There are quite a few moments in The River Between in which readers might sympathize with Waiyaki. First, Waiyaki has a great burden placed upon his shoulders from the time he is a child, for his father thinks that he is born to be the savior of his people. He is a natural leader indeed, yet the idea that he must save his people would be overwhelming for anyone. Waiyaki's father sends him to a missionary school so that he might be educated in white ways and therefore defeat the enemy from the inside. But Waiyaki comes to value education for its own sake and for the overall improvement of his people.
We might feel sympathetic toward Waiyaki again when he is dismissed from school because his parents still practice traditional customs. Waiyaki and his companions start their own school, but Kabonyi becomes envious of Waiyaki, thinking that he should be the tribe's savior instead, and he becomes one of Waiyaki's greatest enemies. Waiyaki fails to heed warnings about Kabonyi, and the latter begins to turn the people against their supposed savior.
When Waiyaki falls in love with Nyambura, we again may sympathize with him. His love is real and deep, but the relationship is forbidden because Nyambura is not a full female member of the tribe (she has not undergone the rite of female circumcision). Nyambura refuses to marry Waiyaki due to her father's opposition, but Waiyaki refuses to give up even when the tribe demands that he renounce her. Waiyaki is judged and hauled away to be punished all because he will not give up his true love.