A new book by independent Kenya’s first Deputy Speaker, Fitz de Souza, has shed new light on the circumstances that led to the death of freedom fighter Pio Gama Pinto in 1965.
De Souza’s memoir, Forward to Independence, laid new evidence of the tense relationship between President Jomo Kenyatta and Pinto – a passionate socialist who ideological friends included American civil rights activist Malcolm X.
The former Deputy Speaker, who had also served as Kenyatta’s lawyer during the famous Kapenguria trials, said that in the months after independence, Pinto opposed the then President’s policy of distributing the settler farms that were left behind by fleeing British farmers.
The new memoir says that prior to Pinto’s death, Kenyatta’s part time driver identified as Ndegwa went to the socialist’s house to warn him against his position on the settler farms.
The threat did not deter the nominated MP who went ahead to prepare a list of farms Kenyatta and his group had “grabbed” from the African masses – he believed that once presented in Parliament, list would trigger a vote-of-no confidence against the President.
De Souza writes that he attempted to dissuade his friend from the daring mission.
“Pio, I think you have a lot of good things to say, but however much you say them, Kenyatta is not going to give up power or go away. He is a very courageous man and would fight to death to stay leader if he had to. So, don’t try to attack him morally and not expect to get on his bad side; you are just wasting your time. It is not possible to remove him,” the lawyer recalls adding that his advice was not heeded.
The highlight of the Pinto-Kenyatta rivalry played out in early February of 1965 when the two of them clashed and insulted each other at Parliament buildings.
“Both men were gesticulating and swearing, and as their voices rose, everyone on the veranda could hear. Tom (Mboya) was standing nearby, now joined by several onlookers. Pio, his face contorted with anger, was shouting, ‘I’ll fix you!’ Kenyatta, equally incensed, was shouting back at him. I knew immediately what they were arguing about: The English farms, which Pio claimed Kenyatta was grabbing”.
"If it comes to the push, there’ll be two shots fired at you and no one will remember you in a year’s time. Pio shook his head, ‘No, no, there would be a bloodbath’. Pio, you are overestimating your position; maybe if you were a Kikuyu or a Luo, then yes, there would be a backlash, but you’ve nobody to support you; like me, you’ve no support in the Indian community and none outside it," De Souza writes.
The lawyer added that he was to later learn that Pinto’s verbal insults with Kenyatta had included the word “bastard” which the nominated defended because he (President) “called me a bastard first”.
“When I heard that I doubted anyone could have expected to remain in Kenya alive … not after calling President Jomo Kenyatta a 'bastard',” Kenyatta’s lawyer narrated.
Pio Gama Pinto was assassinated on February 25, 1965, four days after his American friend Malcom X had been killed at a ballroom in Manhattan, New York.