if they know that their son is responsible for the murder of Akena. Who knew that someday the children of President Idi Amin would seek for harmony in Palaro with Brigadier Okoya’s family?
Fr. Christopher Ojok, the parish priest of Omiya Onyima catholic parish called for serious investigations for the truth in Akena’s murder; so did the Curate of Our lady of Africa Church Mbuya, Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo who tasked the Uganda Police to fully investigate the truth in Akena’s murder. Akena’s family, friends and clan will seek justice from our judicial system and hope that they may clean our tears and not make us drop more tears.
As we seek justice, we are reminded of the Latin word: Vox pouli vox Dei the people have spoken and the voice of the people is the voices of God. The Acholi also say, leb obilo kado implying don’t ignore what the mouths says. It could be a mirror of the conscience of the people.For now it’s between spirits of Akena and whoever murdered him.
The author Aliker David Martin was a friend to the late Akena Watmon-Kenno and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org