Herald: Kenya’s Lasting Goan Connection

Kenya’s Lasting Goan Connection

14 Dec 2014 11:21pm IST

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14 Dec 2014 11:21pm IST

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On December 12 Kenya celebrated 50 years of its proclamation as a Republic. It had got its independence a year earlier. Of the thousands of Goans who had made Kenya their home, a few names stand out for their contribution to the Kenyan freedom movement.

To a large number of Goans the 

first name they associate with  

Kenya is that of Pio Gama Pinto. 

He was Independent Kenya’s first martyr, 

gunned down on the streets of Nairobi 

a little over a year after Kenyan Independence. 

A journalist, politician, freedom 

fighter, Gama Pinto was one of 

the many Goans who helped build the 

Kenyan nation and among the few from 

Goa who actively participated in the 

movement for the East African country’s


There is perhaps no other country in 

the world, in whose movement for Independence 

Goans have contributed 

as much as in that of Kenya. There are 

three names that stand out. Besides 

Gama Pinto, there is Fitz de Souza, a 

lawyer who went on to become the 

deputy speaker of the Kenyan Parliament 

and was part of the constitution team 

and Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi, who had 

a Goan father and was the second vice 

president of Kenya.

Kenya of the 1950s and early 1960s 

was anything but peaceful. The anticolonial 

movement, the Mau Mau revolution, 

had turned the country into a 

pressure point. In its attempt to subdue 

the movement, the British colonial government 

viewed it as a rebellion leading 

to a major military conflict. Thousands 

of persons, including Asians, were killed 

during the years before Kenya got its 


In such a situation, it wouldn’t have 

been an easy decision for the Goan migrants 

in an African country to stay on 

and even join the natives in their fight 

to oust the colonial power. 

Writer Vivek Menezes in an online  

discussion on Goanet posted saying, 

“In such a time of terror, and given the 

stark threat to their lives and livelihood, 

it is in fact remarkable that so many 

Goans chose to overtly or subtly resist 

the colonial authorities who had total  

control over their wellbeing. That resistance 

went far beyond the outstanding 

contributions of Fitz de Souza, Pio 

Gama Pinto and Joseph Murumbi 


Perhaps the Goans were inspired by

India’s Independence in 1947 and followed 

free India’s transition to a vibrant 

democracy. Gama Pinto surely was. 

Kenya-born Gama Pinto was sent to

Goa as a boy for further studies. This

was soon after Indian Independence 

and when he left he took back with 

him the democratic ideals that led to 

his plunge into Kenyan politics. He 

spent four years imprisoned on Manda 

Island and was the only Asian of 7,000 

African Mau Mau detainees on the 

island. Gama Pinto is described as a 

socialist and freedom fighter. He was a 

political detainee from 1954 to 1959 

and a Member of Parliament from 1963  

till he was shot by an assassin on February 

24, 1965. He was at that time an 

ideological strategist from Vice President 

Oginga Odinga’s left-leaning wing of 

the KANU.

When Kenya got its independence 

in December 1963, it got Jomo Kenyatta 

as its first president. Kenyatta, a revered 

figure in the country, had earlier worked

closely with another Goan, Fitz de 

Souza, who went on to become the 

deputy speaker of the Kenyan Parliament. 

De Souza was one of three 

lawyers of Asian descent in the team 

that defended Kenyatta and his colleagues 

at the trial at Kapenguria on 

charges of managing the Mau Mau 

armed rebellion against British colonial 

rule in Kenya. 

The third person, Joseph Zuzarte 

Murumbi was Kenya’s second vice president 

and was also the country’s first 

foreign minister. He resigned in September 

1966 and devoted his life to 

collecting works of African art. Part of 

that collection is on permanent display 

at the Kenya National Archives in Nairobi.

Of these three, only de Souza lives. 

But it is not just in Kenya’s struggle 

for independence that Goans played a 

role. Even after Independence a large 

number stayed back and helped build 

the nation. 

“Even after decolonization, it is highly 

relevant that so many thousands of 

Goans stayed in Kenya to ‘nation-build’ 

in ‘free Africa’. From athletes to administrators

to educationists, 

here too 

the contribution is 

far disproportionate 

to small numbers. 

As with Pakistan 

post-1947, the 

Goan record of 

staying the course

and trying to shape 

the new nation is 

both impressive 

and honorable. 

That the dream became 

tarnished in 

no way takes away 

from the idealism 

and very real

achievements when 

‘the iron was hot’,” 

writes Menezes. 

Eddie Fernandes,

making a presentation on the Goan  

contribution to the Kenyan movement 

at the Goa Arts and Literary Festival 

mentioned quite a few names of Goans 

who played an important role in Kenya, 

before and after Independence. Among 

those are ACL de Souza, the doctor  

who edited the newspaper Goan Voice;

Eddie Sadashiva Pereira a nationalist 

who was imprisoned during the independence 

movement; Jawaharlal Rodrigues 

editor of Daily Nation, JM 

Nazareth a lawyer and nationalist; and

Rosendo Ribeiro. There is still a Goan 

community in Kenya, small and dwindling, 

but soldiering on. 

In writing about Kenya and Goan 

contribution in the country, one name 

that can’t be overlooked is that of 

Seraphino Antao. He was not a politician. 

Instead he made his name in the field 

as an athlete who won the Commonwealth 

Games gold medal in 1962 for 

the 100 and 220 yards. Such was his 

hero status in the country that he was 

Independent Kenya’s first flag  bearer 

at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The story of Goa’s tryst with Kenya 

has not ended. There is still a Goan 

community in the East African nation 

that soldiers on building the nation 

their ancestors fought for. 
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