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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Kenyan Masai donate cows to US
Masai tribesmen herding cows
The Masai consider cattle to be sacred
American diplomats have been given 14 cows by Kenyan Masai tribespeople in a gesture of sympathy following the 11 September attacks.


I know that for the Masai people the cow is valued above all possessions and that the gift of a cow is the highest expression of regard and sympathy

US embassy deputy head William Brancick

The cattle - regarded as sacred by the Masai - were handed over to William Brancick, deputy head of the US embassy in Kenya in a remote village near the border with Tanzania.

The ceremony was marked by tribespeople in traditional red robes and jewellery, some of whom carried banners saying "To the people of America, we give these cows to help you".

It was arranged by Kimeli Naiyomah, a Kenyan-born man who was studying in New York at the time of the disaster.

A victim being pulled from the rubble of the 1998 Nairobi US embassy bombing
The embassy bombing devastated Kenyans

For many of the Masai - who have no running water, electricity or telephones - his recollection to them of the events was the first time they had heard of the attacks in Washington and New York, which killed more than 3,000 people.

Mr Naiyomah described the huge fires and the sight of people jumping from tall buildings. Most of his audience did not know what a skyscraper was.

Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network are thought to have been behind the US attack, and also the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 Africans.

"This is the ultimate gift a Masai can give," Mr Naiyomah told Reuters news agency.

"I knew my people, I knew they are merciful - they can be fierce and deadly when provoked - but they are also the type of people who can easily cry for the pain of other people."

'Expression of regard'

The US national anthem played as the herdsmen handed over the cattle.

"I know that for the Masai people the cow is valued above all possessions and that the gift of a cow is the highest expression of regard and sympathy," Mr Brancick said.

"When we count the value of these cows, and when we add the value of the great spirits that gave them, we can say without doubt that you seem richer still."

The cattle will not be taken to America but will be sold at a local market and the proceeds used to buy beads.

Masai women will then fashion traditional beadwork with commemorative messages, including perhaps the Stars and Stripes of the US flag.

The Masai craftwork will then be handed over to the people of New York for display in the city.

See also:

15 Aug 00 | Africa
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
22 Mar 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
20 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
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