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
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.