Book Review: Betrayal in the City by Prof Francis Imbuga

I wouldn’t go into the usual stuff.

I’m not going to critic an old text.

This is going to be a commentary on the message contained in the book and our present circumstances.

For a long time, Kenya stood a better chance to change its lot but the politics of winner takes all spoilt this.

Now we have a debate to change the constitution and for those who enjoyed the ‘safety’ of being in govt (having relatives in govt, or their tribes in govt), things seem to be moving very fast.

Politics is about betrayal. Politics is about self-interest.

‘The currency of politics is betrayal’, Joe Khamisi says in his book The Politics of Betrayal.

Nonetheless, Betrayal in the City is a play set in a fictitious country known as Kafira. This is the second book by the late Prof Francis Imbuga that am reading.

Were it not for the many sayings that I heard in the past while reading Aminata, his other book, sayings such as ‘when the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad’, I wouldn’t be interested in this book.

Most people that spoke about Imbuga’s play, did so with an air of authority that makes someone want the same. Authority to speak about politics, its betrayal, revolution and independence.

In this short play, I find somethings to reflect upon. Concepts such as the mindset of those in government and those out of it. Taking for example that those who even seek to change Kenya at this point in time find themselves second-guessed by people who half-think.

As Betrayal in the City shows, in the conversation between Regina and Jusper, there are times where people give up the struggle to seek collective good. They see it as a waste of time ‘because nothing changes’.

Regina tells Jusper that ‘No good will come out of this struggle’. A few paragraphs prior, Jusper had observed that ‘beggars leaning on street walls told us that we were wasting time’. However, Jusper didn’t give up the revolutionary fervour, as is seen at the end of the play.

Did I digress? Maybe, maybe not.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

In Kenya, as in many African countries, seeking good governance seems futile because there are many forces at play.

Due to the competing interests and the low standards people hold human life for, it is an exercise that seems like people don’t matter.

‘People have no choice. Like caged animals, we move, but only inside the cage’.

Even the university student in the play captures it well, ‘I do not wish to see them (prisoners of state/ political prisoners) come from one prison only to enter another.

Kenya has not truly gone to the dogs as pertains to how its leaders physically treats the citizenry. However, the same cannot be said of how they treat the citizens emotionally and spiritually.

It is the same abusive system that most don’t even realize they are in.

Kenyan politicians do things for self-interest and self-interest alone. Nothing in their mind sees that if the electorate, the citizens are okay, they are okay too.

They instead believe in primitive accumulation where money is the god that offers security, offers best healthcare, offers basic needs and other unnecessary things.

It is a myopic world that comes crumbling down, as it did when COVID-19 attacked some who ended up telling us that ‘money doesn’t matter’ and also that ‘could command all the weapons on earth but COVID19 hit him hard’.


No talk about improving healthcare at all. Only self-pity and calling Kenyans into their pity-parties.

Betrayal in the City ultimately teaches that in the end then, a state propped up on lies (PR), suppression, assassinations and murder will have its leaders pay the ultimate price. In France, it was the Guillotine, elsewhere a military coup.

In Kafira, it was the shooting to death of those that propped up that aristocratic state.

I just finished reading this book 1:45 p.m, 8th Dec, 2020

Chei: A Gambian exclamation used in storytelling to express pity. (This is borrowed from the short stories book: Encounters from Africa: An Anthology of short stories, Published by MacMillan Kenya, 2000)