Pio Gama Pinto – A New Document dated 1961

A new document enriches the material on Kenya’s freedom and social justice hero, Pio Gama Pinto. It was discovered recently by Advocate Adeel Haq of Nairobi. The document, ‘a historical snapshot’, as Haq nicely describes it, is a broadsheet entitled ‘LONG LIVE THE FREEDOM OF THE COLONIAL PEOPLE: Long Live the Forces Struggling Against Portuguese Imperialism in Africa and Asia.’ The colony had been ruled by Portugal for the past 450 years. It was issued on the day of the liberation of Goa on 18 December 1961. Pio Gama Pinto is one of the signatories of the group that issued it, who sign themselves ‘Goan Nationalists’.

The statement was among the papers given to Haq by Dr Yusuf Eraj, another Freedom hero and a close associate of Pinto in the freedom struggle in Kenya. Dr Eraj was the medical doctor to whom Pinto always turned when freedom fighters or their families were in need of medical attention. Throughout the Emergency, Dr Eraj’s practice in Pumwani treated patients in need without any charge.

The occasion and purpose of the statement [See Image] was: ‘We, Goan Nationalists, fully support the action taken by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the great Indian statesman and nationalist. His action has the support of not only the vast majority of Goans, both Christian and Hindus, but of the nationalist organizations who are fighting for their liberation in Angola, Mocambique, Guinea and Cabo Verde.’ The drafting carries the unmistakable clarity and eloquence of all of Pio Gama Pinto’s large body of polemic writing: ‘It is typical of their [British and American Governments’] hypocritical approach to the problems of colonial peoples that these two powers should rush to the rescue of the most barbaric and tyrannical regime in the world [Portugal], but should remain practically silent over the massacre of tens of thousands of Angolans and Mocambicans.’  Pio is aware of Nehru having travelled over Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, and of what Nehru had said about fascism and the reason for such silence by the British and the Americans: 

‘Ever since the invasion of Manchuria, and subsequently in Abyssinia, Central Europe, Spain and China, I saw with pain and anguish how country after country was betrayed in the name of this appeasement and how the lamps of liberty were being put out. I realized that imperialism could only function in this way; it had to appease its rival imperialism, or else its own ideological foundations were weakened. It had to choose between this and liquidating itself. There was no middle way.’

Jawaharlal Nehru Statement at his Trial Held in Gorakhpur Prison, 3 November 1940, in The Unity of India : Collected Writings 1937-1940 (London, Lindsay Drummond, 1942) 397.

Those governments were unable to question Pio’s statement. It is to be noted that Pio’s factual bases were always carefully gathered, and there is no known case where Pio failed his cause by giving his colonial enemies the opportunity to find him wrong on the facts, and thereby to bring ridicule on himself and the freedom struggle. It is well to remember that Pio was both a trained, and a long practicing journalist, and a highly professional one.

Pio ends that part of the statement ironically, conveying to those governments that he is aware of their long time self-interested uses of other peoples’ lands: ‘We advise the Governments of these two countries to “lay off” Goa, and sympathize with them in their disappointment that Goa could not be transformed into a NATO base.’

The statement concludes with two calls for solidarity, one international and one local: ‘Finally, we call upon the people of Africa,’ he says, ‘to intensify their struggle against the last remnants of Portuguese fascism and colonialism in Africa. As a first step, Portuguese consulates should be closed, and we call upon the Governments of Kenya and Uganda to follow the example set by that great statesman and patriot Julius Nyerere, Prime Minister of Tanganyika, in giving the “quit Tanganyika” notice to the Portuguese representatives in Tanganyika.’

The local one is: ‘Finally, we call upon all Goans to rejoice in their liberation and in this moment of victory, not to forget those who have, through the ages, fought for their motherland courting death, imprisonment and torture by the Portuguese.’  He had earlier reminded the Goans that, ‘In these 450 years the Goans have risen against their Portuguese colonizers no less than 20 times in major revolts’. These are facts the Portuguese and their friends the British found convenient to erase from Indian history and its peoples’ consciousness. And were active in doing so. Because the example of such resistance to oppression, successful or otherwise, is contagious.

Opposition to Portuguese oppression was a longstanding part of Pio’s political work from beginning to end. One of the chapters in the memorial publication after his death, INDEPENDENT KENYA’S FIRST MARTYR (Nairobi, Pan African Press, 1966), was entitled, and dealt specifically with, ‘Goa’s Liberation.’ It was written by Dr Fitz DeSouza, another close friend. The latter writes of his query about working on foreign issues:

‘One day during our discussions 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 as we were East Africans we 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 a student and young man in India he had taken an active part in the struggle for the liberation of Goa. He had actively assisted in the formation of the Goa National Congress, and had escaped from Goa only when police were searching for him with a warrant to arrest and deport him to an island off West Africa. It was our duty, he suggested, as socialists to assist all liberation fronts. Even if we did not now consider ourselves Goans we had names such as De Souza, Pinto etc. which could be used with some effect. Portuguese colonialism was as bad as any other.’(pp 28-29)

To that end, Pio’s usual audacious approach was in evidence on another occasion. ‘… [I]n 1960, only a few months after his release, Pio formed the East Africa Goan League. This time the Portuguese Government did not succeed in persuading the Kenya Government to ban it. Nationalists were already much stronger in Kenya. Pio then led a delegation to see Mzee Kenyatta at Maralal. The Government had persistently refused him permission to see Mzee Kenyatta. But in 1961 when the East African Goan League applied, they allowed its delegation the visit without asking for the names of the members of the delegation or checking on any connection with Pio. It was quite shocked when Pio arrived at Maralal as the leader!’ (Ibid, p 31). Alongside is the photograph of Pio Gama Pinto visiting Jomo Kenyatta in restriction at Maralal on 13.8.1961.

After Goa’s liberation, Pio, his brother Rosario, Peter Carvalho and Fitz were invited to take part in the victory celebrations in Goa. Fitz writes, ‘Pio met many old veterans of the campaign – whom he had not seen since he had left India in 1947. Most of them begged him to return to India. They wanted him to be their leader and it was obvious that he had many friends and a good deal of support wherever he went. 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.’ (Ibid, p 32).

‘Pio then went to New Delhi,’ Fitz continues, ‘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 newspaper in Kenya. Panditji gave him funds, with which Pio began the Pan African Press Ltd, which publishes Sauti ya Mwafrika (of which he was the Editor), Pan Africa and the Nyanza Times. Most people in Kenya believe that the funds for the press came from China. In fact the original funds came from India. Naturally India had to keep quiet about it then (1962). Now that we are a free country we can tell the truth to the world.’ (Ibid, p 32).

The ‘Goan Nationalists’ who signed the Statement were:

Dr A Da Costa :    TO   BE   COMPLETED.

Dr E De Souza:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.

Hon. Dr F R S De Souza: Fitz was then a Member of the Legislative Council (M.L.C.) but the following year would become an elected member of the National Assembly, and its Deputy Speaker (1963-1969).

R Gama Pinto: Rosario Gama Pinto was the younger brother of Pio Gama Pinto.

Tony Lopez:        TO   BE   COMPLETED.

Peter Carvalho:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.

Sam Moraes:       TO   BE   COMPLETED.

P A M  Rebello:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.

J M Nazareth Q.C.: A very senior and highly respected advocate since 1935, a Queen’s Counsel and a Member of the Legislative Council (M.L.C.). Born in _____, educated in Bombay (St Xavier’s College) and a prizewinning barrister of the Inner Temple (1933).

P G Pinto: Pio Gama Pinto, freedom hero. He had been detained (1954-1959) during the Mau Mau Emergency at Takwa Security Camp on Manda Island and at Kabarnet.  He was soon to become a Member of Parliament. He was assassinated on 24 February 1965.

S Rebello:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.

A Gomes:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.

J Rodrigues: Jawaharlal Rodrigues, Kenyan nationalist, was a senior and influential journalist, former Assistant Editor of the Times of India in Bombay, India, and after coming to Kenya as editor of the Daily Chronicle, soon in 1964, to become the Chief Editor of the Daily Nation and of the Nation Group of Newspapers.

S R D’Souza:   TO   BE   COMPLETED.


  • A Senior Counsel, is a human rights lawyer and author of Pio Gama Pinto: Patriot for Social Justice (Nairobi, Longhorn/Sasa Sema Books, 2007).