14.02.2018 Feature Article

The Dutch-Ahanta War - Chronicling Events And Sequences That Lead To The Death Of Otumfour Badu Bonso II

The Dutch-Ahanta War - Chronicling Events And Sequences That Lead To The Death Of Otumfour Badu Bonso II
14.02.2018 LISTEN

On 25th July 1838, Otumfour Badu Bonso II was publicly hanged at Butre. His head was removed, placed in a formaldehyde jar and taken to Netherlands. On 20th August in the same year, 5 of Ahanta nobles were hanged at Elmina, 13 more were sent into exile to Dutch West Indies to work on coffee plantations and another 36 were forced to work on coffee plantations at Elmina. During the installation of Hendrick Bosch as the governor of Dutch Gold Coast, he then pardoned all the Ahanta people for rebelling against the Dutch government. That was the real beginning for the struggles of self government or independence but historians in Ghana have failed to credit the Ahantas and their contributions accordingly.

One may ask how did all these happen and did we need a pardon from a foreign ruler on our own land? Think about this as you may after all find some sooths and comforts in death than to be given a pardon by a foreign authority under constant oppression and suppression. You might understand why Otumfour Badu Bonso II and other Ahanta nobles chose to rebel against the Dutch which resulted in their deaths in 1838. Before Ghanaians started to sing "...and help us to resist oppressor's rule" as a national anthem, Ahanta had long resisted oppressor 's rule and paid the price for resisting the oppressors. Our King laid his life down for it and kicked start the struggles of independence way long before it became a reality.

Ahanta has a story that must be told and be told rightly and by no one else other than Ahantas themselves. The only way we can make Ahanta great again is to tell our story rightly to inspire the younger generation about how our forefathers fought and wage battles against oppression and suppression of foreign rule. Our forefathers were not coward unlike the present generation who seemed to have lost their pride and dignity because they fear or feel shy to publicly admit that they are Ahantas. Those of us who know the Ahanta story would still want to be Ahantas in the next world if indeed, there is life after death. The present generation preferred to be associated with other tribes which story is not as great as Ahanta. Today I narrate the events and sequences that led to the death of Otumfour Badu Bonso II, one of Ahanta's greatest personalities of all times who stands very tall on the African continent it comes to fighting against foreign rule. One of the first Kings to have rebelled against foreign rule so if Ghana is independent today, such a great king should be given a due recognition but unfortunately our historians have buried him deep in the crust of history but I am digging it.

By 1830s Otumfour Badu Bonso II has become very dissatisfied with constant interferences of Dutch in the affairs of Ahanta. The Dutch were inciting some Ahanta towns particularly Sekondi against his authority and orders. This heightened when he suspected Etteroe the chief of Sekondi to be selling gun powder to neighbouring Wassa who in turn will use it to raid smaller Ahanta towns, take them captives and sell them to the Dutch as slaves. He was highly displeased with this so he went for a woman and a child who had been panyarred by the chief of Sekondi after he paid their debts. He later dragged Etteroe, the chief of Sekondi to Gerard Smulders who was then the commandant at Fort Sebastian in Shama and accused him of circumventing the ban on gunpowder trade to the Wassas. Etteroe was later fined to tune of 14 ounces of gold equalling the same amount Otumfour Badu Bonso II had paid to him for panyarring the woman and the child.

Etteroe in turn went to Gerard Smulders at Shama and accused Otumfour Badu Bonso II of extortion. Gerard Smulders summoned Otumfour Badu Bonso II to Shama but when he arrived, he did not meet Gerard Smulders so he became very angry and disappointed that a king of his calibre could be humiliated by Etteroe, the chief of Sekondi and Gerard Smulders. He vowed never to appear before any whiteman again for mediation between him and his subject particularly Etteroe, the chief of Sekondi who seemed to be controlled by the Dutch to forment troubles in Ahanta. After all, he is the King on his on his own land and if anything at all, it is the whiteman that should be brought before him and not he before them. He had all these while played some high levels of diplomacy due to the Butre treaty signed between the Ahanta state and the Dutch government in August 17, 1656.

When Gerard Smulders realised Otumfour Badu Bonso was not going to come to Fort Sebastian at Shama, he referred the matter to Hendrick Tonneboijer who was then the interim governor of Dutch Gold to deal with it. He also summoned Otumfour Badu Bonso II on several occasions but he refused to go and insisted that Hendrick Tonneboijer should rather come to him at Busua. Hendrick Tonneboijer sent the military commander at the Elmina Castle, George Maassen to Adriaan Cremer of Fort Batenstein at Butre to arrest Otumfour Badu Bonso by force and bring him to him, Hendrick Tonneboijer at Elmina.

On 23 October 1837, Otumfour Badu Bonso II finally arrived at Butre in a company of armed men but refused to enter Fort Batenstein and rather requested that he wishes to discuss the matter in the house of Anthonie Rhule who was a known trader in Dutch Gold Coast. He had actually come for war and not for mediation since he is much aware that he is to be arrested and be sent to Hendrick Tonneboijer at Elmina by force, dead or alive. George Maassen, the military commander who had come from Elmina and Adriaan Cremer who was then at Fort Batenstein as the representative of the Dutch government went to meet Otumfour Badu Bonso II in Anthonie Rhule's house. In the process of discussions, misunderstandings ensued between Otumfour Badu Bonso II and the two Dutch officials and as they tried to arrest him by force. The two Dutch men fired a warning shot but they were overpowered by Otumfour Badu Bonso II and his men. They were killed and their heads were taken to Busua as a souvenir. We are told Nana Badu Bonso II used them to decorate his palace as a sign of victory over the whiteman and also to send strong signals that he is not ready to entertain the Dutch and their interferences in the affairs of Ahanta.

On October 1837, Hendrick Tonneboijer himself with a force of 130 men arrived Ahanta to forcefully arrest Otumfour Badu Bonso II. Though King of Elmina and the then British governor at Cape Coast had persuaded him not to embark on such a suicide mission to have Otumfour Badu Bonso II arrested but he would not agree. The commandants at Fort Sebastian in Shama and and Fort Orange in Sekondi also tried to impress on him not to try to arrest Ahantahene because he is such a powerful being but for his personal ambition and to prove to Hague that he has what it takes to be a governor in Dutch Gold Coast, he went to war with Ahanta. He was just 23 years of aged and described by Douchez and Tengbergen as hot-headed and overly ambitious. He had previously gone on bet with one Bartels who was a mulatto that he would arrest Ahantahene to prove a point that he is capable of becoming the governor of Dutch Gold.

At this time the message had already reached Otumfour Badu Bonso II that Hendrick Tonneboijer and his men were on their way to have him arrested so he was waiting as he has prepared his standing army to face off with Tonneboijer. He definitely knew that death of George Maassen and Adriaan Cremer, the two Dutch officials who tried to arrest him at Butre will bring serious repercussions and consequences that he is prepared to face. On the beaches of Takoradi, Otumfour Badu Bonso II and his men ambushed Tonneboijer and within minutes, 30 of Tonneboijer's men including himself have been killed and the rest fled.

By February 1838, the onslaught of Hendrick Tonneboijer and his men had reached the capital of Netherlands, Hague. Netherlands was in shock because it is the first of its kind in their colonies. General Jan Verveer who had previously served the Dutch government in the Ashanti empire was dispatched with Lieutenant H.F Tengbergen together with 200 troops plus 11 officers to Dutch Gold Coast suppress the ongoing rebellion in Ahanta. General Verveer did not attack Ahanta at once upon arrival. He took his time to study the terrain and mobilised local force within Dutch Gold Coast to attack Ahanta. Asantehene at the time provided 30, 000 troops but Verveer turned him down because he saw it as ploy to have direct access to the coastal trade. Sekondi, Axim, Enimir and some Wassa states combined to provide a force of 2000 locals in addition to General Verveer's army that he had brought from Elmina. Aside mobilising forces to conquer Ahanta, Verveer had set in motion a conspiracy theory by enticing some Ahantas with gold to betray their king. The objective of this theory was that anybody who help them to capture Otumfour Badu Bonso II will be compensated with ounces of gold.

On July 1838, Otumfour Badu Bonso II was captured. He was publicly hanged at Butre where he killed George Maassen and Adriaan Cremer. His head was removed by Schillet who was a medical officer in the Verveer's army and sent to Netherlands. His reason was that he wants to preserve the head for curiosity. General Verveer kept a large military presence in Ahanta to avoid future rebellion. Takoradi and Busua were left in ruins.

In March 2009, after 170 years, the head of the King was finally brought back and just like Schillet said, some of us had our curiosity satisfied when the head of the King was brought to us.

The King still lives.
Long live Otumfour Badu Bonso XV !
Long live Ahantaman !!
Long live Ghana !!!
Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III [email protected]