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Opinions of Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Columnist: Kufuor, A. M.

Asante History; Akyem Abuakwa And Dagomba Wars.

Part 2

Let me continue this article by emphasizing again that the writer of this piece is the son of Denkyirahene, Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III.

Before his death, King Opoku Ware appointed his brother Akwasi Darko to succeed him. After his death, the kingmakers ignored Akwasi Darko and rather selected Kusi Obodum (1750-1764), Osei Tutu’s brother. A year later, 1751, after Kusi Obodum was established firmly on the throne, Darko committed suicide.

King Kusi Obodum ruled for 14 years. He was the unsuccessful Asante King in the eighteenth century. He suffered from the reforms Opoku Ware made to the Asante Government of allowing conquered rulers amount of autonomy (as long as they paid tribute and provide military contingents when ordered), by placing conquered states directly under Kumasi chiefs. For instance, Dormaa was administered by the Bantamahene. The idea was to strengthen the Asante monarchy at the expense of the Kumasi Chiefs who, as governors of the provinces, could muster sufficient forces to meet aggression from other Asante paramountcies such as Mampong, Juaben, Essumegya and Bekwai. Unfortunately, this made Kumasi chiefs to become so powerful that they were in a position to defy the king and even challenged his authority. It was for this reason that Kusi Obodum was constantly pressured by the Bantamahene, Adu Gyamera for war. Bantamahene had even gone so far to threaten his impeachment. Also King Kusi Obodum was accused by the Dutch of being responsible for the fact that the trade routes linking Asante with the coastal trading settlements had been closed so long due to the attack on Asante traders by rebel states such as Akyem.

Kusi Obodum did not order an invasion, until learning that the Akyems had sought out aid from the Oyo Empire. Hence in 1764, Asante army led by the Juabenhene, Dankwa marched out to invade Dahomey now Benin. Unfortunately, the army was ambushed near Atakpame, in south-central Togo, killing the Juabenhene, in what became the ‘’Battle of Atakpame’’. The repercussion of this defeat by the Oyo Empire was the destoolment of Kusi Obodum.

Kusi Obodum was replaced by Osei Kwadwo Okoawia (1764-1777). King Osei Kwadwo (also referred to in the European records as Osei Kuma), stamped his authority on the Asante Empire. He invaded Banda and Wassa and punished Denkyira and Gyaman for having helped them immediately he ascended the Golden Stool. A separate Asante army led by the Mamponghene Safo Kantanka invaded Kpembe, captured the Kpembewura Nakpo and two of his closed relatives - his brother’s son and paternal cousin and took them as prisoners to Kumasi. He then extended his campaign to central Gonja. By the end of 1765 Gonja was once again firmly in the hands of Asante. *Source: Joseph Dupuis, Journal of a Residence in Ashantee (London 1824)

Again in 1765, another large Asante forces led by King Osei Kwadwo himself surrounded Akyem Abuakwa. The Akyems were easily defeated by the Asantes. Okyehene Pobi Asomaning II (1742-1765) and other important chiefs chose to kill themselves rather than fell into the hands of Osei Kwadwo. After the Akyems defeat, King Osei Kwadwo decided to stay in Fante, particularly Abora, one of the principal Fante towns. To demonstrate his peaceful intentions, he gave the Fantes one of his own close relatives as a hostage as well as many valuable presents. Nevertheless, the Fantes were very suspicious. They disliked the prospect of having the Asantehene and his army at such close quarters for such a long period. Osei Kwadwo reiterated that his purpose was to punish his rebellious subjects and to reopen the trade routes. On the other hand, the Fantes believed that the Asantes aimed at domination of the coastal states. Because of this, fighting broke out between the Fantes and Asantes which led to the latter withdrawal of his forces from Fante land. After this skirmish, Fantes felt so threatened that they form an alliance with Wassa and Twifo defensively against Osei Kwadwo Okoawia. John Hippisley, the Governor of the Cape Coast recorded this and said… ‘’since the Akims had been defeated, the Fantees had entered into alliances defensively with the Wassa and Twifo against Zaay Comaa (Osei Kuma)’’. However, by early 1766, peace had been established between Fantes and the Asantes whereas the Wassa and the Twifo had returned to their Asante allegiance.

Two years later, Ya Na Garba, King of Dagbon, jealous of the power of Asante boasted that he could overwhelm Osei Kwadwo and moved an army south. King Osei Kwadwo hearing of this commissioned the Kumasi Adontehene (also Asante Adontehene) Kwame Pete to conquer Dagbon again. Asante gained an easy victory over them and Ya Na Garba was taken prisoner. When he was being carried to Kumasi, his nephew Naa Ziblim, the chief of Nasah interceded and he was released at Yeji. Garba agreed to pay a tribute of 500 slaves annually. The payment continued until 1874 when the British forced the Asantehene to sign the Fomena Treaty. The Adontehene Kwame Pete was given one tenth of this payment. Osei Kwadwo then stationed several officials at Salaga, Buipe, and Yendi to collect taxes for transactions which took place in the market. Asante always treated Dagbon with respect as a powerful kingdom although tributary to their King. Due to their distinction serviced to Asante wars, they (Asantes) bestowed their highest accolade ‘’Kotoko’’ on the Dagbon kingdom and also the Nzemas. That is why apart from Asante Kotoko; there is Anwaa Kotoko for the Dagombas and Nzema Kotoko for the people of Nzema. This demonstrates up-to-date the cordial relationship between the Asantes and those two tribes particularly, the Dagombas.

King Osei Kwadwo then abolished trade between the north and the coast. Sharif Imhammed who was the commercial representative of the Sultan of Fezzan in the North Sahara confirms this Asante restriction on the northern commerce… “The King of Assentai prohibits his inland neighbours from passing through his country” (Sharif Imhammed, c.1788). Muslim traders could operate as far as Nkoranza in the northern Asante and Fante traders in return go to Kumasi but they are not allowed to advance beyond it. Salaga for instance Osei Kwadwo constrained Muslim traders and Hausa merchants. This restriction was to preserve Asante Traditional Religion in his kingdom. Before the restriction Muslims lived in Nsawkwa and Takyiman, northwest of Kumasi. Asante officials – (akwansrafo-road wardens) were also established at many points on all main highways to prevent guns and gun powders from being sold beyond metropolitan Asante (now Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions).

In 1772, Akyem Abuakwa revolted again. They disliked the heavy sums of gold extracted by the Asantehene as tributes. Akyems also disliked the support which the Asantes gave to the Akwamus and Anlos in the lower Volta area during this period. With Asante backing these two nations were able to dominate the lower Volta trade in dried fish, salt, ivory and slaves. Also, the Akyems must have resented the fact that Asantes received large quantities of firearms through Anlo and Akwamu whenever the trading paths west of Accra were blocked to Asante traders. For these reasons, the new Okyenhene, Obirikorang Aboree, together with Krobos and the Akuapems marched across the Volta in 1772, to attack the Akwamus and Anlos.

However, since Akyem Abuakwa and Akwamu were Asante dependences, the Asantehene decided to intervene. Osei Kwadwo ordered Obirikorang, the Okyenhene and Darko the Akwamuhene, to proceed to Kumasi to ascertain the reason for the conflict. Darko conquered but Obirikorang refused to go. Instead he decided to abandon his state and to take sanctuary of the other side of the Volta with Acheampong, the Akuapemhene. The Asantehene feared that Obirikoran would create a new alliance based on Akyem-Wassa-Twifo cooperation so he dispatched two armed bodies to hinder the Akyems in their design and to bring Okyenhene to Kumasi. Obirikorang however continued to defy the Asantehene. In view of the continued flouting of his authority by the Okyenhene in 1772, Osei Kwadwo appeared in Akyem Abuakwa and Akuapem with 20,000 men. The Asante army was later joined by King Darko of Akwamu and they defeated Akyem Abuakwa and its allies. Obirikorang ran to seek refuge in Fante. Asantehene realized the pursuit of the Okyenhene and his troops into Fante land could invoke the Fantes into war, hence before returning to Kumasi, Osei Kwadwo deposed Obirikorang and imposed Twum Ampofo I on the Akyem Abuakwas as their king. This Akyem defeat was noted by Biorn in 1773. He recorded that the rulers of Akyem Abuakwa and Akuapem together with a great lieutenant from the Asantehene arrived at Christiansburg Castle to swear an oath in the presence of the Danes to the effect that from now on they recognized the Asantehene as their overlord. Indeed the accession of Twum Ampofo I marked the beginning of the effective incorporation of Akyem Abuakwa and Akuapem into the Asante Empire. *Source: R.A. Kea, Akwamu-Anlo Relations 1750-1813*

Even though history gives all the credit for the founding of Asante nation to King Osei Tutu I and King Opoku Ware I as the empire builder, King Osei Kwadwo Okoawia is considered by many as the most successful among them. Not only did he maintained the huge Asante Empire by effectively punishing rebelled states, he also built a magnificent palace which Missionaries and War-correspondents who visited it in 1874 left their impressions which will be discussed in the final part of this article. To be continue…

By: Adomako M. Kufuor Email: Facebook: