What a Joyful Celebration of Pio Pinto! Mar 9, 2015 16:06:36 GMT 3
Post by Onyango Oloo on Mar 9, 2015 16:06:36 GMT 3
Pinto 50 Years On,
The event held at the Mazingira Institute here in Nairobi on the afternoon of Saturday, March 7, 2015 to reflect, remember, reaffirm and celebrate the life and times of Pio da Gama Pinto, the modest, courageous, determined and brilliant Kenyan political strategist, organizer and socialist, exceeded all our expectations.
We were thrilled by the turn out; intrigued by the cerebral, insightful and revealing reflections from the distinguished panelists who included Gitu wa Kahengeri, Zarina Patel, Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga, Firoze Manji, Davinder Lamba and Pheroze Nowrojee. Dr Ongong'a Achieng', son of the legendary Mzalendo Achieng' Oneko unfortunately could not make it because he fell ill at the last minute.
The session was moderated by one of the parents of Kenyan constitutional reform, the distinguished lawyer, Prof. Yash Pal Ghai.
Pio's confidant and friend, the veteran lawyer and nationalist,
Fitz de Souza, who was the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly when Kenya achieved independence, spoke to the participants despite the heavy strain showing up had on him-with his lucid memory he reminded us of who Pinto was and what he stood for.
Dr.Muthoni Likimani, one of Kenya's well known writers and a former Mau Mau detainee in her own right looked very strong, alert and sprightly and many were surprised when she revealed that she was almost ninety years old. It was a diverse multi-racial, multi-ethnic crowd and amidst the grey hair were lots of youthful faces.
Alan Donovan, the American-Kenyanco-founder of the African Heritage Pan African Galleries, and Chair of the Joe and Sheila Murumbi Trust, there.
Murumbi, Kenya's second Vice-President (of mixed Maasai and Goan heritage), a dedicated fierce and progressive nationalist, who served the shortest stint as the second most powerful politician in Kenya's history, was a close friend and comrade of Pio Gama Pinto. For more on Murumbi, see here.
Other heroes of the Kenyan struggle who showed up included
Elizabeth Orchardson Mazrui,
Prof. Edward Oyugi and the
Rev. Timothy Njoya, to name just three.
Out attention was riveted when
rose to greet the crowd.
Kisilu now 71, who at age twenty one, was plucked from the backstreets of Nairobi on February 24, 1965, tortured at Pangani Police Station under the supervision of the notorious and unlamented late senior policeman Patrick Shaw and railroaded to the gallows after a kangaroo trial. He was falsely accused to be one of Pinto's killers before being sentenced to death. This was later commuted to life which he served at Kamiti, Shimo-la-Tewa and Naivasha maximum penitentiaries. He was ultimately released after serving thirty six years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Ironically, Kisilu Mutua was the very first person to show up at Mazingira-arriving at 10 am, five hours before the event was set to kick off. He broke down in the process of speaking, so choked up with all those painful memories he has endured for fifty years.
We are grateful for Muzzafar Khan, the Co-Chair of the Asian-African Heritage Trust and Ebrahim Sodha, a Kenyan who now lives in the UK for the fascinating snapshots taken from the event and later uploaded to the blog,Friends of Mombasa.
. Please go to Friends of Mombasa to view the images.
Now let me share some of the messages we received before, during and after the event.
Let me start with the immediate members of Pio Gama Pinto's family- some of whom are in Bahrain, Australia and Canada:
First here is
Emma Gama-Pinto, Pio's widow. Her message was read by Pheroze Nowrojee, senior Kenyan human rights lawyer, who in 2007 published a book titled, Pio Gama Pinto: Patriot for Social Justice:
I am honoured that you requested a few words from me about my late husband Pio. I am also deeply touched that even though 50 years have passed since his untimely death, Pio and his contributions have not been forgotten.
The Pio Gama-Pinto I knew was first and foremost a political activist; then a brother to detainees; and then a husband and father.
He spent long hours in his office at home writing to newspapers arguing the independence cause; writing articles advancing the rights of detainees; composing memoranda on issues such as the fair distribution of land; and drafting speeches for his political colleagues. His home office was his sanctum. No one, not even I was allowed to disturb him. During periods of intensive writing, he rarely ate solid food. He was sustained by copious amounts of sweet tea and cigarettes. It was not unusual for Pio to go to bed around 2 am and rise at 7 to continue his writing. His focus and stamina were marvelous.
He was more than a brother to detainees. Detainees would arrive at 5 in the morning and sit by the back door. Pio had standing instructions that anyone who came was to be given chai while waiting. Pio would listen to the requests from detainees and write their petitions. He was always welcoming, warm and patient, knowing that many of them had walked miles to see him. Pio exhausted his personal financial resources on their behalf. If a lawyer was needed, Pio called upon lawyers in the community to assist the detainees pro bono. His close friends, Dr. Fitz DeSouza and Achhroo Kapila could always be counted on to take these cases.
In his short life, Pio is credited with many achievements: establishing Sauti ya Kanu, later the Pan Africa Press, founder and board member of the Lumumba Institute, Special Elected Member of Parliament, author of innumerable articles (many penned under a pseudonym), and policy papers, architect of key strategies that led to both Kenyan independence and the victory of KANU in the first election, and fund raiser for freedom fighters. Many of these activities were preformed concurrently! When once asked how he was able to do and achieve so much, he responded: Never underestimate how much can be achieved if you are willing to let someone else take the credit. This statement is testament to Pio’s selflessness. What mattered most was that the Kenyan people benefitted not him.
Again, thank you for your work in promoting this remarkable person and his ideals for a more just Kenya for all Kenyans.
Linda Gama-Pinto (eldest of Pinto's three daughters, currently residing in Canada):
Let me voice our family’s gratitude for everything that is being done to keep our father’s ideals and memory present. We are deeply touched.
Savio Ribeiro (Pio's first cousin, living in Bahrain):
On behalf of Pio's family, I request you to please convey our deep appreciation and gratitude to Pheroze, Zarina Patel, Yash Pal Ghai, Firoze Manji, Ongong'a Achieng', Davinder Lamba and the other dignified speakers, participants and the organizers of the event. Long live Pio's dream for justice and equality of basic human rights for the future of a united Kenya. God Bless Kenya!
Clarence Da Gama Pinto (Pio's nephew, son of Rosario, Pinto's younger brother:
Dear Onyango Oloo and Kenyan colleagues
First of all many thanks from the bottom of my heart for your efforts to keep the vision, values and memories of my late paternal Uncle Pio alive.
I was 11 years only when he was taken from us and I can recall the verbal violence, security threats, fear and sacrifices the family endured. Pio’s younger brother Rosario (my late father) tried extremely hard with limited resources and to keep the memory of his brother alive from India and the UK. My late father would be very pleased with your valiant efforts to keep the flame social justice going.
While I have vivid memories of my late Uncle as a young child, I have always had a deep interest in Kenyan affairs and great love for the patient Wananchi. On my two trips to Kenya in 1984 (as a young journalist for South Magazine) and in 2010 as a management trainer for the IFC, I was struck by some of the comments I got like “Why did you run away?” As a 11 year old child, I had no control over my future destiny but I have never stopped loving the country of my birth. My father’s physical and mental health and indeed our family life was deeply affected by this event, but we never stopped caring for Kenya’s interests. I still love my Uncle’s philosophy – “There is enough for everyone!”.
Forgive the nostalgia but be assured of my deepest gratitude for remembering an incredibly courageous, cool and dedicated freedom fighter on the 7th of March. I hope that the event on the 7th of March is well attended.
Audrey Da Gama Pinto (Pio's niece, sister to Clarence, both living in Melbourne, Australia:
We're so glad the event went well. This no doubt is due to your wonderful dedication and hard work. Please also thank your fellow organisers on our behalf. Best wishes.
NOW, HERE ARE MORE COMMENTS FROM THOSE WHO ACTUALLY CAME TO THE EVENT:
Thank you for the well organised memorial for Pio Gama Pinto.
Sir Mohinder Dhillon:
I am so glad to learn so much in detail about dear Pio from Various speakers. For me Pinto was a self-less Nationalist and true son of Kenya. The function flowed and so much crowded in few hours honouring our Freedom Fighter, and their sacrifices. Thanking you all who played great part to make this a success.
Dr. Mbaari Kinya:
I would like to thank you very much for the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Assassination of Pio Gama Pinto. I learned a great deal about this great Kenyan. I believe Kenyans of all walks of life should get this information.
There was mention about building a memorial for Mr Pinto. After the meeting Rev Njoya suggested that the memorial should be built by wananchi rather than the government. You might want to speak to him about his reason for this idea.
Again thank you very much.
Hi comrade, the presentations from the panelists were priceless, I am glad I made time to attend. It was such a honour to know that despite efforts to wipe Pio Gama Pinto's history, his works and ideals inspire people like you to recognise his contribution towards the liberation and emancipation of the Kenyan people. Thank you so much.
Raynor Polo, Programme Officer, AfriCOG:
It was an honor being part of the Pio Gama Pinto commemoration. It serves as a constant reminder of how far we are from true democracy and how allergic we are to criminal accountability. With the adoption of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenya is on the right path whose delicate steps are now more than ever being guarded by the Civil Society. We at AfriCOG endeavor to promote good governance and permanent civic vigilance.