Feature Article of Saturday, 2 October 2010

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

Danquah's Role In The Ritual Murder Of Akyea Mensah

Danquah's Role In The Ritual Murder Of Akyea Mensah: More Questions
Than Answers!

Feature Article by Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.*
*Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheOdikro

Kwame Okoampa wrote a few days ago:
"About the only fault Danquah made over the Akyea-Mensah cause celebre,
was his insistence on personally defending his nephews as a lawyer.
But this was only to be expected."

- (Comment: Adwowa Mansa, Don't
Overbite!, Author: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Date: 2010-09-27
06:31:19, See comments under, Feature Article of Monday, 27 September
2010, Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame, "Indeed, Brave Men Lived Long
Before Kwame Nkrumah!"

This raises many questions:

1, Danquah has been the solicitor and the Attorney-General of the
Akyem Abuakwa State since 1928 until and after the assassination of
Nana Akyea Mensah. As a solicitor, it was his responsibility to give
timely legal counsel to his clients in the event where they are about
to commit a crime.

He could not have claimed ignorance! There is a vast literature on
human sacrifice among the Akan and especially among the Asante people
that dates back to the earliest European contact with the coast, but
it deals exclusively with various forms of mortuary sacrifice. For
example, see A. van Danzig and A. Jones, Pieter de Marees: Description
and Historical Account of the Gold Kingdom of Guinea (1602) (Oxford,
1987), 184-5; S. T. E. Bowdich, Mission From Cape Coast Castle to
Ashantee (London, 1819), 288-9; J. Dupuis, Journal of Residence in
Ashantee (London, 1824), 116-7. Twentieth-century scholars have sought
to make more of a distinction between 'judicial executions' and
'mortuary slayings', than the earlier observers: Wilks, 'Space, time
and "human sacrifice"'.

Nana Akyea Mensah's speech to the Council of Elders of the Akyem
Abuakwa State on the eve of his assassination in a barbaric act of
human sacrifice, was the kind of speech expected from J. B. Danquah at
that time. It was a direliction of duty, not to talk of his active
encouragement, knowing very well what the intentions of the chiefs
were at that night when they met in preparations for the WEREMPE
custom. This is already a criminal negligence. The fact that he was
not prosecuted for this does not make it right.

" There was also an Akan belief that a messenger must accompany
a dead chief on his last journey to the land of his ancestors. Someone
therefore had to be killed to serve that purpose. The murder of Akyea
Mensa (Apedwahene), a case popularly referred to as “Kyebi Murder
Trial” was purported to have served as a ritual sacrifice, to
accompany a dead paramount chief of Kyebi. The deceased was killed and
buried on a riverbed, after the murderers had diverted the course of
the brook and redirected the same brook to conceal the grave . -
Volume 4 Chapter 9 - The Role Of Religious Bodies – Complicity Or
Resistance To Human Rights Abuses

2, We need to know from those who claim, "the only fault Danquah made
over the Akyea-Mensah cause celebre, was his insistence on personally
defending his nephews as a lawyer," to tell us how the Council of
Elders resolved their dispute with Nana Akyea Mensah?

Here is a very good summary of the backgroud to the case.
Interestingly, I found it in a preview to a play, "Where Is The

"In the 1990s, a wizard of a CID man, retired Police Assistant
Commissioner, H.A Nuamah, painstakingly wrote a very detailed account
of the story, complete with pictures, and published it as a book: "THE

It is this book which has served as the raw material for playwright,
Gloria Yartey, with over 100 scripts to her credit to come out with
her latest sensation, true life story, entitled: WHERE IS THE CHIEF?

According to ACP/Mr Nuamah, the climax of the week-long funeral of the
late Okyehene Nana Sir Ofori Atta I was set for Sunday, 27th February,
1944. The last rite marking the end of the funeral was the celebration
of the WEREMPE custom, which was the act of blackening the stool of
the late chief, formally making him an ancestor in the line of kings.

In the past, this rite was, nationwide, performed with slaughtering a
human being and using his blood to "purify" the stool.

In the evening of Saturday, 26th February, 1944 all the principal
players in the stool blackening ritual assembled for final

The question was which human being’s blood was to be used for the
ceremony. Present was Nana Akyea Mensah, Chief of Apedwa, and
traditionally commander of the Okyehene’s royal bodyguard.

Nana Mensah quite clearly explained to his colleagues that times had
changed. The colonial authorities at the Christianborg Castle in Osu
had taken over the power of life and death from the chiefs. It was no
longer possible for the chiefs to sit anywhere and condemn anybody –
if they used any human blood in the ritual, the Gold Coast Police
would arrest them.

However, hardliners at the meeting opposed Nana Mensah, and, after the
meeting, they planned that when Nana came in the morning for the
rites, meaning to use the blood of goats and sheep, they would kill
him and use his blood – after all he was top royal blood, and the only
mole in their midst." (Where Is The Chief?' Drama Preview:'Where Is
The Chief?' Source:Times Posted on: 20-Apr-2008)

Are you trying to tell me no one contacted J. B. Danquah, who was also
in town for the funeral over such a fundamental issue of law which had
resulted in an unprecedented impasse at a meeting of the Coucil of
Elders of the Akyem Abuakwa State to which he had been, and continued
to be its Attorney-General for the previous sixteen years without a
single break? What did Danquah tell them, if he did not disagree with
Akyea Mensah's legal opinions on the subject of human sacrifice? Do we
have any records anywhere that we see Danquah specifically condemning
this barbaric act that any lizard knew was going on in the Gold Coast?

3, What about the accusations that Akyea Mensah, who was working as a
clerk to the Court, had information on Danquah's unwarranted
expenditure at the expense of the Akyem Abuakwa State was going to be
exposed by Nana Akyea Mensah, after the death of his protegé, Nana Sir
Ofori-Atta I? Were there other factors, such as the one we read from
the following theses? "This case involved a break-away attempt on the
part of two subordinate stools in the Akyem Abuakwa paramountcy that
was fueled by conflict over who should control revenue accruing from
diamond mining. It lasted from 1922 to 1937 when a final appeal to the
Privy Council was withdrawn. For a history of this case see Baron
Holmes, 'Economic and political organizations in the Gold Coast,
1920-1945' (Ph.D. thesis, The University of Chicago, 1972), 483-505"

Was Nana Akyea Mensah singled out by Danquah in order to avoid
answering for what we may call today "causing financial loss to the
Akyem Abuakwa State"? This is Rathbone's take on the matter: It was
possible to advance conspiratorial theories about motive in the Kibi
murder since the victim, Akyea Mensah, was an odikro (sub-chief) in
the Akyem Abuakwa state and had an intimate and potentially damaging
knowledge of its internal affairs. Apart from being of suitably high
status he had been close to the Akyem Abuakwa stool and stool family.
Some claimed his death had been made to look like a ritual murder, but
that really he had been killed because he 'proposed to reveal
irregularities in the conduct of [the state's] Treasury in public
after Ofori Atta I's death'. - Rathbone, Murder and Politics In The
Gold Coast, p160.)

4, Why is it that even though it was clear from the beginning that
Danquah's lack-luster defence of the accused, who were his own
relatives, namely, Asare Apietu, Kwame Kagya, Kwaku Amoako Atta,
Kwadwo Amoako, Kwasi Pipim, Opoku Ahwenee, A. E. B. Danquah and Owusu
Akyem-Tenteng, he would sturbonly insist on leading the case right up
to the Privy Council, the final court of appeal, which ensured that
they would be sentenced to death by hanging by the neck until they

"To all men of goodwill, organize, organize, organize! The struggle is
far from over! We prefer self-government in danger, to servitude in
Forward ever, backward never"!
Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.
Facebook: /www.facebook.com/people/Nana-Akyea-Mensah
Blog: nanaakyeamensah.blogspot.com/
Twitter: /twitter.com/TheOdikro