Antonio Rudolfo Jose Pio Gama Pinto was born on 31 March 1927.

31 March 1927 - 24 February 1965


Pinto in the driving seat waited for the gate to be opened, assassins riddled him with bullets

‘If He Has Been Extinguished Yet There Arise A Thousand Beacons From The Spark He Bore.’

Inscription on Pio Gama Pinto’s tomb stone

Since independence, a serious ideological rift had developed between the KANU-KADU rightists allied to the neo-colonialists and the anti-imperialist, people-orientated leftist/socialist group.

Pinto’s detractors labelled him as a ‘leftist firebrand out to oust Kenyatta’ and were alarmed at the establishment of:

  • The worker dominated trade union, KAWC (Kenya African Workers Congress) and its affiliation to the AATUF (All Africa Trade Union Federation).
  • The Lumumba Institute objective of forming a truly democratic, people-led and people-orientated governing Party.
  • The May1964 meeting Pinto had arranged in Peking with Chou Enlai, Odinga, Murumbi and himself.
  • The demands for a ceiling on land ownership, more equitable distribution of wealth and just rewards for the Mau Mau freedom fighters.

Matters came to a head with:

  • The confirmed information that the British Government had given £12m to Kenya to rehabilitate the freedom fighters; but the money was never disbursed.
  • The Sessional Paper No 10 on African Socialism prepared by Tom Mboya and an American political economist was to be presented by Jomo Kenyatta to Parliament on 29 April 1965.

A secret conclave whose rapporteur and master-mind was Pinto, held at the Lumumba Institute was chaired by Jaramogi Odinga; others in the group were Kaggia, Oneko, Akumu, Wariithi, Mak’Anyengo and Kali. With Tom Okello-Odongo, they had prepared their own blueprint on African Socialism and planned to launch it on the same day. The progressive group controlled 98 of the 158 votes in Parliament so this could have led to the fall of the Kenyatta-led Government. In February 1965, Intelligence informed Kenyatta that the plot could succeed. Pinto had to be eliminated.

Pinto had become very vexed and vocal about the grabbing of white-owned farms by Kenyatta and the Kikuyus within the Independence land deal; a CIA operative had befriended the unsuspecting Pinto and gained easy access to his home and family.

One February afternoon in a Parliament venue, Kenyatta and Pinto engaged in a very public shouting match with a furious Pinto yelling, “I’ll fix you”. Dr Fitz de Souza pulled Pinto away and warned him to be extra careful, saying: ‘We are just Muhindis, we have no support in our community, and none outside it.’

Odinga personally picked up Pinto and drove him to a beach house at the Coast for safety. Murumbi dropped in and assured Pinto that he would intervene with Kenyatta on his behalf. Pinto returned to Nairobi on the train. Cheche, Pinto’s close friend and bodyguard, alerted him about his safety; but Pinto continued his project of identifying the European farms for sale.

The Pinto family lived in a small house in Lower Kabete Road in Westlands bought with funds raised by de Souza. Now demolished, the road leading to it beside Sarit Centre has been renamed ‘Pio Gama Pinto Road’.

On early Wednesday morning on 24 February 1965, Pinto drove his wife Emma to her office at the Ministry of Information, she was personal secretary to the Minister for Information, Achieng Oneko. He returned home for a quick breakfast and to play with his three daughters. For 18-month-old Tereshka he had a special treat – a short ride in their Saab KHW 363 car along the driveway to the gate. Pinto in the driving seat waited for the gate to be opened, assassins riddled him with bullets while the little girl crouched in wild-eyed terror in the back seat.

Horrified neighbours called the police and a major man-hunt was launched for the killers. Questions abound: Why kill in broad daylight? Why was the lower end of Lower Kabete Road blocked off and the traffic stopped on the day of the murder? Why was the gate to Pinto’s residence closed when he was due to leave for work?

On that very night, Pinto’s close comrades, Pranlal Sheth and Sarjit Singh Heyer, in good faith, burned all his books, writings, papers and other documents in a bonfire they lit at the back of Pinto’s house. This included correspondence to prominent African leaders such as Nkrumah, Obote, Nyerere, Kaunda and others. The motive remains unknown but it is a great loss to historiography.    

Great leaders of the land and its people mourned Pinto as a brother. The loss of Jaramogi Odinga’s foremost tactical advisor and linkman to Eastern embassies drove an irreparable dent into future political strategies.

In 1966, a booklet published by the Pan African Press Ltd captured Pio Gama Pinto’s selfless-ness, his caring for the down-trodden, his universality, his desire for justice and freedom for all human beings, his unbounded capacity for work, his relentless exposure of neo-colonialism, his crusade against imperialism, his journalism, his immense organisational powers and his incredible generosity (he died a pauper).

Many of the eulogies written by prominent nationalists in the 1966 booklet are displayed in this Exhibition, as well as tributes and comments highlighting Pio Gama Pinto’s relevance to Kenya’s politics today.