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In the African nation of Bokondo, the king struggles to modernize his country while maintaining traditional culture and values. Many citizens are angry about the "imperial yoke" placed upon them by the British government and seek to replace the white officials with an all-African government. The king is aided by his chief minister, Adamu, although he suspects Adamu of being more interested in his own welfare than that of the people. The opposition is led by Renaissance African Party leader Mutanda, who, while honestly desiring the best for his country, is blinded by his own thirst for power and revenge against "Imperia." The primary complaint made by Mutanda's party is that whites have taken over land and natural resources belonging to Africans, who now must pay exorbitant taxes for their use. The country's main tribe, the Babalas, needs new grazing lands, and so Adamu petitions Mr. Roland, a white government representative, to give a parcel of land to the tribe. Roland states that Adamu's request is out of the question but offers a different parcel of land in exchange for a hefty tax increase. Adamu agrees to Roland's conditions, even though he knows that they are unfair, then returns home, where his neglected wife and son wait for him. Meanwhile, the king, hoping to be rid of Adamu for a few days, decides to send him to an intercontinental conference in Geneva. While the king discusses the idea with Asoke, his politically savvy wife, they are interrupted by Mutanda, who has arrived with a large contingent of his followers to demand an interview. Mutanda insists that the king recover lands that were originally theirs, and warns that if he does not stem the tide of crushing taxes, there will be an uprising. Soon after, Adamu travels to Geneva, where he is astonished to find that even the most urbane delegates squabble over small points and refuse to collaborate. Distressed by the partisanship, Adamu has a change of heart about his own selfish ways and discusses the situation with a European and an Indian delegate, who agree that the only way to enact true reform is through real cooperation between all peoples. Back in Bokondo, a fifteen percent tax increase is instated, much to the fury of the people, including Mrs. Maggie Palava, the leader of the market women. Mutanda then meets with his companion Benali and two of their friends, and they decide that in order to achieve their objective of ejecting all alien residents from Bokondo, they must first depose Adamu. They decide to assassinate him upon his return from Geneva, after which they will "get rid of" Roland. When Adamu returns home, he lovingly greets his surprised wife and son, then visits Roland. Adamu apologizes to Roland for his former scheming, and asserts that as a changed man, his only interest is in dealing honestly with everyone. Their conversation is interrupted, however, when Benali throws a bomb into Roland's home. Fortunately, the explosion does not harm either Adamu or Roland, who then appear before the king with Mutanda. The ruler is astonished when Adamu laughs that, given his lifelong selfishness, he is surprised that no one had attempted to assassinate him before. Although the men listen as Adamu states that change must begin from within, with each man taking individual responsibility for his home life and then his national life, Mutanda refuses to take him seriously. Mutanda complains fiercely about the white men's past mistreatment of his countrymen, and when Adamu asserts that such bittnerness cannot have a positive impact on the future, Mutanda again dismisses him. The next day, the king, Asoke and Adamu enjoy the river festival, at which an angry Maggie approaches them about the taxes. Adamu invites her to see the king the next day, and when she arrives with her husband John, Maggie declares that the market women will demonstrate, even though John, the leader of the National Party of Africa, Mutanda's rivals, opposes her actions. John and Mutanda, who is also at the meeting, inflame the situation by arguing over party and tribal politics, although Adamu attempts to point out their mutual desire to help their country. After the Palavas storm off, the king questions Adamu about his attitudes, and Adamu explains that in Geneva, he made friends who taught him that people must set aside all hatred and fear in order to be free. Mutanda dismisses Adamu's assertions as fantastic, and after leaving, plots with Benali to foment even more dissent at the following day's demonstration. Benali states that thousands of people will be coming from all over the country to attend, and that they will be able to establish a new political order. Meanwhile, the king and Adamu continue their talk, and the king realizes that his cravings for the trappings of power have blinded him to the unhappiness of Asoke and his people. The next morning, Mrs. Adamu visits Mutanda's wife Pauline, who has spent another lonely night without her husband, and tells her of Adamu's transformation, as well as her own spiritual alterations. Mrs. Adamu urges Pauline to put God first in her heart and leave behind her bitterness over being neglected by Mutanda. When her husband arrives home, Pauline pledges her love and vows to abandon her selfish demands on him. Stunned by Pauline's words, which echo those of Adamu, Mutanda wanders alone to think. He is found by Adamu, who apologizes for his past jealousy. Adamu explains that both he and Mutanda have been manipulated by others, who have sown disunity throughout the land for their own gain, and that in order to help Bokondo, they must rise above their personal desires. This time, Mutanda is convinced and determines to appeal to the people attending the demonstration to continue their drive for freedom, but in a more positive way. Mutanda then learns that Benali has supplied various cohorts with ammunition and intends to instigate an armed revolt. Realizing that he has been duped by Benali, Mutanda rushes to the marketplace with Adamu. An eavesdropping policeman alerts Roland, who orders in armed soldiers to control the crowd, then calls the king to ask him to attend the gathering. As hordes of angry people descend upon the marketplace, Mutanda and Adamu arrive, and when they begin to speak of promoting absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, their words drown out Benali's heckling followers. John and Roland, offered friendship by Mutanda and Adamu, pledge their support for true freedom achieved through inner change, and Roland tears up the proposal for the increased tax. With the king's blessing, the crowd then begins to sing and celebrate their country's new beginning.