BETRAYAL IN THE CITY BY FRANCIS IMBUGA (reposted) complete plot analysis


BETRAYAL IN THE CITY By Francis Imbuga

Characters In The Play

  1. Doga – an old man
  2. Nina – his wife
  3. Jusper Wendo – their son
  4. Jere – Soldier, later prisoner
  5. Mulili – His colleague, later farmer
  6. Askari – Prison warder
  7. Mosese – Ex-lecturer, now prisoner
  8. Regina – his sister, also Wendo’s Girlfriend
  9. Tumbo – Government Official.
  10. Kabito – Government Official
  11. Nicodemo – Government Official
  12. Boss – Head of State of Kafira
  13. Guards, Palace staff and People

Act One

SCENE ONE: THE DEATH OF ADIKA

DOGA and NINA are visiting their son’s grave. To their surprise, the killers of their son have followed him to the grave. In some cultures in Kenya, it is believed if you burn someone’s grave at night and you were the killer, the spirit of the deceased will never trail. In this concept, it was believed that the killer’s had come to ‘kill’ the spirit.

JUSPER, their son had been given the responsibility to look after his brother’s grave before the killer’s came to do injustice to it. On this occasion, he was missing. JUSPER is believed to be deranged because of his mannerisms.

JUSPEr confesses to killing a man. His parents do not believe his statements because to them, he is sick,(mad). His mother NINA, advises him to go and change his clothes. In order to get rid of hime, they tell him to go and confess to the killing he claims.

Oblivious to DOGA and NINA, JUSPER killed the man who tried to desecrate his brother’s grave. The man, as we learn from JERE, was CHAGAGA, the sub-chief’s brother.

Meanwhile, JERE and MULILI have come to stopped the scheduled hair shaving ceremony, ‘in the interest of peace’ pg9. Among some communities, eg Luhya, hair shaving ceremony serves as a right to show final respect to the dead. It is done one week after the burial.

MULILI, who comes from a different tribe seems unconcerned with the intensity of the ritual. He cares less when NINA threatens to strip naked-a mortal curse among the people of this community. He says, “how many naked bodies I have seen and I am still MULILI with my two eyes…..”pg9.

JERE goes against the BOSS’s orders and allows the two poor fellows to do the final ritual for their son. It is very important to note that, the act has so much cultural practices that still linger in some communities. We can see how the character of JERE shows respect to the aged and the dismissive nature of MULILI. We also learn how condolences continue to trickle in, the evidence is the wooden bowl on the grave. Another thing is, it is an abomination to carry out hair shaving ritual if there is doubt that, something had happened to the buried corpse. NINA says, “it will be wrong for us to sit on this evil. We cannot outwit the ancestors.”pg3.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE ONE

  1. NINA and DOGA visit their late son, ADIKA’s grave in preparation of the ‘hair shaving’ ceremony.
  2. Their other son, JUSPER WENDO, who is demented, comes shouting claiming that he had killed someone. We later learn the someone was CHAGAGA.
  3. JERE and MULILI are sent to come and stop the hair shaving ceremony. JERE seems to be understanding while MULILI is condescending.

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE ONE

  1. Explain MULILI’s character.
  2. In your own opinion, do you think the authority was justified to block the ‘hair shaving ceremony’?
  3. Relate what happens in act one to events that unfold in leadership in third world countries.

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE ONE

  1. This ACT espouses the confusion surrounding African countries as they try to come to terms with the new leadership styles inherited from their colonial masters. In reality, the current leadership exhibited in the first act is, master slave kind of leadership which limits people’s rights in the guise of maintaining security. The banning of the hair shaving ceremony is a tactical manoeuvre by those in authority to cover up on their failings by blaming innocent citizens who, with regard to tradition, have the right to assembly.
  2. Patronage and nepotism prevails in MULILI innuendo. He carries his orders with the hope that, BOSS, his cousin, will give him a land and grade cows.

SCENE TWO: DETENTION OF JERE/JERE MEETS MOSESE

JERE is detained for allowing the head shaving ceremony to go on. In the cell he is taken into, he meets MOSESE, a political prisoner. We understand that JERE was in another cell but he beat up one of the prisoners ruthlessly forcing the ASKARI to change him to another cell.

MOSESE is a university lecturer. He was arrested for being in possession of opium as official evidence show. He says, he was arrested for speaking up his mind during the burial of one of his brave students who was killed.

It from MOSESE and the ASKARI that we learn the death of DOGA and NINA. They leave JUSPER an orphan. MOSESE likes JUSPER who was in the same prison for confessing to killing CHAGAGA but he is to be released.

Jere proves to be hot headed and answers the ASKARI without fear. We learn a lot from the ASKARI. He mentions a rehabilitation centre for criminals who are hard core like JERE. He tells JERE that he will be reformed in due course. JERE gives a rather sarcastic answer.

It is MOSESE who raises the lid on the question of independence. Using a biblical Allusion he says, “ That is why I don’t believe in such crap as the last shall be the first, and blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the Kingdom of heaven! For years we waited for the kingdom, then they said it had come……… It was all an illusion.pg27-28. From this we draw that the independence Africa celebrated was just an independence where black foreigners/foreign puppets masquerading as liberators sold Africa to the highest bidder.

They brought in vocabularies like investors and donors who continued milking Africa from its drying udder. MOSESE says, “It was better while we waited. Now we have nothing to look forward to. We have killed our past and are busy killing the future” Pg 28. The words of MOSESE draws us to the character of Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. Winston tries to hold onto the past but it seems to him the present trends supersedes the past which has run obsolete where the government of Big Brother has killed all evidence of the existence of the past. MOSESE sees a future of despair in the hands of black colonialist and little to do to help.

At the suggestion of acting the head of state who is to visit KAFIRA, MOSESE declines. His refusal is reminiscent of many intellectuals who decline to take up opportunities that could mark the change to the better. JERE prevails upon him to take up chance because it will do good to some families who might get to see their loved ones if some of the prisoners are released as promised by BOSS. The only thing demanded is, MOSESE should act.

In his sleep, MOSESE has fits of Nightmares which shows how disturbed he is. JERE says,” When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad.” Pg31.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE TWO

  1. It is no surprise that JERE is under detention. Given his outspokenness and going against BOSS’s orders we anticipated his detention.
  2. In prison JERE

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE TWO

  1. What are some of the problems faced by police officials executing their work?
  2. Do you think police officials are doing justice in detaining people without proper investigation?
  3. Explain how those in power misuse power to subjugate citizens protests.

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE TWO

  1. Police officials are supposed to serve the citizenry. In this Act we see how JERE is detained for believing in serving the masses. The Askari who detains him feels that he is doing the right thing by serving the masses. In most governments, security forces serve the privileged, they enjoy maximum security, protected as they steal from the public and use the police force to suppress mass protests on abuse on human rights.
  2. JERE, who sees reason in standing by NINA and DOGA learns that the arm of the law is to suppress the majority to who are on the right and support the minority who are on the wrong.
  3. MOSESE has learned survival tactics in jail. As a political prisoner, he has to survive by suppressing the expression of his political thought.

SCENE THREE: JUSPER WINS A COMPETITION FOR WRITING A PLAY

JUSPER visits his girlfriend REGINA. He is so full of himself and his outspokenness- a character common to university students. REGINA calm and fearful of the authority warns him against his loud mouthing every antagonistic statement to the government of KAFIRA.

REGINA represents a class of people who know that something is wrong but clearly would not stand out to fight knowing very well that they won’t win. Using MAX ERHMAN’S poem ‘DESIDERATA’ REGINA cautions her boyfriend to ‘go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence’pg35.

It is quite an irony to be silent when the storm is brewing around you, especially given the fact that Regina’s brother is languishing in prison. JUSPER reminds REGINA that MOSESE and JERE are a heroes to which REGINA still quoting Desiderata says, ‘everywhere the world is full of heroism’pg35.

REGINA reaches out to TUMBO who works for the Government of KAFIRA to seek for her brother’s release. Evidently, freedom in this society is predominantly underhand. It is a freedom where one seeks favours from those in authority. MOSESE is against this underhand methods of seeking liberation, he favours just means but as we learned from the first scene, JUSPER had said that, Justice was absent.

TUMBO comes in, like any government official, he exudes authority and overconfidence. JUSPER engages him before he calls REGINA who was from the kitchen. A discussion of names erupts and TUMBO slightly agrees that, things in KAFIRA are not that good.

JUSPER is sent for drinks. He declines using TUMBO’s jaguar and prefers to walk, a rather queer character given that young people love vehicles so much. JUSPER displays that he is independent and does not expect favour and privileges from the privileged class, though he accepts a drink.

TUMBO gives JUSPER the opportunity of writing a play to be performed during the visit of a certain head of state. Things are done offhandedly, instead of a competition, TUMBO declares JUSPER a winner of the non-existent competition. REGINA is wary of the undertaking but they dismiss her with JUSPER behaving rather submissive and satirical.

On youth and opportunities given to them by the government JUSPER says, “the fruits of independence. We get them second hand.” Pg50.

This act emphasizes on the issues affecting incapacitated government who heavily relies on patronages in appointments. We also learn that MULILI, the soldier we met in act one is the advisor to the boss and the two are related. It such a sad reality that, KAFIRA heavily relies on foreign advisors and inexperienced leaders like TUMBO and MULILI.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE THREE

  1. REGINA cautions JUSPER on his overly critical stance against the government of KAFIRA.
  2. TUMBO a government official offers JUSPER the responsibility of writing a play for the visiting head of state.
  3. REGINA is against the idea but as a woman she has no authority. She submits to the men.

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE THREE

  1. Explain the irony in the words of MAX ERHMAN’S poem ‘DESIDERATA’ to what is happening in KAFIRA.
  2. What is your opinion on government in Kenya and what Imbuga highlights in Betrayal in the City.
  3. Do you think it was okay for JUSPER to accept TUMBO’s appointment?

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE THREE

  1. The scene represents how society accepts dictatorships. REGINA is not ready to oppose than to fight the draconian BOSS leadership for fear her own personal security. She fears the powers that be and is willing to follow the oppressive leadership as long as she is free- a doubtful situation given that people suffers more than when incarcerated.
  2. TUMBO represents a class of institutional leaders in government who take lightly their responsibilities and squander government resources in the guise of working for the nation. He is above the law and his word is final.

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE: COMMITTEE PLANS STATE VISIT

KABITO is angered with the fact that MULILI has been included on the committee. On the other hand, NICODEMO does not want MOSESE to be among those acting for the state visitor. NICODEMO was the one who planted the drugs(opium) on MOSESE. MULILI, convinced his cousin to twist the arm of the university administration to rescind the contract given to KABITO.

Instead of discussing the issues of the visit, the committee is more interested in the perks they have to take home. the meeting is prematurely adjourned because a scuffle breaks between KABITO and MULILI.

An observation made from the meeting is that, one of the decisions arrived at is that, children should be allowed to line up along Airport Road to welcome the visitor!

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE ONE

  1. KABITO shares his frustration with NICODEMO about a milk delivery tender to university that is given to MULILI minutes after he had won it.
  2. NICODEMO does not want prisoners to be used in a play because of his involvement in the detention of MOSESE.
  3. The committee comes up with ludicrous proposals on the entertainment of the visiting head of state.
  4. MULILI and KABITO differ and the meeting is adjourned.

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE ONE

  1. Do you think it is okay to involve pupils in a state visit?
  2. What is the responsibility of government officials according to your understanding?
  3. Relate your understanding of government official’s role with what happens in the scene.

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE ONE

  1. The act exposes conflict of interest in Government officials. KABITO and MULILI are both government officials but it is quite amazing to realize that both have interests in public university tenders. This raises a question of integrity in delivery of public duty.
  2. Secondly, instead of the committee looking at better ways on how to entertain state visitor, they are deliberating on how to increase the gains from per diem.
  3. Finally, we see high levels of incompetence in the way issues are handled by the four committee members and how they little understand government policy.

SCENE TWO: MULILI MEETS BOSS

BOSS does not like the greying hair! Instead of serving his nation, he is busy plucking grey hair on his head. MULILI comes to report KABITO. Among other accusations KABITO is accused of revealing that BOSS has secret foreign accounts. To add insult to injury, KABITO is accused of saying that BOSS wanted REGINA by force.

BOSS is wounded but MULILI promises to do something.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE TWO

  1. MULILI reports KABITO to BOSS, in fact he lies about KABITO, an act of betrayal.

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE TWO

  1. Do you think it is okay for government officials to own businesses that compete for government tenders?

OBSERVATIONS MADE SCENE TWO

  1. The chapter explores the role of right hand people in dictatorships, they compromise the trust given to them by gaining more power and influence.

SCENE THREE: THE DEATH OF KABITO

JUSPER wants to quit his new role as the scriptwriter of the award winning play. He feels like there is too much soil especially after what almost happened to REGINA. TUMBO convinces him to stay on. He apologizes profusely to JUSPER given that he was the one who arranged for REGINA to meet BOSS.

JUSPER decides to stay on but stand for the truth. TUMBO warns him that the truth might have him killed just like what had happened to KABITO.

MULILI comes through with the news which everyone knows that KABITO was allegedly involved in a road accident after having drunk too many. No one questions him for despite the growing doubt that MULILI might have had a hand in the death given the earlier confrontation.

MULILI says that BOSS will name the very road KABITO was involved in an accident KABITO road.

The meeting is adjourned till another day but NICODEMO would like to know whether the day will be counted.

One question is, DO the assassinations that happen in Africa have such misguided priorities that is, to hide the secret?

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE THREE

  1. JUSPER threatens to give up the writing of the play after BOSS attempted to rape REGINA.
  2. We learn than KABITO died in an accident,
  3. NICODEMO’s is exposed when he asks whether the day will be counted despite having not worked

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE THREE

  1. Do you think KABITO was involved in a road accident?
  2. What is the impact of silencing dissents in Africa’s political development?

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE THREE

  1. The murder of KABITO is consistent with the death of TOM MBOYA in 1969 whose name was given to a street where he died and RONALD NGALA who died in a road accident. Most recently, it speaks about the death of Fr. JOHN ANTHONY KAISER and MELLITUS MUGABE WERE. Just like KABITOs death, the murders have remained unsolved.
  2. REGINA’s predicament speaks on how leaders use their position to humiliate women and treat them as tools of sex. It reminds me of a story where the hare betrays the Antelope to the LION.

SCENE FOUR: BETRAYAL IN THE CITY

The final preparations of the play are underway. JUSPER and TUMBO, who apparently has not read through the script, are engaged in making the final rehearsal memorable. In the ensuing confusion, BOSS finds them stranded.

There is some kind of excitement in the air as JUSPER explains the play to BOSS. BOSS asks keen questions which as observed JUSPER answers with an air of confidence and sarcasm. The reader or audience can tell that BOSS is being taken for a ride but the BOSS has no clue.

One of the actors, who was to act the CHIEF OF STAFF, has fallen ill and the doctor has recommended bed rest. The props, especially the guns are not yet ready for the carpenter has not delivered them.

BOSS allows them to use real guns. MOSESE and JERE start reciting their lines, as BOSS, who plays in the role of the CHIEF OF STAFF follows the script. The argument between MOSESE and JERE is about the sizes of .32 automatic and .28 guns.

The two soldiers, unable to agree with each other go to ask the CHIEF OF STAFF. The CHIEF OF STAFF allows them to show him the two guns from the heap of guns below. JUSPER cannot believe they managed to pull it up as JERE and MOSESE pick up the guns excitedly. Everything is so quick that no one realizes what is going on until when the two prisoners have surrounded BOSS.

MULILI denounces BOSS and says that BOSS is ruthless and orchestrated the murder of KABTO. Finally, MULILI is killed as the play ends just like the beginning, but this time DOGA AND NINA appear as ghosts.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN SCENE FOUR

  1. The preparations of the play are underway, JUSPER and TUMBO are involved in the arrangements of the play.
  2. BOSS offers to play as the CHIEF OF STAFF when one of the actors falls sick.
  3. Props of the play are not yet ready and the actors are allowed to use real guns.
  4. MOSESE and JERE are acting as ARMY officers wo do not know the difference between .32 and .28 automatic and therefore ask the CHIEF OF STAFF.
  5. When the CHIEF OF STAFF allows them to choose from the guns, they successfully orchestrate a coup where MULILI is killed.

QUESTIONS FROM SCENE FOUR

  1. Compare the laxity of leaders like TUMBO in Kenya today and the impact of their ignorance in the problems that affect society.
  2. Discuss the effects of coups in Africa.

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM SCENE FOUR

  1. Scene four outlines the biggest dilemma facing Africa. In a nutshell MZEE KENYATTA outlined the problems of Africa as, ignorance, disease and poverty. Key among this problems is IGNORANCE as shown by IMBUGA, in the play, the success of the coup is attributed to TUMBO’s ignorance. TUMBO on the other hand blames BOSS for appointing him on the wrong job.
  2. It is important to note that the IGNORANCE mentioned in the plays borders on political patronage and poor appointments on the side of leaders who reward sycophancy while paying lip service to professionalism.