The Murders of Malcolm X & Pio Gama Pinto

On the 21st of February, 1965, Malcolm X was killed in the Washington Heights neighborhood while speaking to an audience in Harlem, New York. Malcolm had just formed a new movement, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), having left the Nation of Islam the previous year. He was 39 years old. Three days later, on the 24th of February 1965, Pio Gama Pinto, a socialist revolutionary in Kenya, was assassinated outside his home in Nairobi. He was 38 years old. The assassination of both Pinto and Malcolm X in the same week has long raised serious questions and conspiracy theories alike in solving the mystery surrounding their death as the two had become close friends just before their demise.

During his visit to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1959, Malcolm X met Pio Gama Pinto, establishing a close friendship and forming a stand against the oppression of black people around the world. It is reported that Pinto was the one who challenged Malcolm’s nationalist politics and after their interaction, Malcolm X expanded his worldview to Pan-Africanism and reshaped his thinking toward internationalism in the fight against oppression. 

Pinto and Malcolm X, in the course of their collaboration, set up a plan to address the oppression of Africans and African-Americans by charging the United States at the United Nations over crimes against humanity. It is believed that this could be one of the reasons why both were killed. Dick Gregory, speaking in 2016, (S.Durrani 2018) remarked;

“Malcolm was killed because of another brother called Pinto who was born in Nairobi. He was the one that changed Malcolm’s head from Black nationalist to Pan Africanism and made the connection from here to there. And the U.S. government said we can’t let this happen. Pinto is the one that persuaded Malcolm when he went to Africa and stayed seven weeks and met all the real leaders. And he’s the one that discussed it with Malcolm bringing racism to the doorstep of the U.S.A. And as Malcolm was shot dead in New York City, Pinto was gunned down in Nairobi. Same time.”

Pinto himself was born in Nairobi on the 31st of March, 1927. He went to India, where he was a founder member of the Goa National Congress, whose aim was to liberate Goa from colonial rule. He returned to Kenya and became involved in every aspect of the liberation struggle; radical trade unions and movements, setting up progressive political and learning institutes, publishing and popularizing socialist policies and politics, and wholeheartedly supporting the Mau Mau liberation war. When Independence was attained in 1963, Pinto was the first to point out the treachery of capitalist Africanization led by the emerging ruling elite, taking a capitalist road backed by the U.S.A as a countermeasure to the spread of socialism in Kenya.

He warned in 1963, “Kenya’s Uhuru (Independence) must not be transformed into freedom to exploit, or freedom to be hungry and live in ignorance. Uhuru (Independence) must be Uhuru for the masses, Uhuru (Independence) from exploitation, from ignorance, disease, and poverty.”

In his speech in Harlem in 1964, Malcolm X recognized the role of the Mau Mau liberation movement in bringing an end to British colonial dominance in Kenya through guerilla warfare. This showed Malcolm’s understanding and appreciation of revolutionary struggles outside the U.S.A. Malcolm declared at the rally, “We need  a Mau Mau revolution in Mississippi, we need a Mau Mau revolution in Alabama, we need a Mau Mau revolution in Georgia, and we need a Mau Mau revolution in Harlem!”

In Pio Gama Pinto – Kenya’s Unsung Martyr 1927-1965, which is one of the most comprehensive materials available on Pinto, Shiraz Durrani highlights the importance of understanding the deaths of Pio Gama Pinto and Malcolm X within the local and international context. He says;

“There is a pattern of assassinations carried out by imperialism in that no links between the assassins and their real masters can be found. True, a number of scapegoats are made to serve sentences but the political motives of the instigators behind the assassinations are hidden. Evidence is hidden or destroyed. The assassinations of Malcolm X and Pinto fall into this pattern. This again requires more research, but the ruling classes in Kenya, USA, and Britain prevent any meaningful official investigations. They also deprive funds to others seeking clarification, and if this fails to stop the investigation, they use further threats and assassinations to suppress the truth.”

It is a fact that those behind the assassinations of African revolutionaries are never caught, and that only smokescreens are put on to divert people’s attention. While it is true that Malcolm had a serious conflict with the Nation of Islam, and that Pio Gama Pinto was feared by the Kenyan ruling elite, we are certain that Imperialist forces had a hand in their killings. The person accused of killing Pio Gama Pinto was released in 2001 and 20 years later was awarded 2.5 million shillings for torture during his 35-year imprisonment while those accused of Malcolm X’s murder were exonerated in 2021 and are to receive $36 million for wrongful conviction. Nevertheless, you can kill revolutionaries but you cannot kill revolutionary ideas. The present crisis of capitalism, inequality, racism and the rise of fascism vindicate the stand and ideas of both Malcolm X and Pio Gama Pinto.