In the play, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Micere Githae Mugo depict Dedan Kimathi as a committed and principled defender of Kenyan independence. He does not waver in his resolute refusal to accommodate to the various kinds of pressure that the British and Kenyan men—including an administrator, politician, businessman, and priest—apply to get him to change his mind. This pressure ranges from gentle coaxing to torture. Dedan stays true to the convictions that informed his rise to leadership in the Mau Mau resistance movement.
Convinced that only Kenyans should rule their country and that only armed resistance will drive the British out, Kimathi dismisses the visitors who come to his jail cell. He believes that the arguments they present are lies intended to fool people into acquiescence, which will only guarantee their further submission to European imperialist, capitalist rule. He dismisses those who collaborate with the British, including his own brother, as traitors. Although he is offered opportunities to save his own life, he refuses to admit to the charges against him. Even under torture, he does not divulge information about other resistance members. In the courtroom, he decries the injustice of the legal system, which does not protect the rights of Kenyan peoples. Ultimately, he loses his life rather than his principles.