Pio Gama Pinto

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Pio Gama Pinto (31 March 1927 – 24 February 1965) was a Kenyan journalist, politician and freedom fighter. He was a socialist leader who dedicated his life to the liberation of the Kenyan people and became independent Kenya's first martyr in 1965.[1]

Early years[edit]

Pinto was born in Nairobi on 31 March 1927 to a Kenyan Asian family of Konkani Goan Catholic descent. Born to immigrant Goan parents hailing from the Indian states of Goa and Maharashtra, his father was an official in the colonial government of Kenya while his mother was a housewife.[2] At age eight, he was sent to India for his education and spent the next nine years there, passing his matriculation exams at St. Joseph's High School, Arpora and then studying science at Karnatak College, Dharwar for two years before joining the Indian Air Force in 1944 as an apprentice ground engineer. He then took up a job in the Posts and Telegraph office in Bombay, participated in a general strike and became a founding member of the Goa National Congress whose aim was the liberation of Goa from Portuguese rule.[3] When only seventeen, he started an agitation in Bombay against the Portuguese colonial occupation of Goa.[2] His political activism soon made it necessary for him to return to Kenya to avoid being arrested and deported to the Tarrafal concentration camp in Cape Verde.

Political career[edit]

In 1949 Pinto returned to Kenya and, after a succession of clerical jobs, became involved in local politics aimed at overthrowing British colonial rule in Kenya. He turned to journalism and worked with the Colonial Times and the Daily Chronicle. In 1954, five months after his marriage to Emma Dias, he was rounded up in the notorious Operation Anvil and spent the next four years in detention on Manda Island. He was kept in confinement from early 1958 until October 1959 at Kabarnet.[4]

In 1960 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.[3][5] Pinto played an active role in campaigning for KANU during the 1961 elections which it won. In 1963 he was elected a Member of the Central Legislative Assembly and in July 1964 was appointed a Specially Elected Member of the House of Representatives.[6] He worked to establish the Lumumba Institute in 1964 to train KANU party officials.[3]


In Nairobi, on 24 February 1965, Pinto was shot at very close range in the driveway while waiting for the gate to open.[2][7] He was with his daughter in his car at the time of his killing. Kisilu Mutua was arrested for the killing. Pinto became the first Kenyan politician to be assassinated after Independence. At the time of his assassination, Pinto was 38. He was survived by his wife, Emma and his three daughters Linda, Malusha and Tereshka. Two years after the assassination, Emma and her daughters migrated to Canada.[4] Different theories have been forwarded about the assassination with some suggesting that Pinto was killed by Jomo Kenyatta's men and others seeing Pinto's assassination as the extermination of an avowed Communist with links to the Mozambican liberation movement by neocolonial forces.[8] When Mutua, convicted for the murder of Pinto, was released after 35 years in prison through a presidential pardon by President Daniel Arap Moi, Mutua insisted on his innocence and called for thorough investigations to identify Pinto's true assassins.[9][10]

Posthumous commemoration[edit]

After his death, Pio Pinto's colleagues established a Pinto Trust Fund to help his widow and family to which leftist governments such as those of China and Tanzania contributed.[11] In September 1965, Mrs. Emma Gama Pinto was invited to Santiago, Chile, to receive a posthumous prize awarded to her husband by the International Organisation of Journalists for his contribution in journalism to the liberation of African countries from foreign domination and exploitation.[12] In 2008, Kenya released a series of four stamps titled Heroes of Kenya, one of which depicted Pinto.[4]


  1. ^ "Pinto, Pio Gama (1927–1965)". Blackwell Reference Online. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Vaz, J. Clement (1997). Profiles of Eminent Goans, Past and Present. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 241. ISBN 9788170226192.
  3. ^ a b c "Pio Gama Pinto - Independant [sic] Kenya's First Marytr". Awaaz Magazine. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Mrs Emma Gama Pinto". Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  5. ^ Meusburger, Peter (2011). Knowledge and Space: Cultural Memories: the Geographical Point of View. Heidelberg: Springer. p. 318.
  6. ^ "Pio Gama Pinto (1927–1965)". Safari Africa Radio. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  7. ^ "Pinto, Pio Gama", in Historical Dictionary of Kenya, Robert M. Maxon and Thomas P. Ofcansky, eds. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) pp287-288
  8. ^ Cohen, David William (2004). The Risks of Knowledge: Investigations Into the Death of the Hon. Minister John Robert Ouko. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780821415986.
  9. ^ "Kenyan freed after 35 years". BBC. 5 July 2001. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  10. ^ "RIGHTS-KENYA: Tasting New Life after 36 Years in Jail". Inter Press Service News Agency. July 11, 2001. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  11. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2010). Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era. Dar es Salaam: New Africa Press. p. 573. ISBN 9780980253412.
  12. ^ Vaz, J. Clement (1997). Profiles of Eminent Goans, Past and Present. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 243. ISBN 9788170226192.