The Green Cross of Kafira, published posthumously by Bookmark Africa, is the last in a trilogy of Kafira plays that started with Betrayal in the City (1975), followed by Man of Kafira, first staged in 1979.
When the play opens, they are on a spying mission that is supposed to be so covert, it must be carried out in the absence of their personal assistants, drivers and even bodyguards.
using a narrator, Sikia Macho, to fill us in on the broken politics of Kafira, centring around detention without trial, Imbuga deliberately delays the inciting action, the formation of the Green Party of Kafira which then challenges the hitherto political monolith called the National Party. The candidate of the new party, former detainee Pastor Mgei, wins the election, and thereby dethrones the so-called Chief of Chiefs. In The Green Cross of Kafira, Imbuga, with a renewed sense of urgency, addresses the theme of dictatorship in Africa, and completes his trilogy of the Kafira plays which begins with Betrayal in the city followed by Man of Kafira.
The Green Cross of Kafira
It turns out that the top-secret mission targets harmless clerics and ‘rejects’, who are behind bars on trumped-up charges. The State accuses the ‘lunatics’ of incitement and other subversive crimes. However, it turns out that the ‘lunatics’ are the voice of reason that the State has terrorised to mental instability.
The ‘rejects’ strike the reader as stock characters representing university students, lecturers, conservationists, the church, trade unions and other activists that the State is keen on compromising by dangling the carrot of Cabinet posts, or through detention without trial.
Also unlike the first two books in the trilogy, The Green Cross of Kafira takes us into a new regime headed by former dissidents, perhaps as Imbuga’s way of seeking to highlight the pitfalls that may lead seemingly progressive regimes to slide back to the bad old ways. To this end, the author employs various strategies to show that, in implementing reforms, basic wisdom and common sense are more important than high-sounding theories and policy papers.
The play is divided into two acts, with the first one having three scenes and the second one four. Every scene comes with a sub-heading.
The first scene of Act One is titled ‘Mind Games’, and calls to mind ‘Battle of Wits’ in Imbuga’s Aminata, a play on women’s rights. This flair for creating intertextual similarities is also seen in the presence of clownish characters in virtually all his works, including this one, and heavily borrowing from African images and sayings.
This is topped of with Imbuga’s unbeatable knack for satirical humour. Talking of humour, the satirical tone of The Green Cross of Kafira is brought out masterfully through Mwodi and Yuda’s hypocrisy in defending the regime of the Chief of Chiefs, which borders on the ridiculous. They even accuse one detainee of masterminding a prison mutiny when he was being held at another jail.
Following in the tradition of what John Ruganda calls Telling the Truth Laughingly, the State is depicted as so paranoid that Adema’s book cannot win an award because the judges, who have not even read the book, are not amused that it explores the theme of political succession, which is next to taboo in Kafira.
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