Asante History; Akyem Abuakwa And Dagomba Wars—Part 1
The writer of this piece is not an Asante but a proud son of the occupant of the Denkyira Bankamdwa (the Supreme Stool of Denkyira State), Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III, the Denkyirahene.
Pre independence history of Ghana (1696-1901) was dominated by the history of Asante's hegemony and the attempts by the British to subdue it military prowess. It is in view of this the writer is basing this article on Asante. This is not to exalt any ethnic group above the other, neither is it to make some ethnic groups seemingly more important than others but to highlight on latent events between the reigns of King Osei Tutu I and King Prempeh I of Asante. It's important for us to note that we are the past; we are the sum of all the events- the good and the bad- that have happened to us. This sum product guides our actions in the present. Similarly, the only way we can understand people is by studying their past. If we don't understand what made them who they are we will make all sorts of mistakes in our interactions with them. Therefore is important to learn our history.
After King Osei Tutu (1700-1717), the founder of the Asante nation defeated Denkyira, he annexed surrounding Akan states including Wassa, Sefwi and Twifo but not Akyem into his new Kingdom. Akyem state, which was founded by a branch of the Denkyira royal family, however after the defeat of Denkyira, took certain actions which were clearly intended to provoke Osei Tutu into war. First they offered asylum to Ntim Gyakari's successor, Boadu Akefun, King of Denkyira who had rebelled against the Asantehene. The other action was they declared their support and schemed to restore the Twifohene who had been deposed by the Asantehene. The Akyems even promised to go to the aid of the people of Fante where the Twifohene had sought refuge in the event of their being attacked by Asante in 1712. However, Asante needed to control the rebelled states first before raging war against the Akyems. Hence Amankwatia (Bantamahene), the commander-in-chief of the Kumasi army was sent to humble Twifo and other rebelled states. Twifohene was killed and in 1714 Twifo and Denkyira had returned to their Asante allegiance. Amankwatia was urgently called to Kumasi in 1715 with the Wassa forces because the Akyems were greatly frustrating Osei Tutu with a battle. *source: System of Ashanti (Oxford, 1951) p. 74*
In 1717, Opemsuo Osei Tutu led an Asante regiment into Akyem. Initially he underestimated the Akyems and upon realizing the contingent of the Akyems army, the Asante rear army decided to withdraw him (Osei Tutu) back to Kumasi. Unfortunately, whiles he was crossing the Pra River with the Asante rear army he was shot and killed by the Akyems. The Mamponghene, Akuamoa Panin thereupon took over the command of the army untilled Opoku Ware Katakyie (1718-1750) was enthroned on the Golden Stool.
King Opoku Ware immediately instituted the Great Oath of Asante, Kromante, the greatest instrument which kept the Asante union from disintegrating after Osei Tutu's death. Whilst the Asante were still fighting the Akyems, Sefwi seized the opportunity of Osei Tutu's death, to attack Kumasi, killed Nyarko Kusi Amoa, Opoku Ware's mother who was then the Asantehemaa. Bantamahene, Amankwatia was sent to sefwi and he defeated them at the Tano River and executed their ruler Abirimuru. The Ankobea stool was then created by Opoku Ware to protected Kumasi and the king's treasury during war (Ankobea means doesn't go anywhere).
In 1723 Opoku Ware led-Asante Army defeated the Bono and Dagomba Kingdoms burning the latter capital Yendi. The British consul at Kumasi in 1827, M. J. Dupuis, records in his “Journal a Residence in Ashantee” that the Dagomba capital Yendi and other large towns of the country paid to Ashantee an annual tribute of 500 slaves, 200 cows, 400 sheep and cloths and that smaller towns are taxed in proportion. In 1732, Dr Claridge named Opoku Ware as the Conqueror of Dagomba in his “History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti”. Moreover Gbunja, a Muslim Chronicler recorded in February 1745 that “the Cursed Unbeliever, Opoku Ware entered the town of Yendi and Plundered it”. All these enlisted the defeat of Dagomba by King Opoku Ware which is been disputed by Dagbon state.
In 1730, when the Akyems decided to attack Akwamu, they sent messengers to Opoku Ware promising him 500 slaves if he would assure them that Asante would not invade Akyem in their absence. The Asantehene agreed to the Akyems request but allowed them only five months to finish the war. Akwamu was always considered by Asante as their allies. However, Akwamus were greatly responsible for Asante defeat during the Asante-Akyem war in 1717. The Akwamuhene suggested to Osei Tutu that a section of the Asante army should pass through Akwamu to attack the Akyems where they would least expect it. Akwamu then had the Akyems informed of the line the Asante must take which resulted in Asante's defeat. Therefore Asante had wished for humiliation of Akwamus but not complete break-up of Akwamu's power. It was for this reason that Opoku Ware threatened the Fantes in 1730 when he realized they had aided the Akyems in the killing of Akwamuhene Ansa Kwoa (1725-1730).
In 1732, King Opoku Ware invaded Gonja destroying their capital. A year later, the Danes noted that they were paying the monthly ground rent to Okyenhene Ba Kwante. They also reported in that same year that the Akwamus in their new homeland after their defeat by Akyems were boasting that Opoku Ware would soon give them Accra as a present after the Asante had defeated Akyem. Their boatful weren't far from right. In early mouth of 1742, Opoku Ware Katakyie invaded Akyem Abuakwa and Kotoku, their kings Ba Kwante and Apau respectively together with Otublohum Manste were all slain including the heir-apparent to the Abuakwa stool Akyem Owusu and Darko. Gold death mask of Ba Kwante was made and then added to the insignias on the Golden Stool of Asante. With the consent of Opoku Ware, Pobi Asomaning succeeded Ba Kwante as Okyenhene and Buroni became the new Kotokuhene. *source: The Rise and Fall of a West African Empire: Akwamu (1650-1750)*
Some messengers from the Asantehene reached Accra soon after the war to inform the European merchants and the coastal people from Accra to the Volta to pay ground rents and indemnities to Opoku Ware for allowing Okyenhene's brother Darko to join his people the Akyems to fight the Asantes. The Danish Governor Dorph Roemer made reference to the same event and wrote that “We Danes were troubled with about 20,000 Assiante men, when an Ursue Afrie (Owusu Afriyie) commanded and who plagued us until he got a considerable amount of goods from us”. The Governor gave account of this meeting with the Asante army on the 25th April 1742.
That is after the 32 years reign of Katakyie Opoku Ware, Asante conquered and annexed, Bono, Banda, Gyaaman, Gonja and Dagomba, all in the north; Aowin, Sefwi States and the Anyi state of Endenye in the west; Twifo in the south and Akyem, Kwahu, Akwapim and Accra in the south-east and Krakye and Krepi in the east. The only independent country was the Fante nation. To be exact, by the end of his reign, Asante was occupying an area much larger than modern Ghana. King Opoku Ware Katakyie eventually died in 1750. After Opoku Ware death, the Muslim chronicler Al-Hajj Muhammed Ibn Mustafa in the Kitab Ghunja criticized him for harming the people of Gonja by oppressing them, robbering their property, complaining he ruled violently as tyrant and noting that people all around feared him greatly.
To be continued...
By: A. M. Kufuor
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