Episode 3

Land Justice Advocate

[Stoneface] We’re in Uhuru Park. Freedom Corner.

[April] The plaque says, “Jeshi la Kenya la Ardhi na Ukombozi.” Kenya Land and Freedom Army. Also known as Mau Mau.

[Stoneface] The statue is of two Mau Mau, a man and a woman. They’re both wearing peasant clothes, the man has long dreads, and the woman’s head is covered in a shawl. They are both leaning forward towards each other. A moment of exchange. The woman is handing the man a bag, with supplies inside. The plaque explains that there were many Mau Mau who assisted the military forest fighters with food, weapons, and information.

[April] I like that the memorial doesn’t just recognize men with guns who fought, but rather, it recognizes that Mau Mau was a mass movement. One that relies on many people coming together, you know?

[Stoneface] Yeah, it’s important to recognize that Mau Mau was a grassroots movement. But there’s still one problem with a monument like this.

[April] A problem?

[Stoneface] What they did fight for, they never got.

Hm, ok. What do you mean?

[Stoneface] They got a monument—great—but, look here at this plaque, what did they fight for again?

Land and freedom.

[Stoneface] They never got land and freedom. Take a look around. Who owns land today in Kenya? The Delameres never left. Huge multinational corporations like Del Monte, Lipton, etc still own huge pieces of land. And look at what that land is used for. Much of the most fertile land is still not being used to feed the country or to feed those who work on it, but rather to grow things like coffee, tea, sisal, or flowers, which are then shipped out of the country. And the profits go to the rich person who owns the land, not the people who work on it. Those people remain poor.

Exactly like it was when the Mau Mau decided to rise and rebel. Exactly like when Kenya was a colony.

So the Mau Mau fought a war against colonizers... many were detained and tortured and killed. Then Kenya became independent, but… nothing changed? Something doesn’t add up.

[Stoneface] Land is everything. After all, this was what the Mau Mau fought for. They didn’t fight for this bronze statue.

In 1965, only two years after Kenya gained its independence, Pio Gama Pinto was shot and killed on his driveway in Nairobi. This was Kenya’s first political assassination.

My name is Stoneface, host of Until Everyone Is Free. In this series, me and our producer April Zhu will tell the story of Pio Gama Pinto, a Kenyan freedom fighter. But we tell the story of Pinto to answer a very important question: How did the country of Kenya become free…. Without the people of Kenya becoming free?

Pinto was an ally of the Mau Mau. He was a trade union supporter. He was a radical journalist. He was a political mastermind. But among his most important work was the work he did advocating for land justice.

But… before we can understand why or how he advocated for land justice, we need to understand land injustice…

Before colonizers arrived in Kenya, not everyone owned land. But, back then, even without land, you could make a decent living, feed your family, live a good life. Landlessness did not mean poverty. There were many different ways people could exchange their labor for land. This was not governed by an official law, but rather through traditional customs linked to kinship.

For example, among the Kikuyu, you had something called a mbari, which was a family group. Everyone in a mbari descended from one founder. All of the land that belonged to that mbari was called a githaka.

Now. If you were landless, you had some options. You could approach a mbari and come to an arrangement where you live on a piece of his githaka, but at the beginning of every season, you give them something like one bag of crops. In this arrangement, you would be a muthami. But often, the muthami would marry into the mbari that owned that land. Then they would become muthoni. So muthami, muthoni. Then, you had the ahoi. The ahoi did not live on the farm but would work on the farm, provide crops to the landowner, and also protect the land from intruders, such as neighboring Maasai.

Then, because one githaka would be split so many times with more and more descendants, it would get crowded. So then sometimes one descendant would break new ground. Find new land. Start their own githaka. And so, in this way, slowly slowly over generations the Kikuyu expanded from the Mount Kenya region down into Kiambu. But still, at the end of the day, there was always enough land for everyone.

Until…. The colonizers came.

The British came to Kenya to build a railroad from Mombasa to Uganda. And the reason they came to build a railroad, was so they could control the source of the River Nile. And they reason they wanted to control the Nile was so their colony up in Egypt, which was strategically important, would be safe. But this railroad was so expensive, so impractical. People back in the UK complained, called it the “Lunatic Express,” said it was a waste of their taxpayer money.

The British built it anyways, but they needed to find a way to make it profitable, so they could break even. Uganda and Kenya did not have minerals that they could extract and send out on the railway. But they did have something else: land.

The British advertised Kenya as a great place to live. Kenya was called a “white man’s country.” (And in fact, many of the European settlers in Kenya until 1912 were actually whites from South Africa.) At the height of British rule, 1,000 white settlers owned 8 million acres. Basically all of the land in Kenya suitable for growing crops.

Kenya became a settler colony, just like the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. Not just a place where resources like oil, minerals are taken from, but one where colonizers come to settle, make a living, start a family.

Of course I don’t need to explain to you that, in order for Kenya to become a “white man’s country,” it needed to be stolen from the black people who were already there.

“Stolen. African land was stolen.” This word “stolen.” It’s so simple. But what does stealing land even look like? With violence, with guns and weapons, for sure, in many cases. But also through law. One law, the 1902 Crown Land Ordinance, which stated that “Africans had no recognized title to waste, unoccupied, or uncultivated land.”

Laws can also be violent. Colonizers came, created “laws,” and now suddenly Africans who had lived there for centuries were suddenly “illegal.” Most people who lived in the Highlands were separated from their ancestral land because of this law.

Barbed Wire (Madolla, Stoneface Bombaa)
produced by Djae Aroni

Colonizers walikam, waligrab zetu land,
walibrag, then,
si then Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa zetu land
Nasema Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa zetu land
Nasema Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa zetu land....

Hundred thousand walichujwa Rift Valley
Bila kujali
Bila anything ata kuuliza ka swali
Haja ilikua wachukue yao Mali bilakujali
Ndio wavune yao asali 

They took their land, no man to stand
Sent them away, none to stay
This the baddest situation
The worse affectation
The bad day affected the nation

Walichujwa walifukuzwa
Land zao poa zikauzwa
Walibaki bila na kupuuzwa
Kutolewa kwao bila kuulizwa
Hizi lands zilipeanwa European
Eight million acres wakajipin
Ati kulea kuweka mimea
Mbona wakucare nafeel imenifika there

Colonizers walikam, wakigrab zetu land,
wakibrag, then,
si then Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa zetu land
Nasema Barbed Wire.

After independence waliexpect changes
Ndio waforget mashida endless
But kucome Kenya ikaturn
Ikageuza hizo land zao zakuearn

Kuna kitu nililearn:
There was a shift of land on another hand That was bad, that was sad, that was hard
No one to guard

Me nitatalk me nitawalk
Kuna kitu inanihurt tu a lot:
Mbona wengine waligenya
Instead hao pia ni Wakenya?

Imefika time kua sincere
Maisha hakuna wakuskia
But najua God atatuskia
Let's stand onemusije kufear

I’m a human rights defender
Akuna siku nita surrender
This is only agenda
Hifuate days za calender

Colonizers walikam, wakagrab zetu land,
wakibrag, then,
si then Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa kwenye land
Nasema Barbed Wire.
Zikasundwa kwenye land

Colonizers walikam, wakagrab zetu land,
wakibrag, then,
si then Barbed Wire.

Pio Gama Pinto was looking for a typewriter.

He asked a friend of his, called Apu Pant, who happened to be High Commissioner of India. Apu Pant was a comrade in the struggle for Indian independence from British colonialism, and he was sympathetic to the Kenyan independence struggle. Pant gave him a desk at the Desai Memorial Library. And a typewriter.

The Desai Memorial Library was named after Manilal Ambalal Desai, an activist and journalist who went from town to town, preaching to the Indians to wake up, fight for equality, and join hands with Africans.

Kind of like Pinto. In that sense, it was perfect that this place is where Apu Pant chose to give Pinto a desk. This is where Pinto would spend many of his long nights, into strange early hours of the morning. It was where he would do a lot of his land advocacy work.

In 1951, the Land Reform Act was on the table. Pio Gama Pinto wanted to work on this law, to help Africans get their fair share of land.

Those early days—when Fitz first met Pinto and they took turns sleeping on the floor—they shared a small place in Pangani with several other Goans who lived 2-3 to a room. Living was simple. They’d cook together and share meals. There was one makeshift bathroom they would share, taking turns to bathe with a little mug.

Many Goans were clerks who needed to get to town on the 8am bus from Pangani, but Fitz and Pio were in no rush in the mornings. They’d wash in the morning, get to the bus stop by 8:30am, and go to Pio’s “office” at the Desai Library.

When the desk was first given to Pio, the library was falling into disarray, but once he “moved in,” it gradually bloomed into life. A couple of students who got in trouble at Makerere—Pinto took them in and gave them jobs tidying up and organizing the library.

It was here in this office that young people excited about fighting for independence would meet.

Most of Pinto’s work on land reform would be done right here. At this desk. At this typewriter. Late at night. Alone. Reading, reading, reading. Typing, typing, typing.

After WWII ended, the entire global economy was in bad shape. This included Britain’s colonies. The economy in the colony of Kenya was doing very badly, and so the British government decided to investigate some of the economic problems in Kenya. So they created the East Africa Royal Commission.

And this included “reforming the traditional tribal systems of land tenure.”

In order to do this, the Royal Commission on Land asked for evidence regarding land ownership. But, remember in 1954, after Operation Anvil, many African leaders like the Kapenguria Six were in prison. There was no one to represent the voices of Africans who had land claims.

At that time, Pinto was the editor of the Daily Chronicle. But when he heard of this, he promptly resigned and prepared himself to help out in whatever way he could.

He took statements from Kikuyu elders. Wrote out their claims. Typed them, right there in that office. At that time, there were no photocopy machines, only this machine called a cyclostyle which you had to turn by hand. For three months, Pinto wrote and typed and cyclostyled, often until the early morning hours when the birds would begin singing again.

Pinto didn’t tell anyone about this work. He wasn’t looking for credit. At the end of this, he produced a 200-page “Kikuyu Tribe’s Memorandum” and a memorandum for Mbari clans in Central. In fact, when Jomo Kenyatta was presented with a copy of this while in detention in Lodwar, he was so impressed with it that he suggested it be published. But he knew that land was linked to freedom. After all, when the colonizers came, they came for land. But how did he understand this?

Before he was able to do all of this, first he himself needed to understand the roots of the land problem in Kenya. He needed to read a very important document called the Carter Commission.

It’s the late 1920s, about two decades after the railroad began to be built. Before, there was enough land for everyone. Before, if you did not have land, you could work on someone else’s land as muthami, muthoni, or ahoi, and be fine. But with the railroad and colonization, this was no longer the case. Landless Africans—mostly Kikuyus, many of them ahoi—were now making noise about this issue of landlessness.

Until even the British government had to pay attention. They commissioned a panel to investigate. They said, ok let’s investigate this issue of land claims—people claiming that their land was stolen and now they have no land—and settle them once and for all.

Only one problem: the people they chose for this panel? Three white men. Sir William Carter, Captain Frank O’Brien Wilson, Mr Rupert William Hemsted. White, white, white. And not just white men—three settlers who lived in, had land in, Kenya.

At the time, there was a young man called Johnstone Kenyatta (later he would change his name to Jomo), who was the lobbyist and secretary of Kikuyu Central Association in London. Kenyatta pointed out the commissioners’ conflict of interest. So you’re going to ask people who are sitting on—profiting from—stolen land, to “investigate” land claims by the very people they stole the land from? Kenyatta said, at the very least there should be Africans on this panel. You can already see how this is going to go.

Of course the British didn’t listen. In June 1932, the Carter Commission began their investigation….in London. They began by listening to the advice of “Kenya experts” with long experience in and “specialized knowledge of” Kenya. A couple months later, they went to Nairobi.

Over 400 statements from Kikuyus were submitted to the Carter Commission. Each claim basically said that, when Europeans came to take land for farming, they did not consider or compensate the mbari who already owned this land.

You see, before Mau Mau picked up their guns, many Kikuyus tried to get their land back through the law. They heard that this Carter Commission wanted to settle their land claims, so many mbari gave statements.

But we already know how this ends. The Carter Commission read all of these statements, but concluded that these claims by Kikuyus were all invalid. Every one.

“Kikuyu rights to land external to their reserves would be extinguished permanently by a subsequent order in Council.”

The Carter Commission was a very important turning point. The Carter Commission made it clear that non-violent, legal methods would not work. That the colonizers would not simply return this valuable land if you asked politely. These Kikuyu decided, ok the only way we can get land and freedom is to fight for it—with guns.

[Stoneface] Everyone knows this part. 12 December 1963. Kenya is no longer a colony. Kenya is an independent country. Exactly one year later, 12 December 1964, Kenya becomes a republic—The Republic of Kenya, and Jomo Kenyatta becomes the first president of an independent Kenya.

The same Jomo Kenyatta who was imprisoned by the British in Lodwar for many years, the one that Mau Mau had sung about in their songs during the war.

So, colonizers are out. The leader that the colonizers imprisoned, he’s the new president. Seems like a happy ending—

But hold up, hold up. But how did we reach this victory? Was there like, you know, in the movies, at the end there is one final battle, good guys on one side and bad guys on other, they look at each other, then they shout and run towards one another and fight until one side is all dead?

In Kenya’s war for independence, there was no clear “military victory” like that. It wasn’t as if so many British were killed that they decided to pull out.

So how did we go from hundreds of thousands of Africans in detention camps—to now suddenly a peaceful victory?

[Stoneface] This is a very good question, and this is very, very important. When we hear “decolonization,” we only think of this moment of victory. Celebration. Music. Mzee Kenyatta, walking side by side with other African leaders wearing traditional African regalia. Everyone is smiling. Victorious.

When we hear “decolonization,” we think of a victory. Winners and losers.

[April] Africans win. Colonizers lose.

[Stoneface] Right. But, sometimes—at least in Kenya—decolonization is not that kind of a victory. Decolonization is a….handshake.

[April] A handshake….

[Stoneface] Not black winners and white losers. A handshake between a few white winners, and a few black winners. Let me explain.

By the 1950s, it was already clear to the British that this idea of Kenya as a “white man’s country” was doomed. Number 1, the colonizers were outnumbered. It wasn’t like in North America and South America, where disease and war killed most of the indigenous people. Here in Kenya, settlers were few, and as the Mau Mau showed, this was an insecurity problem. Number 2, bringing in more white lower-class immigrant workers did not make sense because there was enough cheap labor here. And, number 3, the white settlers were so racist that intermarriage and integration was definitely not an option. It was just not going to work. They needed to abort the mission.

Then, the Mau Mau uprising, and the extensive crackdown in response, showed leaders in London that the Kenyan colonial government could not “control” their colony without expensive support from London.

The British had decided already that they wanted to pull out.

So then, now they asked themselves...how do we manage an “orderly transition” from colony to independence? So this wasn’t a military victory. No, it was more of a bargain.

And the most important bargaining chip? You guessed it. Land.

And not just any land. The 7.5 million acres reserved only for Europeans—the “White Highlands.”

By the end of 1956, Mau Mau was pretty much almost defeated. So many people were in detention camps, including leaders. And some leaders like Dedan Kimathi, were hanged. In 1958, the State of Emergency ended.

Many leading organizers, like Pinto, were released from the detention camps, but still placed in “open detention” in remote places like Kabarnet, Kapsabet, or Marsabit. Pinto was transferred to Kabarnet, where he was the only detainee in the entire town. He was allowed to reunite with his wife Emma, but he was not allowed to have visitors, he was under surveillance, and all communications in and out were heavily censored.

So then, what was happening between 1958, when the State of Emergency ended, and 1963, when Kenya became independent? Well, there was a lot going on, but at the centre of it was the question of land. How were European settlers going to transfer ownership of White Highlands over to Africans?

There was lots of debate. Months and months of disagreement, with many divisions among whites and among Africans. Finally, all sides agreed on one plan called the “Million Acre Settlement Scheme.” Over five years, European-owned lands would be subdivided and transferred to thousands of Africans.

The plan itself was devised by Delamere and Oates, two settler farmer leaders.

[Stoneface] The one important question we are trying to answer in this show is “how did the country of Kenya become free, without the people of Kenya getting freedom?” Some of the answer to that question lies in what happened between 1958 and 1963. It has to do with what happened to Kenya’s stolen land.

Because land was at the core of the colonial project. This is a very complicated issue. To fully explain what happened to Kenya’s stolen land, our show would take weeks and weeks.

So, to help us understand the most important parts, we’re gonna bring in Felix Omondi, poet and community reporter. He helped us research on land alienation—and connect it to the problems that we still see today in Kenya. Hey Fello.

[Fello] Like you just heard, I’m Felix Omondi, poet and community reporter, but the most important thing is I’m a boy from the hood.

[Stoneface] Ok, so the first thing I want to understand is… this Million Acre Settlement that we just mentioned, the settlement created by Oates and Delamere. If the point of this settlement was to return land to Africans...isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t this what Africans meant when they said they want their land back?

[Fello] No, not at all! Here’s the important thing about the Million Acre Settlement. The settlers weren’t returning land to Africans. No. The Kenyan government would buy the land from the settlers, at a very high price. 15 pounds per acre. And then Africans would take out loans to buy that land, and slowly repay.

Wait wait hold on, so let me get this straight. So the people who stole the land from Africans got paid back for it? They made money back by selling what they stole?

[Fello] Yeah, it didn’t make sense to Africans either. They said, first, this is our land. Then also we were the ones who worked the land and made it productive. So now why are we paying for this? Wapi uhuru?

[Stoneface] Hm…

[Fello] And then also, you had tribes like the Kalenjins and Maasai who said, this was our ancestral land to begin with, before it was stolen by Europeans and then Kikuyus and other tribes came to work on their farms. So how can you sell the land of our fathers to other Africans just because they can pay for it?

[Stoneface] Ah ok, so these are the roots of the post-election violence in 2007-2008.

[Fello] Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that was one of the deep, deep sources of conflict in the Rift Valley—where a lot of these white settler farms were. This hundred-year-old tension was like a pool of kerosene...and then the 2007 election was like a match that lit everything on fire.

[Stoneface] Ok... but going back to the Million Acre Scheme, how was the Kenyan government able to afford to pay these white settlers for their land, especially at such a high price?

[Fello] Aha. That’s the key question. The British lent the Kenyan government 21 million pounds. Some was grant money, but some was a loan.

[Stoneface] Ok, so let me get this straight. The British colonized Kenya.

[Fello] Mhm.

[Stoneface] They stole land.

[Fello] Exactly.

[Stoneface] Taxed Africans for simply existing, forcing them to work on white settlers’ farms.

[Fello] Yup.

[Stoneface] Then, that stolen land was sold back to the settlers. Africans had to buy land….and to do that, they had to borrow money from….the colonizer??

[Fello] And these white settlers were paid in cash. They took the money, and went with it to Britain. Some of them made so much money from these sales that they then came back to Kenya to buy land that wasn’t set aside just for Africans. Of all the land sold to individuals after independence, over half was sold to white people.

[Stoneface] Wueh. Wapi uhuru? This is not how you develop a new country.

[Fello] There’s more. The Million Acre Settlement Scheme only accounted for ⅙ of all the White Highlands—where European farms were split up and sold to Africans. Another ⅙, the farms were kept intact and simply sold directly to wealthy Africans—at a very, very cheap price. This is what we call “willing buyer, willing seller.” So lots of these wealthy Africans—including Jomo Kenyatta, his wife and children, but also Oginga Odinga, Moi, Koinange, Ngei, Muliro, J.M. Kariuki….

Kenyatta said that there should be no “free land” given out. He said you should work for what you get, and that his government would not be a “gangster government.” But a lot of politicians like bought lots of land at these low prices, then whenever they wanted to do a political favor, they would “gift” this land to someone else.
They turned farms into a something for tricking the masses in their game of “politricks.” 

[Stoneface] Politricks. So some people were getting free land.

[Fello] Those who were in power, or close to those in power.

[Stoneface] I think that’s an important takeaway in all of this. It’s not enough just to see that white owners were now giving over their farms to black owners. Decolonization is not just going from white to black. Decolonization is about going from unequal to equal. You have to pay attention to class.

[Fello] The Africans who were eligible for loans to buy land—those were middle or upperclass Africans. Educated people, people with wealth in their families. Many were actually loyal to the colonial government during the State of Emergency. So what you had was, those who “played it safe” during the State of Emergency, they were the ones who benefited after independence. On the other hand, the poor, landless people who risked it all—killed in the forest, hanged by the British, tortured in detention camps, carried supplies and messages to the forest—those people didn’t get anything.

[Stoneface] Right. So, in the end, what happened to the Mau Mau? I’m still thinking back to that monument we visited at Uhuru Park.

[Fello] Well, after uhuru, the Mau Mau fighters were pardoned, so they couldn’t be jailed for anything that they did. But they didn’t get any preferential treatment when it came to land—or even jobs. And, remember, a lot of the Mau Mau were not very educated, and they obviously didn’t have much money. So there was no way Mau Mau could participate in the “willing-buyer, willing-seller” system.

[Stoneface] Well, of course. They had bought this land with their blood. Why should they borrow loans from colonizers to buy back land?

[Fello] There’s this one quote from Jomo Kenyatta in 1962 that tells us all we need to know about his government’s attitude towards Mau Mau:

[Jomo Kenyatta] “Mau Mau was a disease which must be eradicated, and must never be remembered again.”

[Stoneface] Should be forgotten? Mau Mau? The guys who fought for our country?

[Fello] Right. Those guys.

[Stoneface] The likes of Dedan Kimathi?

[Fello] Yeah the likes of Dedan Kimathi and Mathenge. The whole lot. And, you see, Mau Mau was banned in Kenya, even after independence. You know which year Mau Mau was no longer banned?

[Stoneface] 1972? 1992? If I’m not mistaken.

[Fello] 2002.

[Stoneface] 2002? Just right here after we were born? Be serious man.

[Fello] Imagine.

[Stoneface] I can’t even imagine how it was on that day when the statue honouring Mau Mau fighters at Uhuru Park was being unveiled. Just imagine the opening ceremony. There were even surviving Mau Mau who attended the event, old grandmas and grandpas who took a mat from Nyeri. Who still don’t have land. Imagine looking them in the eye and saying that this monument is honoring them.

[Fello] Ironic, man.

[Stoneface] What did they fight for?

[Fello] Nothing, man. Nothing.

One of the most vocal proponents of land justice—and a close friend of Pinto—was Bildad Kaggia. Kaggia was an ex-soldier. He fought alongside the British in the Middle East, England, and Europe. That experience radicalized him. The racism he experienced embittered him and made him believe that foreign religion was poisoning Africans. So when he returned to Kenya, he created an Afro-centric religion, which his followers called “Dini ya Kaggia.” It spread throughout Central, Ukambani, and even Nyanza.

Kaggia, like other radical ex-soldiers, was a Mau Mau leader. He was one of the key coordinators in the Muhimu—the Central Committee of the Mau Mau, with its headquarters in Mathare.

And so, after Independence, when he saw that ex-Mau Mau were still not getting land, that they were still not getting any kind of compensation, he spoke out about it.

But, you see, at that time, there was already a big rift forming between two sides of KANU. The land issue was only one of the issues that divided KANU into two camps.

On one side, you had Kaggia, Odinga, Oneko, and of course, Pinto. The radicals. The radicals believed that Mau Mau should get land and compensation. The radicals believed that there should be a land ceiling, a cap to how much land one single person can own. 500 acres. The radicals believed that Europeans should not be compensated from the land they stole; it should be seized from them. The radicals believed the land should be owned by the nation—”nationalized”—and then lots of Kenyans employed by the state to work on it, or sold to co-operatives which are owned by many workers, and its profits shared.

Ultimately, the radicals believed this: you cannot fix a rotten system by putting new people in it and moving things around. You have to break it. Start anew. Colonialism and capitalism is what created this mess in the first place. But now we have a new opportunity. Uhuru.

Now is the time to imagine a new way of sharing land and sharing wealth.

By 1964, Kaggia was getting increasingly frustrated by the direction he saw the country going in. All of these things I’ve just mentioned, Kaggia wrote this out. Land must be distributed equally. But Kenyatta saw Kaggia’s message as personal criticism. Kenyatta was offended, and asked him to resign.

He did.

Not long before Pinto was killed, he told Kaggia an important piece of information. It was about land, of course. Kaggia believes it was what got Pinto killed.

This was what Pinto told Kaggia—in confidence, of course.

Britain sent a large sum of money to Kenya—for “grants and loans for development, land settlement, compensation for overseas officers and administration from Britain.” 12,400,000 pounds. Today, that would be worth 186 million pounds. In Kenyan shillings today? Almost 27 trillion shillings. The money was supposed to go towards resettling ex-detainees and freedom fighters, especially those who lost family members in the war.

Pinto received word of the grant from Cairo. He heard that “the money reached the Kenya government, but it went no further.” Even for such a big sum of money, no Kenyan newspapers printed news about the sum of money.

This information was extremely damaging to the President. Kaggia knew that Pinto would raise the issue. Pinto would never keep silent about an injustice, especially one this big. But, Kaggia believes that Pinto shared this information not only with him, but some other friends.

One of them betrayed him. Kenyatta found out. The tension between Pinto and Kenyatta had reached a fever pitch.

It was a February afternoon. February 1965. Fitz de Souza was on a tea break outside the Parliament building. Then suddenly, a man came bursting out and called to de Souza to come quickly. A fight had broken out.

It was Pinto and Kenyatta. Their voices were getting louder and louder, echoing throughout the veranda. Everyone could hear. Tom Mboya was there as well, and a crowd formed. Pinto and Kenyatta were swearing at each other. Pinto’s face was twisted with anger, and he shouted, “I’ll fix you!”

De Souza says that then he knew exactly what they were yelling about: the English farms that Pinto believed Kenyatta was grabbing. De Souza ran up behind Pinto and wrapped his arms around him, restraining him and trying to calm him down.

Kenyatta left. The silence was deafening. De Souza and Pinto went to sit down, Pinto still breathing heavily.

De Souza told Pinto not to shout at Kenyatta again. Remember that question that Kenyatta always asked at all the meetings, one that didn’t need an answer? Mzee used to say, “If a man plants a tree, and it grows fruit, who has the right to claim the fruit?”

Kenyatta had given up much for this country, de Souza said, he had planted this tree. Let him have this portion. More importantly, De Souza said, if push comes to shove, there’ll be two shots fired at you. And in a year’s time, no one will remember you.

Pinto shook his head, No no, if they killed me, there would be a bloodbath.

Pinto was an incredibly perceptive person; he really understood people. But he did not believe that his fellow freedom fighters, those who had been detained at the same time as him, those he fought alongside against the British, could turn around in a couple years and see him as an enemy. He did not believe that the revolution would begin to eat its own children.

He was wrong.


Boone, Catherine. “Land Conflict and Distributive Politics in Kenya.” African Studies Review, vol. 55, no. 1, 2012, pp. 75–103.

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Episode 1. Wapi Uhuru?
Episode 2. Mau Mau Ally
Episode 3. Land Justice Advocate

Episode 4. Radical Journalist
Episode 5. Trade Unionist
Episode 6. Political Mastermind

Episode 7. Martyr

“Kenya’s uhuru must not be transformed into freedom to exploit, or freedom to be hungry and live in ignorance. Uhuru must be uhuru for the masses—uhuru from exploitation, from ignorance, disease and poverty.”

Pio Gama Pinto