Wednesday, 02 November 2011 07:45

Pio Gama Pinto - Independant Kenya's First Marytr

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By: Awaaz Team

At the age of eight he was sent to India for his education at St. Joseph's European High School, Bangalore, and later passed his matric through St. Joseph's High School, Arpora. He studied science for two years at the Karnatak College, Dharwar, before joining the Royal Indian Air Force in 1944 as an apprentice ground engineer.

When only 17 years of age he started agitating against the British raj in India and for political freedom for Goans. When he took up a job in the Posts and Telegraph office in Bombay, after demobilization, he enthusiastically took part in a general strike and got his first glimpse of mass action and organization. He was a founder member of the Goa National Congress whose aim was to liberate Goa from colonial rule. His activities in Bombay and later in Goa made it imperative for him to leave for Kenya in order to avoid being arrested.

Pio was a top athlete in school and college in Bombay, as well as in East Africa. He won hundreds of trophies in the field of sports which he donated to poor African schools. In addition to being the Asian champion for several years he represented Kenya for the Madagascar Games and won laurels for Kenya in both 100 and 200 yards events. He was an all-rounder but excelled in short distances. He was a keen footballer and tennis player as well. He was compelled to give up sports which involved strenuous training and physical fitness to devote more time to the greater causes to which he was dedicated.

Once in Kenya, Pinto worked initially as a clerk but when he saw the conditions in Kenya under British rule, he was drawn to the struggle for independence. In 1951, Pinto started working for the East African Indian Congress movement which had its offices in the Desai Memorial Building. He formed relationships with the members and leaders of African freedom movements, Kenya African Union (KAU) and workers’ organisations and worked towards achieving African-Asian unity. In 1950, when Chege Kibachia, Makhan Singh and Fred Kubai were arrested, Pinto joined hands with workers and helped to continue with the movement’s work for independence.

In order to facilitate this political work, Pinto learnt Kiswahili. He believed that it was essential to learn Kiswahili if he was going to work successfully with African leaders and workers.

To further his goal of overthrowing colonialism he turned to journalism. With the help of D K Sharda, Haroon Ahmed, Pranlal Sheth, and later Ambu Patel, he participated in the publication of anti government newsletters. Together with other African and Asian Kenyans, he wrote and published several newspapers and political posters. He distributed these throughout the country and put up the posters in the middle of the night throughout the city. An account of his publishing activities is given in the accompanying article ‘Pio Gama Pinto – the patriotic journalist.’


Pinto was actively involved in the trade union and worker movement, hence his close relationship with the struggle for independence. Trade unions played a major part in the struggle for political and economic independence.

Pio married Miss Emma Cristine Dias of Borda, Margao, (educated in Jamshedpur), in Nairobi on 9 January 1954. Just five months later he was detained following the notorious Operation Anvil and spent the next four years in Takwa Detention Camp on Manda Island and then in restriction in Kabarnet from 1958 to 1959. He was released in July 1959. Just prior to his detention he had helped to set up a Mau Mau War Council city headquarters in Mathare and acquired a cache of arms for 1,500 city youths who had joined the freedom fighters in the Nyandarua forest.

While he was still in detention, Pinto’s father passed away. From his death bed, Pinto’s father requested the colonial government to allow him to see his son for one last time. But the pitiless government which his father had served loyally for 30 years, adamantly denied him this one last wish. The father died without ever seeing his son again. Pio was deeply affected and for the first time broke down and cried.

Pinto worked ceaselessly in the 1961 elections to bring KANU to victory. He joined hands with Asian Kenyans such as Chanan Singh and K P Shah and together they founded the Kenya Freedom Party as a way of marshalling support of Kenyan Asians to the African people and their leaders in the struggle for freedom. In 1963 he was elected as Member of the Central Legislative Assembly and in July of the following year he became a Specially Elected Member of the House of Representatives. In 1964 he worked late hours to establish the Lumumba Institute which was principally to train party cadres. He was a member of the Board of Governors and took a keen interest in its functions. He kept in close touch with African liberation movements and the liberation of Goa from Portuguese rule and worked to ‘de-colonise’ the Goans of East Africa.

It was his relentless exposure of neo-colonialism and especially his success in establishing (with others) in 1964 the Kenya African Workers’ Congress, a trade union organization independent of the US dominated International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFRTU), and aligned to the All Africa Trade Union Federation (AATUF), that alerted the imperialists and their stooges to classify Gama Pinto as ‘a man to be watched very closely.’ He began to be known as a ‘leftist firebrand’.

However it was the parliamentary coup that Pinto and his radical socialist comrades plotted that was the last straw, or final nail, in Pinto’s coffin. The dawn of Uhuru had given rise to a serious ideological rift. As Kenyatta and his clique of Kanu-Kadu rightists moved closer to the neo-colonialists, the socialist group demanded a ceiling on land ownership, a more equitable distribution of wealth and just rewards for the Mau Mau freedom fighters.

A secret conclave, held at the defunct Lumumba Institute, was chaired by Odinga, Pinto was the rapporteur. Others in attendance were Kaggia, Oneko, Akumu, Henry Wariithi, Odongo-Okello, Mak’Anyengo and Kali. The matter for discussion was the controversial Sessional Paper No 10 on African Socialism prepared by Tom Mboya and to be presented by Kenyatta to Parliament on 29 April, 1965. Odinga, Pinto and Odongo-Okello had prepared their own blueprint on African Socialism and now planned to launch it on the same day thus rejecting the one of the Kenyatta government. This would have led to a vote of no-confidence, forcing Jomo Kenyatta’s government to resign barely four months after he was sworn in as Kenya’s first president on December 12, 1964.

Pinto was the master-mind of the coup plot. When in February Intelligence informed Kenyatta that the plot could succeed, Pinto was eliminated. Then began a more concerted drive to destabilize and ultimately silence the Left in Kenya. Pio Gama Pinto was the man who came closest to organizing a real political revolution in Kenya. He was Odinga’s foremost tactical adviser and link-man with Eastern embassies. He was the power behind the progressive group which then controlled 98 of the 158 votes in parliament. In May 1964 he had arranged a meeting in Peking between Odinga, Murumbi, himself and the Chinese Prime Minister Chou Enlai. The latter had already stated that ‘the revolutionary prospects in Africa are excellent’. Commentators say that after Pinto’s murder, Odinga’s political strategy floundered and never recovered.

Pio Gama Pinto’s death on 24 February 1965 is best described by Drum magazine: ‘On a Wednesday morning last February, a young man drove his wife to work and then hurried home for a quick breakfast and a few minutes’ play with his three daughters.

‘For Tereshka, aged 18 months, her father had a special treat, and one he did not often have time to give her – a drive in his car from the front door to the gateway of their home. The little ritual cost Pio Gama Pinto, one of Kenya’s most loved freedom fighters, his life. For as he stopped the car to let Tereshka out, a man stepped out of the bushes near the front gate and a second man approached him from the right of the driveway.

‘While the little girl crouched in wild-eyed terror in the back seat, Pinto was riddled with bullets from the guns of assassins. . . . Pio Gama Pinto was a man whose activities in Parliament, the Pan African Press, the Lumumba Institute and KANU had made him a stranger to routine. The killers who struck him down must have been determined – even desperate – to have risked assassinating him in broad daylight, in a busy thoroughfare.

‘It is thought they even followed him as he drove his wife, Emma, to her office – she is personal secretary to the Minister for Information – and back again, seeking any opportunity to kill.

‘While police, called to the scene of the murder by horrified neighbours, operated the biggest man-hunt in Kenya’s history, the great men of the land mourned one they looked on as a brother.

Pinto’s selfless-ness, his caring for the down-trodden, his universality, his desire for justice and freedom not just for himself but for all human beings, his unbounded capacity for work, his crusade against imperialism, his belief in the power of the written word, his incredible generosity (he died a pauper) – all this and much more is captured in the many eulogies written by prominent nationalists and publishing pioneers for a booklet published by the Pan African Press in 1966, the first anniversary of Pinto’s death. Awaaz brings you some of their writings regarding this remarkable patriot.



Vice President

Pio Pinto was assassinated outside his house in the morning of 24 February 1965. Pio Gama Pinto was a great Kenyan patriot. I first met Pinto in 1952 when we were at the height of our struggle. He was then working with the E A Indian National Congress and in his own fashion trying to break the pattern of their narrow perspective in order for that community to participate in our bitter struggle to throw off colonial domination. Anyone who met Pio soon forgot his pigmentation because his words and deeds left no doubt that he was a Kenyan nationalist.

His death leaves a gap in our political struggle for full freedom that few men – none that I know – can fill. There is no phase of our struggle in which he did not play an invaluable part.

When the repression was launched against KAU, Pinto organized political defences. When fighting started from the forests Pinto maintained political liaison and supplied arms and money to the fighters from supply lines in Nairobi. He had immense organization powers and ceaselessly went around bridging all gaps in our defences as our people were pulled away into the detention camps or prison cells. He petitioned his solicitor friends to take up political cases when no money was forthcoming. [Lawyers such as Fitz de Souza, J M Nazareth, E K Nowrojee, A R Kapila, S M Akram, A H Malik, Sheikh Amin, K D Travadi, Arvind Jamidar, and others.] When the men in the forests required support he sent money and arms secretly. He knew the consequences if he was caught – detention, even death – but nothing could stop him. When the (colonial) authorities caught up with his activities, he served his term of detention.

Once back in Nairobi after his release, he found hundreds of widows and orphans of his comrades who had perished in the struggle. Most of us surged on with independence as our goal but Pio found time for the suffering women and children and collected money, food and clothing for them. Dr Yusuf Eraj was swamped with sick women and children sent by Pio. Few people know that because of his immense admiration for Pio, this medical practitioner received no fees for many years.

Pio assisted refugees from South Africa, Mozambique and Angola to find their way to other countries where they could organise resistance movements. As a member of the Central Legislative Assembly and Member of Parliament, Pio showed his brilliance in a quiet way. He was a dedicated and intelligent socialist, and worked for Kenya to advance its social and economic system for the benefit of the masses.

He threw himself into helping KANU win the 1961 elections, into founding our independent press, into the campaign for East African Federation, into the struggle against imperialism . . .

(In 1961) large sums were used to build our independent press. Pio Pinto had been released from detention on Manda Island and from restriction and he immediately plunged into work . . . he was the moving force in the acquisition of a small press and the publishing of our weekly KANU paper Sauti ya Kanu and later, Sauti ya Mwafrika.

‘Pio Pinto was a moving spirit in the establishment of Pan African Press which published a weekly in Dholuo Nyanza Times, a weekly in Kiswahili, Sauti ya Mwafrika and a bi-monthly in English Pan Africa; and in the formation of the Lumumba Institute.


Member of Parliament

Pio was the Asian to win and penetrate the African hearts. Within a few years of acquaintance he won my heart and by 1952 he was the only non-African who had the confidence of the people and who knew some thing of what was taking place. He was the Asian who was not afraid to identify himself with KAU or militant African politics. He was not afraid to be seen with KAU leaders or to visit Kiburi House, the centre of African politics and nationalism, which was looked upon by the colonialists as the centre of sedition and rebellion.

In the early years of Kenya’s trade unionism, Pio acted as advisor and gave practical help to every union to establish sound trade union principles and practices. As he was not an officer of any one of them, he was free to help all of them without any rivalry – a thing that no other trade unionist could do. All early trade unionists will never forget Pio’s work to establish trade unionism.

When KAU leaders were arrested, Pio did not break his communication with active KAU leaders and supporters. Instead he went on as actively as before and as a result was arrested and detained.

During the long and difficult years of detention, while he was fighting for our release, he never forgot to send us at Lodwar, food and a little money. Pio faced great temptation being the only Asian among the African Mau Mau. But this did not temper his courage and determination to continue his fight for Kenya’s freedom and independence. Pio remained firm and faithful to the cause to the last minute.

He played a very prominent role in the “Release Kenyatta” campaign. I can never forget his help to me and other African politicians when we decided to run our own vernacular newspapers to fight the colonial newspaper monopoly. He did all he could to see that each and every small newspaper, including my Inoro ria Gikuyu, went forward. His advice and practical help in this work will never be forgotten.

In the 1963 election, Pio was in charge of the Nairobi Election Campaign and he worked for all the Nairobi and many other candidates without himself looking for a position. He helped me personally in my election campaign. When the KANU head office turned dowm my nomination and denounced me, Pio was one of the many friends including Mbiyu Koinange, Joe Murumbi, Fred Kubai, Achieng Oneko, J D Kali and others who came to my house to meet Kandara leaders to find out the truth. Pio was the only Asian among the Africans who came. After this meeting the KANU Head Office was convinced that I was in fact the right candidate and as a result the vice president of KANU, Mr. Oginga Odinga, was sent to Kandara to supervise a new selection meeting in which I swept all the votes and my opponent got none. I was accordingly declared the KANU candidate.

Pio was the only politician I know who did so much without himself holding any position – the only man I know who has done so much to get others into positions without looking for one himself. His role in the KANU Election Campaign of 1961 is great and his contribution towards KANU’s victory is greater than that of any other single person. He went on to work for KANU after self-government and independence as actively as before, right until his assassination. He never sought for position and it was I and other friends who persuaded him to contest the Central Legislative Assembly and Specially Elected Member seats which he won.

The murderers who sat down to plan Pio Gama Pinto’s death are not enemies of Asians or of Pinto’s family but are enemies of all true nationalists, all true Africans, enemies of Kenya, enemies of progress and enemies of humanity. The death of Pinto was not of a lone Asian but the death of a great nationalist, a great freedom fighter and a true socialist who did not hesitate to share with his friends whatever little he had. In Pio’s death Kenya suffered an incomparable loss because Pio was one of the very few people in the world who are prepared to do everything without expecting any reward. It will take many years if at all, for this gap to be filled.

In conclusion I must console all Pio’s friends, his family and myself by the fact that although Pio is dead, what he stood for, his beliefs, principles and the teachings of his actual life will live forever. Pio Gama Pinto’s name will rank with that of the great leaders of our country. May we continue to follow his example. I console myself with the fact that Pio’s principles cannot be killed by the assassin’s bullets.


Minister of Information and Broadcasting

I first met Pinto in 1951 when he was working for the E A Indian National Congress in the Desai Memorial Hall. Later after I was acquitted in the notorious trial in Kitale, I was transferred to Manda Island, off Lamu. Pio was brought there too in 1954. At first we were not allowed to meet except when we went to the sea to empty the camp’s soil buckets. Pio was confined to his own camp away from the rest of us who numbered about two hundred. Being an Asian he was given a special ration of dhal, rice, wheat, edible oil, salt and meat twice a week. Whenever there was a chance Pio shared this with us. He organized football and other sports.

At first we thought that Pio would obtain his release by co-operating with the authorities as so many others had. But he stuck by our beliefs and policies. After much battling with the Nairobi authorities, Pio was allowed to receive letters from his wife and reply once a month but all letters were censored. Whatever he received from home he shared with us. To stop him from quickly giving away everything I elected to be ‘treasurer’ for the little amounts received. On the day of his release we found he had no shoes because he had given his away to those who were released earlier. He tried on mine but decided not to take them saying, ‘you see Ramogi, no one will notice my bare feet whereas you would shock so many if you were released without shoes.’


To supplement our meager diet we used to trap porcupines, wild pig and turtles and Pio took part in skinning and preparing the food. One of our comrades stitched shirts and trousers for us, entirely by hand. Pio wore these even after he was released until they fell apart.

During detention on Manda Island there came a time when the colonial authorities had begun to engineer confusion in the camp in order to demoralize us. We realized that if we did not organize counter measures and propaganda many of us would be wrecked. Mbiyu Koinange, Mwinga Chokwe, J D Kali, Pio and myself therefore started a counter propaganda move. Pio was one of the editors and played a big role in a well organized network. It was his job to dish out information to the lower camp by word of mouth to our own propagandists. They started “word of mouth” news to raise consciousness about the freedom struggle and with this managed to increase the prisoners’ fervour for this struggle. To the astonishment and surprise of the Camp Administration the morale of the detainees was restored and we remained hard and unpenetrable.

J D Kali

Member of Parliament and Trade Unionist

Pinto had many friends among the present Members of Parliament, friendships which began years ago. He was appointed by them to act as their secretary during the last general elections campaign. One of his main jobs was to draft campaign slogans and print them. Pio even took it upon himself to display them all over Nairobi. Most often he stuck the posters at the dead of night. One of the most interesting of those posters was the ‘Congo’ poster. He printed posters and pamphlets for KAU candidates all over the country.

This is why even before he became a Member of Parliament, the KANU parliamentary group nominated him and finally elected him as a non-African member to the Central Legislative Assembly. He was picked out of several African candidates. When a vacancy occurred of a Specially Elected Seat in Parliament, a group of KANU parliamentarians asked Pinto to apply. The competition was stiff but we were elated when he won the seat. He was an active member of the Back-Benchers Group. It met regularly and Pinto was never absent. He became its publicity secretary, took notes and kept everyone informed.

J Dennis Akumu

Deputy Secretary-General, COTU

The name of Pio was known to me many years before I met him, as early as 1952-53 when I was still a student at the Medical Training School. He was already known to us by name as one of the few outspoken Kenyan nationalists among Asians.

Pio was detained during the Emergency because of his nationalist support of the masses and because of the role he played in the formation of the anti-imperialist East Africa Trade Union Congress, which was later banned. Pio made many suggestions on ways and means of reorganizing our unions thereby making them not only stronger but effective instruments for hastening political and economic independence.

We agreed with Pinto that the attainment of economic independence would be impossible as long as our trade unions remained dominated by the ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) which is an agency of the same power which dominated our country politically and economically. Ottenyo, Mak’Anyengo, Wachira and some others were with us.

In 1964 we decided to form our own Federation which was to be non-aligned but Pan-African in outlook. Our first Federation, the Kenya Federation of Progressive Trade Unions, was not registered because the registering authority had a vested interest.

We therefore formed another organization, this time we called it the Kenya African Workers Congress. By this time workers were supporting the Congress en mass and Pio had arranged for us to renew our friendship with Brother Tettegah, the Secretary General of the All African Trade Union Federation. The issue thus became a continental one. Pio also organised a number of Members of Parliament to back us when they too saw the need to have a new non-aligned Trade Union Centre committed to Africa’s unity.

At the beginning of 1965 it became clear to the imperialists that we were determined. In a desperate attempt to hold things back, Congress supporters were intimidated and victimized by employers and finally the cold-blooded imperialists laid their hands on Pio. We were all shocked by the brutality of the imperialists, but far from discouraging or frightening us, if anything, this only strengthened us and made us even more determined. Imperialists and their stooges will never destroy Pio’s work. Pio’s determined stand for the cause, the fact that he knew of the imperialist plot against him, but remained fearless, will not be forgotten. Pio remains a great inspiration to us all.

Pinto’s publishing work ranged from drafting, writing, printing and distributing not only newspapers but memoranda, publicity materials, posters, press and other statements. He also realized the importance of developing nationality culture and languages, as these were always anti-imperialist. He thus promoted his own nationality language and culture which was Goan. He also published a paper Uzwod (Spark) which took an anti-imperialist line.

FITZ de souza

Deputy Speaker, National Assembly

My train arrived at Nairobi Railway Station at 8.00 a.m. in February 1952, I was returning after five years as a student in the UK. There was no one to receive me as my parents lived at Magadi. I walked to the office of the E A Indian National Congress in the Desai Memorial Hall in Victoria Street.

I had never met Pio but his welcome was very warm. I felt I had somehow known him for years. We immediately started discussing the problems of East Africa and how we could help in the struggle for independence. We had much in common. To begin with we were both penniless and terribly dressed. We were at ease with one another, and our ideas of independence and socialism were similar.


At about 6.30 p.m. he asked me what I was doing about accommodation. He invited me to stay with him and I readily accepted. He shared a small room with three others in Pangani in a house run as a ‘mess’ by a large number of his friends. He insisted on giving me his bed and slept on the floor for the next few days until I went to Magadi.

History will record that Pio had a hand in the preparation of most of the memoranda and statements issued by KAU in those days. He often used to sit up to 5 a.m. in the East Africa Trade Union Congress office drafting political papers in the nationalist cause. A couple of years later when he was the editor of the Daily Chronicle, the Royal Commission on Land asked for evidence and there was no one to put forward the African case, for most leaders were in detention (or in the forest). Pio resigned his job and for three months read through the voluminous Carter Commission Report and other documents on the land issue and took statements from Gikuyu elders and others. He then wrote out and personally typed and cyclostyled, always working into the early hours of the morning, the 200-page Memorandum as well as memoranda for other Mbaris in the Central Province.

One day Pio suggested that we should do something in East Africa to assist in the liberation of Goa. I was a little surprised and told him that while I was very sympathetic to the liberation of Goa, and indeed of the rest of the world, I thought that we were East Africans and should confine our activities to East Africa. We might dissipate our slender resources and there was also the risk of being misunderstood, even by our friends. He explained that as socialists it was our duty to assist all liberation fronts. Even if we did not now consider ourselves Goans we had names such as De Souza, and Pinto which could be used with some effect. Portuguese colonialism was as bad as any other. The Goan organizations in East Africa were being used by the Portuguese whose constant propaganda was that Goans overseas – even the educated ones – supported the regime and were happy with the Portuguese. Pio had already started a Konkni paper in Nairobi, the Uzwod, to arouse feelings against Portuguese imperialism. Unfortunately he was arrested but his brother Rosario formed the E A Goan National Association in 1954, J M Nazareth was the president. The organization was banned by the British colonialists but the work continued and we were pleasantly surprised at the great amount of support we had, particularly from educated Goans. Contacts made with organizations and individuals in London, Bombay and Goa flourished. As usual, we were labeled as ‘Communists’ as that was the easiest way to get us suppressed.

In 1960, only a few months after he was released, Pio formed the East African Goa League. In May 1961, a delegation from the Goa Asleram arrived in Kenya. Largely under the pretext of singing Goan songs and reciting Goan literature, they instilled some form of self-respect and dignity into East African Goans, many of whom had hitherto been loyal and servile servants of the British Crown. They were amazingly successful. At this time Pio led a delegation to see Mzee Kenyatta at Maralal. The Government had persistently refused him permission to see Kenyatta, but allowed an E A Goan League delegation to visit him without asking for the names of the members of the delegation, and was quite shocked when Pio arrived at Maralal as the leader!


Hon. Tom Mboya, general secretary of KANU, and Hon. Mwinga Chokwe, coast chairman of KANU, accepted an invitation from the Goa Asleram in Bombay to visit India and speak to Goan organizations about Goan emancipation. Mboya’s forthright speech at Delhi telling India and its government that it hardly had a right to attempt to liberate Africa when it was afraid to liquidate Portuguese colonies within its own country made a deep impression on Pandit Nehru and influenced his decision to liberate Goa.

Pandit Nehru then organised an international seminar on Portuguese colonialism. Perhaps his mind was already made up to liberate Goa- he was testing reaction among friends. Among those who attended were Kenneth Kaunda from Zambia, Nsilo Swai from Tanzania, Pio Pinto and his brother Rosario. All the delegates urged military intervention to liberate Goa. Pio was particularly active and passionate in canvassing support for the liberation of Goa as a start to crack the bastion of Portuguese imperialism everywhere. Pio and Chokwe even offered to organize an international volunteer brigade to assist but this was not necessary. Goa was liberated by the Indian army. The cowardly Portuguese just fled. Hardly a shot was fired.

Pio then went to New Delhi and discussed Goa with Pandit Nehru and officials of the Indian Government. He took advantage of the opportunity to ask Pandit Nehru for assistance to start a nationalist paper in Kenya. Panditji gave him funds with which Pio began the Pan African Press Ltd which published Sauti Ya Mwafrika, Pan Africa and the Nyanza Times.

Pio, his brother Rosario, Peter Carvalho and I were invited to take part in the victory celebrations. Pio met many old veterans of the campaign – whom he had not seen since he left India in 1947. Most of them begged him to return to India as they wanted him to be their leader, but he declined. He said he was born in Kenya and Kenya was his home. While he still had a soft spot for Goa and India, Kenya would be the home where he would work and die.

Back in Kenya, he worked on the launching of movements for the liberation of Angola and Mozambique. In 1962, with Chokwe, he formed the Mozambique African National Union in Mombasa. Many of the delegates to the inaugural meeting had traveled hundreds of miles to be present. But the British government banned the organization and it went underground, but Pio had formed valuable contacts with Mozambique nationalists. Later he worked very closely with FRELIMO and the Committee of Nine of the OAU and often visited Dar es Salaam to assist them. A few weeks before he was assassinated he told me that his ambition was to resign his seat in Parliament and retire to Lindi or Mtwara on the Mozambique border to assist the freedom fighters actively. His friends would not let him go – they argued that he was needed here. He never lived to help the struggle in Mozambique. But he died with his boots on.

Romesh chandra

Journalist, New Age (Delhi newspaper)

There is mourning in Kenya. One of her sons is no more, one of the fighters who helped to win independence for Kenya lies buried under the soil he loved so dearly. Every time we talked, Pio spoke of the need to beware of the imperialists. Yes, he would say, we are marching forward, more and more countries are becoming independent, but be vigilant, for the imperialists have not been liquidated – they are here, striving to come back, to divide us. Throughout his life there was no compromise; no abandonment of principles, no weakening of resolve. And precisely because of this tireless exposure of imperialism, his passionate crusade against neo-colonialism – the imperialists killed Pio Pinto. They shot him at point blank range near his home. The cowards who killed him, fired in the dark. But Pio’s indomitable spirit lives. It lives in the work of the many brave young Kenyans, who had been inspired by his work, by the enthusiasm for the building of a socialist Africa which he always had.


Minister for Works

I first met Pio Gama Pinto in 1950 when he worked as part-time secretary for the E A Indian National Congress. Pio was youthful and energetic. He darted like an antelope between his office in Victoria Street and the trade union office in Kiburi House in Grogan Road to keep up the morale of the people. His ability to make friends was immeasurable and many were surprised and asked why this young Indian should concern himself with the affairs of the underdog.

Pio joined the staff of a small organization and started whipping up public opinion in favour of the African. He enlisted the help of D K Sharda who had a small lino-press and got him to print various vernacular papers.

That was not enough for Pio. He gathered some young Asians from colleges like Fitz de Souza, a few European progressives and some civil servants like Peter Wright to form a caucus. The main aim was to have our political party reorganized with people like J D Kali, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei and others and enlist the support of the Indian High Commission through its representative, Appa Saheb Pant. The situation was tense but Pio appeared at every session and invariably everywhere. He never hesitated to go into the reserves to meet old men like the late George Ndegwa Kirongothi in Kiambu, John Adala of Kakamega and Gideon Riber

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