Shackles of Doom: The fast rise of playwright Cleophas Malala

Before becoming senator, he was Mahiakalo MCA, where he served one term.

In Summary

• In 2013, Malala, then 27, was a playwright and director, shooting to national limelight with the controversial play Shackles of Doom.

• The play, which he wrote and directed, was on tribalism and inequality, and depicted Kenya’s unequal society. It has come to play in his real life

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala
Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala

The story was first published in August 2020. On Monday, the United Democratic Alliance party announced former Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala as its secretary general. He had tried his luck to contest for the Kakamega gubernatorial seat but lost. He has also been shortlisted for the Chief Administrative Secretary position.


Before he shot to fame as a politician, Cleophas Malala was well known in art and drama circles.

Malala, then 27, was a playwright and director. He shoot to national limelight with the controversial play Shackles of Doom.

The play, which he wrote and directed, tackled tribalism and inequality, and depicted Kenya’s unequal society.


The play presented by Butere Girls' High School was so controversial that the Ministry of Education banned it, but the ban was lifted by the High Court.


Mombasa Senator Omar Hassan said the play was an important exposé of society's favouritism, nepotism, ethnicity, inequality and marginalisation.

“The fact [is] that resources have been at the heart of social disintegration in this country,” Hassan said.

That was in 2013.

Seven years later he would be a key player in the battle for equality, this time as a senator fighting against an “unequal” county revenue allocation formula.

At 3am on Monday, August 17, the Kakamega senator put out an SOS that at least 20 DCI detectives had arrived at his Kitengela home to arrest him.

This was two days after it was reported that the Kenya Revenue Authority had frozen his bank accounts over alleged tax evasion, which he later said he was cleared.

This, he later said, was a bigger plot to prevent him from voting on the revenue formula bill on Monday.


Malala was arrested for allegedly violating Covid-19 rules when he distributed sanitiser donated to him by the Health ministry in Kakamega at the weekend.

“Even if they arrest me, my position on the revenue formula will not change. The same government gave me the items,” he said on Monday.

“They should know I’m steadfast on the shared revenue stand.”

Malala does not shy away from speaking his mind, including criticising his party leader, Musalia Mudavadi.

He said there comes a time when "real people of Kenya must defend this country".

"Shackles of Doom addressed issues of inequality in distribution of resources in this country. If you go to Turkana county, they have immense resources but the people who are benefiting from them are not Turkanas. When you go to Taita Taveta, they have immense gemstones but the people benefiting are not from Taita Taveta," Malala said.

"The spirit of one man one shilling one vote should be transited to the 85 per cent that remains with the national government." 

His woes followed his overturned expulsion from ANC party on claims of gross misconduct and being disloyal in June, on the day he was presenting findings on the Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru impeachment report.

It was, however, the naming of Malala on June 17 to chair the 11-member special Senate committee to review the charges against Waiguru that pointed to his rise in politics and in the House. He was elected to chair the committee unopposed.

He is also the Deputy Senate Minority leader.

The first-time senator was born in Mahiakalo, Kakamega, and studied at Star Academy and Friends School Kamusinga in Bungoma.

He later went to East African School of Media where he studied TV and Film Production and later proceeded to USIU for a degree and is now undertaking a master’s at the same institution.

Before becoming senator, he was Mahiakalo MCA. He served one term before succeeding Senator Boni Khalwale.

He is married with two sons.

The 35-year-old seems geared for the Kakamega governor seat in 2022.

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