In a time when everyone who resembled the colonial race was considered a threat to freedom fighters in Africa and in particular to Kenya’s freedom fighters, Pio Gama Pinto Kenya's first martyr Journalist, freedom fighter, and political activist, of an Asian decent won the Kenyan hearts.
Born in Kenya on March 31 1927, Pinto was a self confessed socialist who dedicated his life to liberation and justice for the Kenyan people.
During the colonial era, Pio’s close relationship and association with the freedom fighters opposed to the British rule would land him several years in detention and torture, a thing that made him stronger and even brave to identify himself with the militant Kenyan politics. By 1952, he was the only non-African who had the confidence of the people and who was always kept up beat with the plans of the underground liberation movements.
Pinto’s journey to activism and liberation of the oppressed began in India where he was studying after leaving Kenya at the tender age of eight years. As most youths would spend time raveling and enjoying their youth Pio was full time indulging in fights for equality and nothing would deter him from seeing colonial rulers respect workers right.
At the of age17 Pio Gama Pinto started agitating against the British Raj in India and for political freedom for Goans. When he took up a job in the Posts and Telegraph office in Bombay, after demobilization, he enthusiastically took part in a general strike and got his first glimpse of mass action and organization.
His activities in Bombay and later in Goa made it imperative for him to leave for Kenya in order to avoid being arrested. His return to Kenya which was under colonial rule then in 1949, after 22 years of stay in India saw Pinto become involved in the local politics aimed at overthrowing colonialism.
Seeing the power mass communication could do in mobilizing people and imposing ideas to them, he turned to journalism and worked with the Colonial Times and the Daily Chronicle.
Through his journalism career, Pio was acclaimed as a patriotic journalist who was able to express and articulate ideas to further his goal of overthrowing colonialism. He participated in the publication of anti government newsletters.
Together with other African and Asian Kenyans, he wrote and published several newspapers and political posters. He would burn out the mid night oil distributing the posters throughout the country and put them up in the middle of the night throughout the city.
For his troubles, the colonialists detained him without trial for a long period, in 1954, five months after his marriage. He was rounded up in the notorious Operation Anvil and spent the next four years in detention on Manda Island. He was kept in restriction from early 1958 until October 1959 at the remote Kabarnet.
After his release, he fought relentlessly to see Kenyatta freed and in1960, he founded the Kenya African National Union (KANU) newspaper Sauti Ya KANU, and later, Pan African Press, of which he subsequently became Director and Secretary. He was actively involved in the 1961 Elections to make KANU victorious and, in 1963, was elected a Member of the Central Legislative Assembly. In July 1964, he was appointed a Specially Elected Member of the House of Representatives.
However it was believed that the parliamentary coup plotted by Pinto and his radical socialist friends against Kenyatta and his clique of Kanu-Kadu rightists who had moved closer to the neo-colonialists and his demand to ceiling on land ownership, a more equitable distribution of wealth and just rewards for the Mau Mau freedom fighters nailed the last nail to his coffin.
Pinto was shot down at close range on the driveway while waiting for the gate to open at the Reef home in Westlands on February 25, 1965. At the time of his assassination, Pinto left his wife, and three kids.
The mysterious death of Pinto was not was a death of a great nationalist, a great freedom fighter and a true socialist who did not hesitate to share with his friends whatever little he had.