Early Days
by Muinga Chitari Chokwe, Speaker of Senate

I FIRST met Pio Gama Pinto ill 1950 when he worked for an Indian organization called the East African Indian National Congress which had its offices in Desai Memorial Hall, Victoria Street. He was employed there as a part-time secretary. During those times the Trade Unions were gaining momentum and Mr. Makhan Singh was prominent. However, Makhan Singh was quickly disposed off by the regime for allegedly having admitted being a communist. The Printers Union had been associated with Mr. Makhan Singh and therefore became a little frightened, but the Nairobi Taxi Drivers' Union was very active.

Pio was youthful and energetic. He darted like an antelope between his office in Victoria Street and the Union Offices 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 under-dog. We were considered sub-citizens at a time when the Settler community kept up a hue and cry over "black nationalism".




With ex-Detainee Colleagues: J. D, Kali, Kungu Karuma, Paul Ngei and Muinga Chokwe.



To them this was synonymous with communism! Pio joined the staff of a small newspaper organization and started whipping up public opinion in favour of the African. Pio enlisted the help of Mr. D. K. Sharda who had a small lino-press and got him to print various vernacular papers. Bildad Kaggia with his "Inoro ria Gikuyu" strengthened the armada of vernacular opinions against the imperialist papers like the "Comment" and the "Kenya Weekly News".

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 re-organised with people like J. D. Kali, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei and others. Through the caucus we sent memoranda to the Colonial Secretary in Britain, and whipped up support through the Indian High Commissioner, Apa Pant. Indeed 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 of Rabai. In short, his drive was such that it acted like an intoxicant on those exposed to it. The Special Branch was busy tracking him, and all trade unionists were black-listed.

People in Mombasa used to say that but for his colour they would have thought him to be my brother. Such was Pio's nationalist fervour. The pendulum of momentum swung from Desai Memorial Hall to Kiburi House throughout the time Pio was in action. In 1952 when the Emergency was declared, Pio was left like an orphan but within two years he joined us in detention on Manda Island. He was detained because he was popular with the terrorists in the forest even though his role was to try and bring the dissident factions to a conference with the Settler Group.

To my knowledge, Pio remained a true nationalist throughout and therefore his assassination will never be understood. If the murder was to avenge the zeal against the imperialist forces, then there are many more of us willing to meet death.