The author – Francis Imbuga (1947-2013)

Prof. Imbuga was born in 1947 in Vihiga county in Western Kenya. He did B.A. in Literature in the University of Nairobi and later got a Ph.D from the University of Iowa in USA.

He wrote a number of books including:

  • The fourth Trial (1973)
  • The Married Bachelor (1977)
  • The Successor (1979)
  • Man of Kafira (1984)
  • Aminata (1984)
  • Burning of the Rags (1989)
  • Return of Mgofu (2011)
  • Shrine of Tears (1992)



The play Betrayal in the City is set in a fictional African country name Kafira in the post independence era. During this period, Africans end up disappointed when the African leaders they had hoped to bring change become perpetrators of corruption, dictatorship, nepotism and assassinations.


Betrayal in the City is a story of Kafira, a fictional Independent country headed by Boss.

The country is experiencing political upheavals that are a result of an oppressive dictatorial government. Social evils such as corruption, nepotism, arbitrary arrests and assassinations have become common in Kafira.

A demonstration is organised by concerned university students to protest against the influx of expatriate specialists/workers. This leads to the death of a student, Adika, who is shot by a police officer –Chagaga.

It is after Adika’s funeral that Mosese, a lecturer is arrested for criticising the government’s actions. After the funeral, Jusper, Adika’s brother, kills Chagaga in revenge and throws his body into a river. Jusper is later arrested for the offence.

Two soldiers, Jere and Mulili are sent to Adika’s home to prevent his parents from holding the customary shaving ceremony in his wake.  On arrival they find Nina and Doga, Adika’s parents, preparing for the shaving ceremony.

Confronted by the situation, Jere decides to allow Nina and Doga to continue with the ceremony but Mulili firmly disagrees. The two soldiers quarrel leading to Jere’s arrest. Because of an impending visit of a foreign head of state, Boss decides to have a play staged by prisoners as part of the guest’s entertainment. Mosese and Jere are therefore approached and requested to take part in the play. Boss promises to set free 600 prisoners if the project is successful.

Mr. Tumbo, Boss’ right hand man, approaches Jusper asking him to write a play for the occasion. He promises Jusper good payment in return. Jusper agrees to write a play which is later acted by Jere and Mosese.

A prisoner falls ill before the rehearsals and therefore Boss offers to step in. Later he orders his guards to give him their guns to be used as props after realising that the props weren’t ready.

Using the guns, the actors challenge Boss and his cronies in a cleverly crafted coup. Jusper shoots Mulili in revenge.


Scene 1

It is set at Adika’s grave. the grave appears to have been burnt and there is a bowl of coins on it. Nina and Doga, Adika’s parents are approaching the grave in the morning to prepare for the shaving ceremony.

The burning of the grave confirms that the person who killed Adika lives among them. It’s revealed that Adika was shot by a police officer during a university demonstration. Chagaga, the sub-chief’s brother was implicated in the murder.

Jusper comes back. Since his brother’s death, he has been behaving strangely. This has made his parents suspect that he is mad. He is coming from the river where he has thrown Chagaga’s body whom he had caught burning Adika’s grave to prevent Adika’s ghost from haunting him –as the community believes. He asks his parents whether he should go and confess the murder. Thinking that he is raving, they tell him to put on a clean shirt and go confess.

Two soldiers, Jere and Mulili, arrive to ensure that no ceremony is held in memory of Adika. They inform Nina and Doga that Jusper is currently in custody. After confessing to have murdered Chagaga an angry mob almost lynched him. He was saved by the police and locked up.

Mulili and Jere argue over whether to allow the ceremony to go on. Jere being from that village understands the importance of a shaving ceremony as a traditional ritual and therefore he wants to let the old couple proceed with it. Mulili differs with him because he has been promised a large chunk of land by Boss in return for his loyalty. They fight. Jere shoots at Mulili.


Scene II

The scene is set in a prison cell. Jere is a prisoner; apparently he was arrested after his fight with Mulili. The other prisoner is Mosese; a university lecturer arrested after Adika’s funeral. Like Jere, Mosese is a political prisoner persecuted for criticising the government.

The scene reveals how Mosese ended up in prison: a man called Nicodemus/Nicodemo planted opium in his vehicle for Mosese to be arrested and falsely accused of possessing illegal drugs.

Following the incident Mosese dropped his Christian name Nicodemus to be called Mosese wa Tonga. Mosese reveals to Jere the government’s plan to have prisoners act a play to entertain a visiting head of state. Jere narrates how he was arrested after being deployed in his own village to “restore order”.

Askari brings Mosese a cup of tea citing that Mosese belongs to his tribe. He observes that “one needs a tall relative to get anything in Kafira”. This highlights the wide spread nepotism and corruption in the state.

Mosese is disillusioned by the state of things in Kafira under Boss’ leadership. He points out that the political leadership of Kafira has destroyed all the hopes that the citizens had of a better independent Kafira.

Scene III

The scene is set in Regina’s small room. Regina is Mosese’s sister and Jusper’s girlfriend. Jusper has visited. He, like all university students, is in a red gown to show that they are protesting against the government. He has been released from custody after his parents were murdered.

Jusper and Regina argue about the best course of action in Kafira. Obviously an idealist, Jusper favours protests and head-on collision with the dictatorial government.  In opposition, Regina argues that people should be concerned about survival instead of trying to fight a ruthless regime that is ready to kill. She says that “fighting the government is like fighting stones” –people with no feelings.

Regina’s landlord, Mr. Tumbo comes to visit. Tumbo is also a high ranking government official. He confirms about the impending visit by a foreign head of state and that the prisoners are to stage a play in his entertainment.

When Regina tells Tumbo that Jusper like writing plays, he asks him to write one for the occasion. Tumbo was supposed to conduct a play writing competition in order to select the best play for the occasion but he fraudulently awards Jusper the tender to write the play promising to pay him and publish the news of “Jusper’s winning” in newspapers.

He encourages Regina to go see Boss and plead for Mosese’s release.



Scene I

The scene is set in a conference room where the entertainment committee is set to meet. Kabito, the first member of the committee to arrive, is sleeping. Nicodemus –the one who set up Mosese -is the second one to arrive.  Kabito tells Nicodemo how he had gotten a tender through bribery but later lost it to Mulili who had sought Boss’ intervention.

They are later joined by Tumbo and the meeting begins. The meeting lacks seriousness as much time is spent discussing payment of the committee members instead of discussing business of the day. Mulili arrives late for the meeting. He narrates how he was able to get the milk tender that had been awarded to Kabito by seeking Boss’ intervention.

They continue to raise ridiculous suggestions as to how the visitor should be entertained. These suggestions give a picture of a nation that is desperate to fool the foreign head of state that its citizens are happy and content with the government.

Mulili and Kabito quarrel in the course of the meeting. They committee members then take a break to return later.

Scene II

This scene is set at Boss’ palace. Boss is pulling out grey hairs –an indicator that he may be the kind of leader who wants to rule for life.

Mulili has visited him after the quarrel with Kabito. He lies to Boss that Kabito is slandering his name at the committee meeting saying that Boss is spoiling Kafira’s economy by grabbing public property and hiding wealthy in foreign banks.

Infuriated, Boss orders Mulili to kill Kabito and make it look like an accident. Thus, Mulili  gets his revenge against Kabito.

Scene III

It takes place in the same room the committee had met in earlier.

Jusper has come to inform Tumbo that he is no longer interested in writing the play for the event. He says it is because Regina was almost raped by Boss when she went to plead for Mosese’s release. The conversation reveals that Boss locked up his wife for complaining about the incident. Having just learnt of Kabito’s suspicious death, Tumbo warns him that it would be unwise to stop participating in the play.

Mulili comes back after the break for meeting. Tumbo and Nicodemo pretend they did not know anything about the death. He tells them that Kabito was drunk and had been killed in a hit and run accident. He also reports that Boss is so sad and has ordered a road be named Kabito Road.


Scene  IV

This is set in Boss’ palace where the prisoners are rehearsing the play to be staged for the foreign head of state.

Tumbo and Jusper are making final preparations. Tumbo is understandably scared because of Boss’ hot temper. It is revealed that university students have fired Jusper for writing the play for the government.

Boss arrives and asks Jusper to stage the play. In his talk with Jusper, Boss says that students have no right to protest against anything in Kafira. He boasts that their demonstration against expatriate personnel resulted to nothing but the death of a student and the imprisonment of a senior lecturer. He says that after the demonstration he deliberately ordered for three hundred more expatriate workers in defiance to their protests.

Then they learn that one prisoner who was to be actor in the play fell ill and can therefore not take part in the rehearsal. Boss offers to step in for him and he orders the police to surrender their guns to be used as props when they discover that some props were not ready yet.

As part of the play, Jere and Mosese get hold of the guns and challenge Boss and his henchmen. Apparently Jusper and the prisoners had crafted a coup into the play.

Mulili denies any relation with Boss calling him a “distant cousin”. He further claims that Boss should be killed because he spoilt Kafira’s economy, killed Kabito.

Boss is angered by this act of betrayal so he asks Jere to kill him. However Jere tells him they have no reason to kill him because Kafira needs everybody including Boss. Jusper takes the gun and kills Mulili.

The play ends with Nina and Doga’s ghosts mourning their son.

See also: The Caucasian Chalk Circle (by Bertolt Brecht) Excerpt question 3 :Betrayal in the City (by Francis Imbuga)- Essay questions ;SOCIAL STRUGGLE/CLASS STRUGGLE/ CLASS WARFARE IN THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE ; The River And The Source – Margaret Ogola [Review] ; Theme of Justice in The Caucasian Chalk Circle (by Bertolt Brecht) ; BETRAYAL IN THE CITY -PLOT SUMMARY ; Marxism in Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle ; ANALYSIS OF HARUKI MURAKAMI’S THE MIRROR BY

You can also watch the play

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