It is the purpose of this article to investigate certain aspects of the Pokomo (P) language, and thereby to present a more detailed picture of Pokomo history than is currently available. Pokomo is an ideal laboratory for comparative linguistics. Whereas much as been written about most adjacent peoples, such as Orma, Somali, Mijikenda (MK), and Swahili, little has been said on the Pokomo, or their neighbors, the Dahalo; virtually no archeological work has been done along the Tana river, while Pokomo (and Dahalo) traditions are scantily recorded.
Further, the Tana represents more or less the extreme northeast border of the Bantu-speaking area, and it the meeting point for northern pastoralists and southern farmers. It is surrounded on all sides by speakers of Cushitic languages, from Ogaden Somali near Garissa, through Orma and Waata (all Eastern Cushitic), to Dahalo (Southern Cushitic) and Boni (Eastern Cushitic), on the Indian Ocean. At the same time, it is fairly remote from other Bantu-speaking groups. The nearest Kamba communities are nearly 100 miles as the crow flies to the west, across semi-desert, and the nearest sizeable Giriama settlement a similar distance south of Garsen across comparable terrain. The main Swahili communities of the Lamu Archipelago, north of the mouth of the river, have--at least today--little regular contact with the Pokomo. The relatively small Pokomo population--between 40,000 and 50,000--lives huddled along the banks of the Tana from Garissa in the north to the northern bank of the Indian Ocean estuary, a stretch of some 150 miles, although, if we exclude Malankote, the Pokomo territory is only some 100 miles long. They are primarily agricultural, although fishing and some hunting are also practiced.