29.11.2017 Feature Article

The Ahanta Story - Rise And Fall Of The Ahanta Kingdom

The Ahanta Story - Rise And Fall Of The Ahanta Kingdom
29.11.2017 LISTEN

When you mention Ahanta, nobody seems to know what Ahanta means or the kind of people they are but Ahanta was once referred to as a nation, country or a kingdom and not the paltry 2 million ethnic group of people who call themselves Ahantas of today. We seem to have lost everything so many Ahanta youths who do not know where we came from and how our forefathers lived in greatness, enjoyed power and supremacy shy away from the Ahanta personality. They have thus become social renegades who wish to belong to other tribes where they have no connection.

According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Ahanta means the land of twins. As at how Ahanta became known as the land of twins is not certainly known since there are other meanings or accounts which seem more accurate and convincing than this one. It could be linked to the fertility of Ahanta women and multiple births which was very predominant then on Ahanta lands then. Some indigenous cultural practices around that time also saw births of twins as a taboo and for Ahanta to welcome the birth of twins is likely to earn her the title land of twins which I think we should pride ourselves with it but if we are to situate the land of twins account properly, then it precedes the migration of Ahantas from the Bono kingdom which occurred in 1229.

Ahanta is also believed to have come from the Fante word "hata" which matches with "yinda" in Ahanta language which means to dry or warm oneself after being wet or cold but geographically, the true definition of Ahanta is the land between Pra and Ankobra rivers. The stretch of land between these two rivers is how far and wide the once prosperous and flourished kingdom of the Ahantas covered. Our forefathers lived here in greatness and in supremacy particularly those of us who come from royal homes.

Ahanta belong to several Congo -Niger languages such as Igbo in Nigeria, Edo in Benin and all the Akan languages stretching across the South of the Sahara Desert from Togo to Cote D'Voire. It is one of the sub unit of several kwa languages across the forest belt of Sub-Sahara Africa. Ahanta is as old Methusalah but the sad thing is that our language faces possible extinction in the next 10 or 20 years as recently showed in a research conducted by the University of Cape Coast. We are not speaking it ourselves and for that matter, we are not teaching our children to pass it on to the generations that may come after us. Sekondi -Takoradi for instance has lost its Ahanta taste and fragrance.

As mentioned earlier, in 1229, Ahantas and Fantes moved from the Bono kingdom in the present day Takyiman after the death of Odapagyan who was then the leader of the Fantes to further south of the Sahara. On reaching the Pra river, the Ahantas crossed further southward to their present area of settlements. It is actually the crossing of the Pra River that gave birth to "hata" which means to dry or warm oneself in the sun. The oral account says that after crossing the Pra river, our forefathers decided to warm themselves in the sun and also to dry their clothes so they became known as "Ahatafo" meaning people who warm or dry themselves in the sun. It thus became our ethnic or tribal name.

This account is more precise, accurate convincing, consistent and backed by facts than the age old myth that Nana Badu Bonso and his descendants came from the mouth of a Whale. Legend has it that he fought his way through from the Pra river and settled at Busua which was then the abode of mighty Whales. He then established his authority over all the conquered lands and form his kingdom. It is worth mentioning here that before the arrival of Ahantas, the land was already inhabited by indigenes who were probably Guans so the present Ahanta people comprises of descendants of Guans, those who migrated from the Bono kingdom and other vassal states which later migrated into the Ahanta kingdom. It was the conquering exploits from the Pra river to the sea at Busua that rather earned the warlord of Ahanta Otumfour Badu Bonso contrary to the account that he came from the mouth of a Whale but whatever that it was, all the accounts surrounding the migration story of the Ahanta people make our history and culture rich. The royal title for Ahantahene was suspected to be "beduru bonso" which literally means to have reached the Whales and later corrupted to be Badu Bonso as years go by. He is believed to have possessed some whimsical powers that made him to conquer enemies with ease and thus the title Otumfour which means the powerful one.

Between 1300 and 1400 after arrival of Ahantas to their present location particularly the Bono group, they quickly organised themselves into a powerful kingdom which was made of chiefdoms along the Atlantic coast from the Pra to the Ankobra rivers. They had already lived in the Bono kingdom so organising themselves into kingdom and chiefdoms were something they did without much difficulties since they were already practicing most of traditions of the Bonos. A kingdom that enjoy prominence, glory, power and supremacy until the Europeans particularly the Dutch arrived in Gold Coast. The Ahanta kingdom then started to receive stiff opposition and interferences from foreign invasions particularly from the Dutch and started to lose its thresholds.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Gold Coast in 1471 and built their permanent trading post at Elmina in 1482. In 1515, they built Fort St. Anthony at Axim and in 1626, they built Fort Sebastian at Shama. The Portuguese have quickly expanded their trading activities across Ahanta from Shama to Axim covering almost the total land area of the Ahanta kingdom. The Dutch led by Barent Eriksz arrived in 1591 and by 1598, other Dutch traders had also arrived in Gold Coast and started to pose stiff opposition to the Portuguese. Through the efforts of General Jacob Clantius, the Dutch secured a permission to build Fort Nassau near Moree through the Asebu treaty.

In the preceding years, the Dutch constantly battled the Portuguese to drive them out of Gold Coast in order to gain control over the trade which eventually turned out to be a slave trade. In 1637, the Dutch captured Elmina Castle, Fort Sebastian at Shama in 1640 and in 1642, they had captured Fort Antonio in Axim. Aside ceasing Forts and Castles of the Portuguese, the Dutch built Fort Orange in Sekondi in 1642 and Fort Batenstein in Butre in 1656. By 1717 they have succeeded in driving the Portuguese away and gained control over the trade particularly in Ahanta areas.

Ahanta became the main trading grounds for the Dutch in Gold Coast. On 27th August 1656, the Butre treaty was sign between the Ahanta chiefs and the Dutch which made Ahanta a protectorate of the Dutch from the attacks of other European nations who had interest in the ongoing slave trade. A pact which lasted for 213 years until 1871 when the Dutch left the Gold Coast and the British took over. It was longest pact between an European nation and an African state. This pact became the basis for the annihilation and desolation of Ahanta as expedient forces marshalled by the Dutch marched on Ahanta on 30th June 1838 led by Major-General Jan Verveer from the Royal Netherlands Army. Major Ahanta towns like Takoradi and Busua were massacred and a large military presence was maintained in Ahanta. Asantehene alone offered 30,000 troops though the Dutch turned down his offer and believed it to be a ploy for the Ashantis to gain direct trading access with the Europeans at the coast.

In the course of war Badu Bonso II was captured and on 27 July 1838, he was hanged after which his head was removed and sent to Netherlands where it got lost for more than a century until it was rediscovered at Leiden University Medical Centre by one Arthur Japin who was conducting a research and had earlier on read about this great Ahanta king who stood against foreign invasion and interferences. The head had been stored in a jar of formaldehyde for about 170 years. In 2009, after a brief ceremony was conducted in Hague, the head was returned to Ghana previously known as the Gold Coast where it was originally taken away by the Dutch.

In 1871, the Dutch sold all their trade possessions to the British who have already built Fort Metal Cross at Dixcove in 1683 and were very active in the ongoing slave trade and left the Gold Coast after they have robbed Ahanta off everything including her pride and dignity. The British took over from the Dutch until 1957 when Gold Coast became independent and by then there was nothing left that Ahanta can boast of. From 1471 to 1957, Ahanta and other coastal Akan state were constantly oppressed and suppressed by several European nations particularly the Portuguese,the Dutch and the British.

In it all, foreign influence on Ahanta and other coastal Akan state lasted for 486 years. A period long enough to destroy everything Ahanta. Once a beautiful Ahanta kingdom was left disorganised till date.

Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III
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