Antonio Rudolfo Jose Pio Gama Pinto was born on 31 March 1927.
31 March 1927 - 24 February 1965
Tributes: Extracts from 1966 booklet published by the PanAfrican Press Ltd
Antonio Rudolfo Jose Pio Gama Pinto was born on 31 March 1927.
General Politics by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Vice-President of Kenya:
Pio was a solid Kenyan patriot … His assassination leaves a gap in our struggle for complete freedom that few men – none that I know – can fill. He had immense organisation powers … He petitioned his solicitor friends to take up political cases when no money was forthcoming. When the men in the forest required support he sent money and arms secretly. He knew the consequences if he was caught in these fields of activity – detention or even death – but nothing could stop him … Pio was a dedicated and intelligent socialist, and worked for Kenya to advance its social and economic system for the benefit of the masses.
An Appreciation by Joseph Murumbi, Foreign Minister.
Pio was a keen and popular Parliamentarian both in the House of Representatives and in the Central Legislative Assembly … he did his home-work meticulously for every session, working into the early hours of the morning preparing for it. He never refused to help a friend with correspondence. He was a prolific writer … The host of mourners, European, Asian and African who attended his funeral is a testimony that Pio had many friends who loved him.
A Friend by Bildad Kaggia, Member of Parliament
Pio’s principles cannot be killed by the assassin’s bullets … I can never forget his help to me and any other African politicians when we decided to run our own newspapers to fight the colonial newspaper monopoly. … In the early years of Kenya Trade Unionism, Pio acted as advisor and gave practical help to every Union to establish sound Trade Union principles and practises … 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 … Pio was the only politician I know who has done so much to get others into positions without looking for one himself. It was I and other friends who persuaded him to contest the Central Legislative Assembly and Specially Elected Member seats; which he won.
A Nationalist and Socialist …… by Burundi Nabwera, Kenya’s Delegate to the United Nations and Ambassador to the USA
Apart from managing the Pan African Press, he helped with party organisation, gave advice to small businessmen and farmers who came to him, and visited as many Ministries as he could fit in. He usually had working luncheons whenever he had any at all. His second quality was that he was not a text book intellectual. He relied very heavily on his native intelligence. Most of his ideas were based on common sense. By and large he preferred a pragmatic approach to solving problems. Thirdly, Pio was one of the most generous human beings that I have ever known … He tried to help everyone. If he had any money to spare he kept it for his needy friends who came from rural areas and the so–called political refugees who were frequent visitors to Nairobi.
From my dealings with him I noticed that he had a special love for the masses of our people and particularly the ex-detainees … Pio saw Kenya’s development as mainly linked with that of the rest of East Africa. But he was intelligent enough to understand that what was required for Kenya was the establishment of a mixed economy. He could never have advocated wholesale nationalism. He knew that this would have been impossible because for one thing there was not very much to nationalise, and for another the local people with managerial know-how was woefully small. For Kenya, he wanted to see the Government play a major role in economic and social reconstruction … His concern about the lot of ordinary people was that we must try and build a society where differences in wealth should not penalise the poor.
The best memorial for Pio, on this first anniversary of his death, should be for us to re-examine some of his ideas and see how best they could be implemented.
Detention Days by Ramogi Achieng Oneko, Minister for Information and Broadcasting
I first met Pio when he was working for the then EA Indian National Congress at Desai Memorial Building in 1951, but at the same time was associated with the Kenya African Union Movement … He put himself second to the nation in everything he thought and did … I had been transferred to Manda Island off Lamu after my acquittal in the notorious trial in the Supreme Court at Kitale. This inhospitable island was considered by the British administration to be the most suitable place for the ‘hard-core’ and ‘incorrigible’ detainees … Pio was a good athlete … he persuaded the Camp Authorities to organise football matches 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. Whatever Pio 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.
There came a time when almost everyone was giving in, and murmuring started in the camp. The Authorities had begun to engineer confusion in the camp in order to demoralise us. Therefore, the Top Group, that is Mbiyu Koinange, now Member of the Senate, Muinga Chokwe, now Speaker of the Senate, JD Kali, now Member of Parliament, Pio and myself started a counter Propaganda move. Pio was one of the ‘editors’ and played a big role in a well organised network. It was his job to dish out information to the Lower Camp by word of mouth to our own propagandists … the morale of the detainees was restored and we remained hard and un-penetrable but reasonable. Pio was never bitter on his release. We felt proud of our activities and had great hopes for [the] future of our country.
In Parliament by JD Kali, Member of Parliament
I can write pages and pages on Pio Gama Pinto, having been with him for so many years, but I am only going to confine myself to a brief account on his Parliamentary activities … He was appointed by them [the MPs] 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 … The Back Benchers’ Group used to be very active. It met regularly and Mr Pinto was never absent and he always took notes of the meetings to keep everyone informed on the up-to-date activities of the Back Benchers.
In Memoriam by John K Tettegah, Secretary-General of All African Trade Union Fed.
An African patriot had been foully murdered in broad daylight by assassins who had sold their own conscience and their countrymen. Kenya-and all Africa-was the poorer … Not only did he impress me as a dedicated fighter, heart and soul with us; he inspired me. He revitalised my energy and influenced me to even greater zeal in the arduous task of reconstructing our colonialist-burdened continent … he continued to impress upon me that I should not forget the comrades in Kenya. Africa, he said, must give them all the assistance possible to ensure that Kenya takes the road to socialism.
Trade Union by J Dennis Akumu, Deputy Secretary-General Central Org. Trade Unions.
He [Pinto] together with people like Makhan Singh, Chege Kibachia, Fred Kubai and Aggrey Minya can never be forgotten when the History of the Trade Union movement is being discussed. When Pio was released I met him for the first time in Mombasa. He met the dockworkers who admired his role in the struggle and he in turn told them that the struggle would never be over until we achieved economic liberation … Pio made many suggestions on ways and means of reorganising our Unions thereby making them not only stronger but effective instruments for hastening political and economic independence … When in 1964 a split became open in the Trade Union movement, 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 organisation, this time we called it The Kenya African Workers Congress. By this time workers were supporting Congress en-mass and Pio had arranged for us to renew our friendship with Brother John Tettegah of the Ghana Trade Union Congress, also the Secretary-General of the All African Trade Unions Federation … At the beginning of 1965 it became
clear to the imperialists that we were determined. With Pio having organised the Members of Parliament and having made the issue a continental one by renewing our relationship with Brother Tettegah and knowing President Kenyatta’s stand for the unity of Africa, the opposing organisation knew that our battle was half won …
Goa’s Liberation by Dr FRS De Souza, Member of Parliament
He [Pinto] 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 … Pio had a hand in the preparation of most of the memoranda and statements issued by KAU in those days. For all this he never expected payment. The Royal Commission on Land asked for evidence … Pio resigned his job, read through the voluminous Carter Commission Report, took statements from Kikuyu Elders, wrote out and personally typed and cyclostyled the 200-page Kikuyu Tribe’s Memorandum … I sent a copy of this Memorandum to the President at Lodwar. He was so impressed that he suggested we publish the Memorandum.
It was our duty, [Pinto] suggested as socialists to assist all liberation fronts … Portuguese colonialism was as bad as any other … [Pandit Nehru] gave him funds with which Pio began the PAN AFRICAN PRESS LTD. [It] publishes Sauti ya Mwafrika, Pan Africa and the Nyanza Times. Most people believe that the funds for the press came from China in fact the original funds came from India. Now that we are a free country we can tell the world … he died with his boots on.
Son of Africa by Romesh Chandra, Journalist (by courtesy of New Age, Delhi)
I knew that it was he who was among the first in Kenya to launch a full-scale assault on the dangers of neo-colonialism.
Early Days by Muinga Chitari Chokwe, Speaker of Senate
He [Pinto] gathered some young Asians from colleges. Like 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 re- organised … He never hesitated to go into the Reserves to meet old men like the late George Ndengwa Kirongothi in Kiambu, John Adala of Kakamega and Gideon Riber of Rabai …
Dinesh Singh MP, India in 1975: Pio – Son of India.
A staunch nationalist and a socialist, Pio was second to none in upholding human values. He was active, able and unassuming.
Lord Fenner Brockway (1974) – Pio
We were continuously active to bring peace by recognition of the right of the African people to self-government, and Pio was one of our most dedicated helpers.
Makhan Singh’s broadcast on VOK in Hindustani (1965):
‘[Pinto] worked so hard and so conscientiously that in the course of my own political life I have seen very few persons of that calibre.’
Chinese Ambassador Yu-tien (1965):
To Joseph Murumbi: ‘Mr Pinto stood steadfastly with the Kenyan people in the early days of their struggle for independence. My colleagues and I grieve together with the Kenyan people at his unfortunate death.’
REFLECTIONS OF KENYA’S ORGANIC INTELLECTUALS
Esther Waigumo Njoki:
They lived for others and generations to come and the ball is in our court to ensure that we carry this same spirit until the end. Long live the undying spirit of Pio Gama Pinto!
Because nothing has changed fifty-eight years after independence, it is still upon us to agitate for better treatment of prisoners, most of whom are remand detainees. We need to agitate for faster hearing and sentencing, alternative methods of justice that are not punitive, and eventually, as we set up socialist and communist societies – abolition of prisons.
The spark that Pio Gama Pinto bore today inspires a new generation of social justice activists such as Mathare Social Justice Centre, which continues with the struggle of Mau Mau and of the ambitions of Pio Gama Pinto.
The workers and youths of today must question the direction the county has taken since independence and use the great historical experiences to advance the working people’s vision of Socialism.
We must understand that Uhuru must truly mean freedom for the people to be free of exploitation and poverty. Uhuru must be Uhuru for the masses.
The quality of life is not measured by the number of years one lives but the impact one makes. His political life was short spanning about 17 years yet was very impactful; and we continue to enjoy some of his fruits till this day.
His deep concern about ordinary people made him envision a society where a human being could not be penalized for being underprivileged.
My first visit to his grave site was heart breaking because for a cadre who played an instrumental role in the liberation struggle his memory and grave have been neglected.
Oftentimes I wonder to myself, what would the present Kenya look like had Pinto’s ideas and dreams for Kenya materialized? That image, of a beautiful country, with equity and social justice, fuels my patriotism always.