Tana River groups dance their way to peace

Mazulugi dancers in Bura town on Sunday /ALPHONCE GARI
Mazulugi dancers in Bura town on Sunday /ALPHONCE GARI

Tana River residents are using cultural music to promote peace and cohesion.

The county has for decades been rocked by ethnic violence and bloody clashes. But Tana River, home to numerous ethnic groups, is moving away from ancient practices as intermarriages are on the rise.

Traditionally, each ethnic group would marry their own, creating ethnic imbalance and hatred. Apart from intermarrying, it is common to see the communities in ceremonies performing diverse and rich cultural music. It creates a strong bond within the communities once perceived as enemies.

Tana River has a history of ethnic violence triggered by fights for water and pasture, but that is becoming a thing of the past.

The county majorly consists of the Orma, Pokomo, Wardei, Garre, Mnyoyaya, Kamba and Kikuyu communities.

Journalists recently attended the wedding of a prominent businessman’s son in Bura constituency. The event revealed there is currently a high spirit of cohesion

amongst the groups.

Adan Malow’s son Hassan Aden’s wedding in Garre attracted hundreds of residents. Dances from the Pokomo, Orma, Wardei, Mnyoyaya and Garre took centre stage during the ceremony in Bura town.

Each ethnic group wore traditional regalia and danced to entertain guests.

Malow, a farmer at Bura irrigation scheme, said such a ceremony enhances unity. He said tribalism no longer exists in Tana River as everyone coexists peacefully.

Malow said there are a few elements who try to push for negative ethnicity but the majority live in unity.

Resident Ali Abdi, also a retired NYS officer, said they are happy to celebrate intermarriages.

Abdi said he spent most of his life in the government and does not recognise any form of ethnicity.

Mohamed Roba, a headman in Bura, said all Tana River communities come together during such events to showcase their culture and share meals. During the wedding ceremony, goats and cattle were slaughtered in both the bride and bridegroom’s homes.

Hussein Jillo from Makere within the irrigation scheme and a member of Baressa traditional dance crew performed during the ceremony. He said such events bring peace.

Jillo said previously the Somali, Garre and Wardei communities clashed, but there have been no such cases lately.

He said they perform dances to Wardei, Pokomo, Orma and other communities to discourage ethnic violence.

Zaina Maro, a member of Mazulugi dance crew, said they came to entertain Malow’s son to preach peace.

In 2016, three people were killed in inter-clan clashes between warring communities of Somalia and Pokomo in Tana River.

The Coast regional police boss said the incident occurred after herders from the Somali community invaded a Pokomo farm within Galole.

Tension was high in the area amid reports of retaliation plans by both communities, the police chief said.

The National Intelligence Service issued a warning of possible violence in the county before or after the general election.

The NIS report indicated there was growing discomfort among the warring communities of Orma, Wardie and Pokomo that could trigger chaos.

“The Pokomo are unhappy with the current leadership that they claim is not all inclusive,” the report said.