Muthama Thinks a Duel of Honour Ends Up Honourably

Moses Kuria (left) and Johnson Muthama (right) when they were arraigned in court on charges of incitement.

Former Machakos Senator, Johnson Nduya Muthama, was arrested last week, a second such arrest in two years. Many people suspect various reasons as to why he was arrested. His supporters suspect the government is witch-hunting him. Others suspect he engineers his own arrests by transgressing the law unnecessarily. Police suspect him of the funniest crime: the crime of challenging the president and his deputy for a duel (and the charge sheet has been doing rounds on social media). Muthama is thought to have challenged the president and his deputy to set up a day and attend Uhuru Park where they would meet their opponents, Muthama and Siaya Senator James Orengo, for a big fight.

Muthama’s opponents might think of him as a backward man who thinks political differences can be solved using physical combat. I do not think thus. Muthama is an exposed man. Forget his shouting. I suspect Muthama is deeper than the shallowness people think he exposes whenever he shouts and dances at political rallies. When I read the charge sheet on social media, I found a lot of similarities between what Muthama was calling for and the Duels of Honour that were prevalent in the Medieval Europe and the Pre Civil War America. Muthama might as well have developed interest in these Duels and even learned a thing or two about their rules.

Muthama charge sheet

Muthama, Orengo, Uhuru and Ruto are all men of honour and of the upper class. Was it honourable for such men to solve their differences using fights? Yes. These were fights meant to restore honor to men.  Unlike the contemporary times, people who lived in the times of Duels of Honour placed a premium on their character. Soiling a man’s character was not acceptable. One had to shed blood or at least engage in a fight in order to restore his lost honour. Well, I am not sure if Muthama had lost any honour to call for the fight. This would have been solved if he made good his threat and if the president and his deputy called his bluff and responded in kind. However, the charge sheet seems to say that Muthama thought the president and his deputy had soiled the character of Raila Odinga. So, for now, we can say that Muthama’s call for a Duel satisfied one thing: honour of a man of upper class in the society had been brought into disrepute. That man is Raila Odinga.

The second rule for the Duel of Honour was that this event had to take place in an isolated place. Muthama’s call did not deviate from this rule. He declared Uhuru Park as the suitable place of fighting. We forget one thing though: there would be no other people in such a venue, other than the principals and their seconds. The principals have nothing to do with NASA’s co-principals. The combatants were known as the principals and their witnesses were known as the seconds. Muthama called for the police to leave the venue before he starts dueling with Uhuru and Ruto. That is much in order with the rule of isolation.

Delivering the challenge through a political rally was wrong though. The rules of dueling demanded that Muthama would have delivered a message through his witnesses, the seconds that is, to the two. The two would then mock him, slap their gloves in disdain, as a way of saying they have accepted the challenge. However, going by his arrest, it means the president and his deputy refused to duel Muthama. Could that be a sign of cowardice, according to dueling rules? Yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that one was expected to either recant whatever wrong he did to the challenger, or go for the fight and emphasize his position.

No because duels were to be made up of men of the same social status. I assume the president and his deputy do not think of Muthama as their equal.

The choice of weapons was central to duels. People could duel with swords or pistols, and the guiding principle was that the weapons were to be similar. Muthama played by the rules. His weapon of choice, funny as it looks, was use of hands. He wanted pugilism.

I do not know how such a fight would have ended, had the president and his deputy called Muthama’s bluff. But I draw you to the death of Alexander Hamilton. If you ask some Americans – some are said not to be keen readers – they will tell you Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s presidents. Hamilton is one of the founding fathers of America. A statesman, a minister and one of the people who attended the Federal Convention and authored the Federalist Papers.  Hamilton did not see eye to eye with Aaron Burr, the then American Vice President. Their rivalry was close to the rivalry between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

A depiction of Burr vs Hamilton duel of honour. Source: Wikipedia

Burr, just like Muthama, was infuriated that Hamilton had tarnished his reputation by casting aspersions on his ability to lead the nation. He vainly called for Hamilton to apologise. A Duel of Honour had to be called. Hamilton accepted and the two met in New Jersey, in 1804. Dueling had been banned in New Jersey. The vice president and Hamilton wanted to subvert the law. They had their seconds take oaths in advance, vowing not to say they saw the fight take place. Secondly, the seconds were ordered to turn their backs to the fight. Hamilton fired first. The bullet missed Burr’s head. Burr fired next and injured Hamilton fatally: he passed on the same day. Burr was charged and convicted of manslaughter, but released later. Muthama might have read about Duels of Honour, but he definitely missed out on such unfortunate events. If you spot him, tell him I have more lessons on the same.

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Fenwicks Shombe is a certified energy engineer and a PhD candidate.

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