How a monkey and cow are causing tension in Tana River

Tana River County Governor Dhadho Gaddae Godhana addressing the press at Delta house on 29/4/18. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
The county will soon have a new coat of arms, the governor has said.

According to Governor Godhana Dhadho, the emblem developed by the former administration would be redesigned to remove the image of a monkey, which he said was causing friction among local communities.

The administration of former governor Hussein Dado had a monkey and a cow on the county's coat of arms.

However, some residents have expressed displeasure at the monkey image, saying it was a mockery.

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"We will do away with the current coat of arms and design a new one that will foster peace and unity," Mr Dhadho said yesterday.

He added: "The current emblem has caused divisions after some residents interpreted it wrongly and used it to stereotype other communities. We want an emblem that equalises us."

Dhadho inherited an ethnically divided county following bloody clashes between the Pokomo, who are farmers, and the pastoralist Orma. Hundreds of people were killed during the clashes between 2012 and 2013.

Fighting between the Pokomo and the Orma was blamed on rivalry over pasture and water.

Competition for power and land is also said to have caused animosity between the two communities and the conflict over the coat of arms has only compounded the situation.

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A commission of inquiry established that the two tribes, which have cultural and political differences, also deployed money and weapons and used police and military officials from either side to commit the killings.

But the report that implicated key officials in the past and current administration was never made public or implemented.

Pokomo leaders believe the monkey was meant to mock their community and want it scrapped.

"We do not want the monkey on the logo because it is an insult to our community," said Galole MP Said Hiribae, who spoke in Hola town last week, sparking the debate.

Orma leaders have said they find nothing wrong with the monkey image.

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Salim Bagana, who served in the former regime and is also serving in the current administration, said there was no ill motive in using the primate on the coat of arms.

Mr Bagana claimed the monkey was included to promote the county as a tourist destination.

"This is because Tana River is one of the few places on earth with endangered species of monkeys," he said.

Dhadho weighed in on the debate and declared that the coat of arms would be redesigned.

He said the current design was ill-motivated. "It must therefore be scrapped and replaced with one that does not promote stereotypes and ethnic passions."

The governor, who spoke in Hola town, invited artists to submit applications for designing "the right emblem".

"I have been asked questions by both communities about the coat of arms and I had nothing to say because I didn’t know a monkey was an insult to Pokomo farmers," he said.

Farmers do not like monkeys as they consider them destructive and a curse.

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Tana River CountyTana River County Governor Dhadho Gaddae Godhana