I Will Marry When I Want concerns itself mainly with the betrayal of the aspirations of the masses of people in Kenya by the postindependence African leadership. Contrary to the expectations of the people, following Kenya’s independence from British rule, that the land would be restored to the indigenous population, independence seemed only to increase further the scramble for European investors. Illustrative of the country’s economic policy are the frequent allusions to land acquisitions for the purpose of building additional factories, such as the insecticide factory, that specialize in exported goods. Kioi’s and Nditika’s wealth largely stems from their European alliance, which often results in their serving as figureheads for foreign industries based in the country. When Nditika proposes that Kioi consider serving as the local director for the insecticide project, he describes the responsibility as being no different from his present directorship of the local bank:It’s not much work. It’s just a matter of one or two board meetings. You become overseer. Just as you now oversee their banks. You and I will be like watchdogs.
The theme of betrayal is evident as well in reference to the “Homeguard,” a quasi-military attachment of the British police force made up of African loyalists whose responsibility was to help restore calm after a series of Mau Mau raids and attacks. In effect, the Homeguard was to assist the British police by identifying and incarcerating suspected Mau Mau members. Such actions taken by the Homeguard against fellow Africans were perceived by Ngugi wa Thiong’o as treacherous. Ndugire, a nouveau riche farmer in I Will Marry When I Want, is identified as a member of the Homeguard who has profited materially from the European alliance, but at the price of his own humanity. He confesses that “I used to kill people,/ And to do many other terrible deeds/ As was the habit among the homeguards of those days.”