The History Of The Asante Kingdom: The Hard Facts - A Rejoinder
An Advertiser’s Announcement published in the Thursday, October 16, 2003 edition of the “Daily Graphic”, which appeared to be a reaction to an Article published in the 9 September, 2003 edition of the “Ghanaian Chronicle” , would have gone unchallenged but for references therein to “Accra” and “Adangme” as being part of the territories conquered and ruled by the Asantes.
The author quoted Prof. Adu Boahen’s book “Topics in West African History” and Prof. Ivor Wilks’ “Asante in the Nineteenth Century” as his sources. In reference to Prof. Adu Boahen’s book the author quoted page 76, thereof, as follows: “Professor Adu Boahen goes on to say at page 76 of the book that during the reign of King Opoku Ware I which extended from 1717 — 1750, Asante conquered and annexed Takyiman, Banda, Gyaman, Gonja and Dagomba, all in the north, Sefwi in the West, Twifo in the South and Akyem, Kwahu, Akwamu and Accra (emphasis ours) in the South-East”. In relation to Professor Ivor Wilks’ book the author quoted page 126, thereof, which stated; inter alia, as follows: “In the early nineteenth century, excluding certain distant territories East of the Volta and West of the Tano rivers, Wilks identified some sixteen southern and central provinces as forming part of the Greater Asante: ACCRA, ADANGME, (emphasis ours) Ahanta, Akuapem, Akwamu, Akyem Amanohia, Aowin, Assin, Bonzin, Denkyira, Fante, Kwahu Sefwi, Twifo and Wassa “. The author of the article under reference would, no doubt, have committed a sacrilege if he had availed himself of the facts about the war between the Asantes and the AKRA people which had eloquently been chronicled by Reverend Carl Christian Reindorf in his book; “THE HISTORY OF THE GOLD COAST AND ASANTE” . That book written in 1889 was the first landmark history book written by a Ghanaian historian. The book, copies of which have strangely gone missing from public libraries in Ghana, (mine emphasis) contains historical facts about the Gold Coast and Asante, covering three centuries, from about 1500 to 1860. The publishers of this book were the Basel Mission Book Depot, Basel, Switzerland. It was printed by Friedrich Reinhardt, Basel (Switzerland) and sold by the Basel Mission Book Depot of Kumasi other agents. The book contains enough information about the Katamansu war of 1826. The Katamansu war, which some historians call the Dodowa war of August 1826, and facts relating to it, have been deliberately distorted by the authors quoted, which distortion has the tendency of promoting a particular agenda. KATAMANSU WAR This war was fought between the Asantes and the “AKRA” people and Dangme people of Prampram, Ningo and Ada (page 206 refers). The war which was fought from 7 August 1826, is the only known and properly documented war between the AKRA people and Asante in recorded history. CAUSE OF THE WAR The valiant “Akra” people went to help the Fantes and the Denkyiras led by the Governor, in the Cape Coast Castle, to force King Osei Yaw and the Asante army to beat a retreat from their attack on the Fantes and the Cape Coast Castle, in July 1824. Nettled by the role of the “Akra” people in scuttling his plans to capture the Cape Coast Castle, King Osei Yaw is reported on page 190 of Rev. Carl Christian Reindorf’s book, to have instructed his army, in reference to the “Akra” people as follows:
“Let us. march back to Kumasi, and I will come upon them”.
King Osei Yaw vowed to teach the “Akra” people a lesson, and declared that he would pursue the “Akras” even if they hid in the belly of “Kanfra” — a small, flat marine fish.
On page 198 of this book, the great historian had this to say about King Osei Yaw’s preparation for the war against the “Akras”:
“Osei Yaw, King of Asante, spent 40 days at Bogyeseanwo, drilling his army which numbered 40,000, exclusive of women, children and load-carriers. Wherever the army encamped they counted on plunder. All the best houses at Akra and Christianborg were divided among themselves (the Asantes) beforehand”. (emphasis ours) RESULT OF THE BATTLE OF KATAMANSU The battle between the “Akras” and the Asante began fiercely on the 7 of August 1826 at Katamansu near Dodowa. It is instructive at this point to quote relevant portions of the author for the result of the battle:
“The combined forces of Prampram, Ningo, Ada and the riverside people just at the same time followed up the attack, and the position of the Asantes became critical. King Osei Yaw, realising the danger, marched in defence with his body-guard, stood upon the royal stool, and drew the war-sword waving it between heaven and earth, as kings usually do in war, but the rebound was too strong, and he was wounded. There was a severe conflict between the king’s bodyguard and the forces under Opoku Fredefrede, in which the Asantes were beaten and greatly weakened; and on account of the defeat the Asante General afterwards poisoned himself and died at Asafo. Dshani Afutu and Ante from Teshi are said to have shouted the religious war cry of Awo awo awo!’ to which every warrior of the whole column responded as one man: “Awo, Agabai bereku tso!” A loud voice was heard in the enemy line. “Edom agu o!” The Battle is lost” Then all the baggage was hastily thrown on a heap as high as a mountain, and the Asante army took to flight, after fighting and holding their position for nine hours, from 6 a.m. — 3 p.m. Prisoners were made, and then the baggage and camp were taken”
“King Osei Yaw his escape with a large number of his bodyguards through the right wing of his army, the Akras were left victorious on the battlefield”. (Pg 206).
The author continued the report on the result of the war as follows:
“The Akras postponed till Thursday, the 10 of August reconnoitring the battlefield, on which about six thousand unburied corpses lay” .
The author further wrote in reference to the war thus:
“of all the battles fought by the Asantes since the formation of their kingdom, Katamansu had proved to be the most fatal. The King had lost sixty of his Generals, Chiefs and captains, but few of the commanders escaped with himself and Boaten”. (pg. 210)
The Asantes might have been victorious in all their wars but not the one with the Akra people. The hair- style worn by the Asante women dubbed “Gyese Nkran”, (except Akra), vulgarized as Denslnkran, was introduced to mourn the dead in the Katamansu war.
This victory illuminated the image of the “Akras” and exalted them in the eyes, hearts and minds of other• Gold Coasters. The author describes the fame of Accra in paragraph 2 of page 212 of the book as follows: “The name of “Akra” now became famous; their influence spread far and wide, and every one looked up to them. Their former enemies, Fantes, Akyems, Akwamus, and Akuapems bowed down to them, and their prestige was acknowledged even at Asante and Dahome. They maintained lively traffic with foreign countries, and strangers came down to the Coast for commercial purposes.” SPOILS OF THE WAR Various spoils were taken by the Akras from the war and the author confirms this in the fo1lowin statement on pages 211-212: “It is believed that the spoil taken from the Asantes was worth several thousands of pounds sterling. The Ningo and Ada forces, which attacked from the rear, seized the largest quantity of gold-dust; but the deluded people of Ada, who were forbidden the use of that precious metal, changed it for cotton goods and cowries’. PRISONERS OF WAR The Akras exhibited their magnanimity even in war, and to testify to this, the author continues the narration of the victory of the Akras in the first paragraph of page 211 as follows:
“The Akras being religious in their way and less blood-thirsty, spared many of their prisoners”. HOMOWO The Homowo of 1826 was exception grand and the author reported on the Homowo celebrations for that year on page 211 as follows:
“August and September being the months in which the Akras celebrate their yearly feast, the one in 1826 was unusually grand”. REACTION OF THE REALM It is instructive to conclude the quotations from this celebrated historian with reactions from the Metropolis in England on the great feat of the GaDangme people. The penultimate paragraph of page 211 sums up the recorded history thus: “An English Officer, Sir. N. Campbell, came on shore and requested to see the battlefield. Richter with some others accompanied him, and they spent a few days inspecting the place and, it is reported, Sir. N. Campbell was disgusted at the sight of so many corpses lying unburied, and hurt the feelings of the party by saying: You killed them too much!” UNITY OF GADANGME The exemplary unity exhibited by the GaDangme people in Katamansu posed a threat to the colonial administration, who contrived a scheme to keep the GaDangmes disunited and thereby reduce the only credible threat to their invincibility. We are not oblivious of an unwritten policy to keep the GaDangmes disunited, which policy has been pursued ever since 1826. We have resolved to renew our United front, in which, we believe lies the salvation of this country. We, the GaDangme people, are historically peace- loving and hospitable to all other ethnic groups. That is why Accra was chosen as the. capital of the Gold Coast. Our motto has been, and still remains, “ablekuma aba kuma wo” — meaning let the stranger come and enjoy our hospitality. UNITED GHANA We mean well by this rejoinder, and hope that it would end unfounded claims and nation-wrecking proclamations of false superiority and invincibility which have the potential of reversing the gains made by the founding fathers of this great nation of ours. There is the need to continue to forge unity among all ethnic groups and avoid xenophobia and false claims of supremacy in the higher interests of peace and security in this country Long Live United and Peaceful Ghana! Issued BY THE GADANGME COUNCIL ON 28 OCTOBER, 2003 TEL 021 - 765740
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Gadangme Council and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.