Karega is a pivotal character in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel. The story starts with him and his possible involvement in a murder. The opening scenes prepare the reader for the complex and somewhat mysterious nature of Karega. The presence of Karega tends to signify trouble or unease. When he visits his old teacher, Munira, the questions that he asks about their former school and the people connected to it leave Munira with a “cold fear.”
Yet it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to label Karega bad or nefarious. While he does stir up fright in other characters, that has more to do with the other characters’ suspicious agendas than Karega’s nature.
In general, Karega appears to be on the side of the underdog and the people of Ilmorog. In fact, he could be thought of as a leader or an anti-colonial freedom fighter. It is Karega who comes with up the idea to travel to the big city and confront their parliament representative.
In a sense, Karega stands for community and the welfare of everyone. He takes aim at the powerful and their “greedy stomachs.” He lambasts policies that serve the “narrow selfish ends” of the elite. He is a passionate person with a sharp sense of injustice. Today, he might be called an activist or an organizer. However, in the story, Karega’s activism ends up having an odious impact on the village.