Tumbo - Betrayal in the City Characterization and Role

Tumbo is a government official and a confidant of Boss, the Head of state.

He is Regina’s landlord and chairman of the committee charged with the responsibility of organizing entertainment for the visiting of head of state.
Despite his limited education, he has managed to acquire wealth and enjoys immense influence owing to his close association to the Boss.


He is a beneficiary of Boss’ government yet given an opportunity he criticizes his regime and those working for it.
About Mulili he says, “That is why he retired from the army. Until people like him are out, it is dangerous to seem to do things differently in Kafira.’ (pg 44-45)


He says that he would not have acquired the blocks of buildings he has if he had ‘depended o empty talk’ like the university students who he feels talk too much.
He says, ‘you were born alone and when you die, you will die alone….” This implies that he has used fraudulent means to acquire property.

He pretends to be a socialist when he offers Jusper the chance to write the play to entertain the visiting head of state.
He says, ‘You see, the whole program has cost the government some quarter of a million shillings. In fact, I had a mind of writing the play myself, but I thought better of it……eat and let eat.’ (pg 44)

He says a sum of money has been allocated for a play-writing completion but he does not organise the competition.
Instead he gives the opportunity to Jusper, of the six hundred pounds meant to finance the competition, he gives one third to Jusper and Regina and says the rest ‘will be used to put records straight’ (pg 49)


He has secured his place in the entertainment committee by virtue of his unflinching support for the government.
He tells the other committee members, “ I trust, gentlemen, that you know why you are in this committee.
You were nominated for one reason, your unflinching support of our government (pg 52-53)


He does not live up to what he believes in. He strongly believes that until people like Mulili are out of the government, ‘It is dangerous to seem to do things differently in Kafira.” (Pg 44-45)

He convinces Regina to go and see Boss even though he knows well Boss’ weakness for women. When Regina is hesitant, he tells her, ‘We can’t afford to make him angry at this stage.’ (pg 46)

When Kabito is eliminated and Jusper insists on standing for truth and justice even if it will cost him another year at the university, Tumbo tells him. ‘if you knew what has happened to one of us at the committee, I am sure you would postpone your eagerness to stand by truth and justice.’ (pg 62)


He does not
know who Soyinka is.
He thinks he is a prime minister of a certain country he purports to have forgotten. He even insists he is a politician.

He does not realize that the achievement Jusper says will he highlighted in the play is meant to portray the government that Tumbo serves in bad light.

Mosese says that it is out of his inefficiency that they are able to carry out the palace coup.s


He played along to Mosese, Jere and Jusper’s plot to bring down Boss. Mosese says that it was largely through his inefficiency that they achieved their objective. (pg 74) Jusper is able to convince him that he is Regina’s cousin.


When Jusper tells him that he drinks as much as he (Tumbo) drank off the pocket money he got during his university days, a visibly embarrassed Tumbo attempts to justify his limited education by claiming that though he qualified for university admission, he sold the scholarship since his family was poor (pg 41)


  • Tumbo contributes significantly to the development of the plot of the play;

  • Being Boss’ confidant he comes out as a major beneficiary of Boss’ regime.
    Towards the end of the play, he confesses that he was trained but given the wrong job. This aspect portrays him as sycophantic.
  • It is through his inefficiency that the plot by Mosese, Jusper and Jere to topple Boss succeeds.
  • Through him, we get to know Jusper’s character as daring and outspoken and Regina as trusting.
  • He also highlights the themes of fear, self-preservation and misuse of power.
  • Through him several aspects of style have been effectively used by the writer. They include foreshadow, satire, play within a play and suspense.

  • Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga

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