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Say It Loud

The Ga-Asante Alliance of 1740

2003-08-01 11:35:10

(Dedicated to the memory of Dr. R.E.G. Armattoe).

Before the fateful events leading to the Battle of Katamanso, the Ga and Asante had always maintained the best of friendship. They never fought against each other. There was mutual repect between the two ethnic groups. In fact their alliance amounted to a brotherhood.

The alliance between the Ga and Asante was made during the reign of the Asantehene, Opoku Ware and the Ga King, Tete Ahinakwa, about 1740.

Although the Ga and Asante had different historical backgrounds and spoke different languages, they were still considered brothers according to tradition. One tradition has it that the Chiefs of Elmina had two daughters, one of whom was married to an Asante Prince from Kumasi and the other to a Ga Prince from Accra. Their descendants later ascended to the thrones of Asante and Accra, thereby maintaining a bond between the two ethnic groups. Another tradition has it that since the Ga for the most part concentrated more on peaceful trading rather than on territorial aggrandizement, they did not provoke the ire of the Asante. Yet another school of though has it that the Asante were merely observing a policy of divide and conquer, by maintaining peace with the Ga until they has completed the task of subduing other ethnic groups.

Whatever the case may be, mutual respect was once paramount in the relationship between the Asante and Ga. Although some historians claim that the Asante conquered the Ga and thus the latter ethnic group was subject to them, this is historically untrue.

As the Ghanaian historian, Carl C. Reindorf noted in his famous book, "The History of the Gold Coast and Asante," "Several of the principal chiefs among the Akras, were befriended by the Asante Kings, but they were never tributaries to them like the Fantes, Akyems, Akwamus and Akuapems...with the exception of lime prepared by the people of Tema and the Akras, carried by the Akuapems to Kumasi, no direct service has ever been done by them indicating subjection of the Akras to them. "(p. 169).

The Asante Kings also consulted Ga oracles, among others, before embarking on wars and were given war-medicines. After every successful military expedition, the Asantehene sent the Ga a considerable amount of booty and prisoners.

In 1809, the Obutus and Fanti Gomoa and other Fantis sent an army to Accra to subdue the Ga. Another force was sent against the people of Elmina. They were infuriated by the Ga alliance with the Asante. The people of Accra, however, utterly defeated the Fanti army. The plan to conquer Elmina fared no better. After some desultory engagements, the Fanti decided to invest the town.

The Asantehene, Osei Bonsu, decided to send an army to the aid of his allies, the people of Accra and Elmina. In 1811, a formidable army of 25,000 men under Opoku Ferefere Obuabasa, (The breaker of hands) was sent to help the Ga and another force of 4,000, (6,000 according to some historians) was sent under Appiah Dankwa to aid the Elminas.

There was however a twist to the whole affair. The King of Akim Abuakwa, Atta Wusu Yiakosan, who had once fought courageously in alliance with the Asante army in 1806, was once again asked by the Asante to join forces with Appiah Dankwa to aid the Elminas. Atta Wusu refused and instead joined forces with Kwao Saforo Twie, the King of Akuapem against the Asante.

The Akuapem and Akyem inflicted so many casualities on the Asante force under Opoku Ferefere that he requested help from the Ga, the very people he had come to save. A force from Accra, under the command of Okai Paemseeko II. was sent to join the Asante army.

According to W.E.F. Ward:

"Opoku Ferefere was ordered to diverge from his line of march and throw all his weight into an invasion of Akim. In February 1811, he crossed the Pra; the Akim and Akwapim fought a stubborn battle and caused such losses that Opoku had to send an appeal for reinforcements to the Accra people, who were expecting help from him. They came in overwhelming numbers, and the Akim-Akwapim contingent, threatened from both sides, broke up rather than face a battle." ("A History of Ghana," (Revised Second Edition), p. 158).

The indomitable Atta Wusu decided to overtake and overwhelm Appiah Dankwa's relatively smaller force before he could join forces with the Elmina warriors. Kwao Saforo Twie and his Akwapim forces were meanwhile waging guerilla war against the Asante in the Akwapim Hills. He was hotly pursued by the Asante army but he proved to be as resourceful as Osama bin Ladin in effecting wonderful disappearances time and again.

Appiah Dankwa later encountered a combined Fanti army, made up of Anomabo, Apam, Mumford, Adwumanko, Winneba and Gomoa Asen, at Apam. A fierce battle took place and the Fanti were defeated. Many prisoners were taken including Bafo, the Chief of Anomabo.

Meanwhile the elusive Kwao Saforo Twie had joined forces once again with the enterprising Atta Wusu, who had about 3,000 men. Appiah Dankwa, who had sustained serious casualties against the Fanti at Apam, was reluctant to face the Akuapem-Akyem contingent. He was retreating back to Asante when Atta Wusu went after him and defeated his rearguard, forcing him to flee to Asen. Atta Wusu also destroyed the British Fort at Tantamkweri and the Dutch fort Leydsamheid. Opoku Ferefere, unable to capture Kwao Saforo Twie, was already on his way to Kumasi when Atta Wusu contracted small-pox that had inflicted his army, and expired on a Wednesday at Kwanyako. Before his death, he was making plans to send an army composed of Akyem and Fanti forces to the aid of Kwao Saforo Twie against Opoku Ferefere. According to Carl C. Reindorf, "Ata was one of the bravest Kings of Akyem, and might have saved his country from the Asante yoke, had he lived." (Op. Cit., p. 155).

Several of Atta Wusu's chiefs committed suicide when he died. He was succeeded by Asare Bediako.

About three years later, the Asante decided to invade Akim and Akwapim. The main Asante army was headed by General Amankwa Abinowa, while Appiah Dankwa was put in charge of a smaller force charged with blocking the Akyem from retreating to the South-West. Amankwa Abinowa was able to defeat the Akyem-Akwapim force. He then made his way to Accra to rest and wait for the Akim-Akwapim army to give in. However General Amankwa Abinowa lacked the tact of Opoku Ferefere; he seriously maltreated the people of Accra.

As W.E.F. Ward has pointed out,

"The Chief result of his stay in Accra was to make the Accra thoroughly disgusted with their Ashanti allies, who pillaged them as if they had been enemies; from this time onwards the Accra-Ashanti alliance ceased to exist." (Op. Cit., p. 159).

Sir Charles MacCarthy thus found it relatively easy to persuade the Ga to break their alliance with the Asante.

The Akim-Akwapim contingent however refused to give in and after vainly waiting for a year, Amankwa Abinowa re-entered Akwapim. He received news from there of Appiah Dankwa's death, at Asen. The deceased General was succeeded by Appiah Yanyo. The bifurcated Asante forces were reunited at Asikuma, and marched to Anomabo in search of Kwao Saforo Twie, who as noted earlier, possessed Osama bin Ladin's resourcefulness in vanishing into thin air. However he lacked the Saudi's longevity. Kwao Saforo Twie was betrayed and shot dead by the Asante at his village of Amamprobi in Akwapim. His corpse was smoked and sent in triumph to Kumasi. His brothers, Opoku and Amankwa were similary smoked.

The Asante finally managed to subdue the Fante, Akuapem and Akyem Kings who were made vassals. The Ga were left in peace for several years.

When the British Governor, Sir Charles MacCarthy was planning to invade the Asante, he decided to win over the Ga and other ethnic groups as allies. With General Amankwa Abinowa's pillaging fresh in their minds, the people of Accra decided that their relationship with the Asante was precarious at best. They however decided to consult their oracles before giving a definite answer to MacCarthy. The answer the Ga received from one of their oracles, the Sakumo, was: "I have already raised my sword." Governor MacCarthy however lost his life at the battle of Nsamakow against the Asante army. After his death, the Asante army under Kwasi Amankwa marched against the Fantis and Denkyeras and invested Cape Coast. The Ga took part in that battle against the Asante.

According to Carl C. Reindorf:

"Old Adama Pataku, with his iron-hearted Akras, proceeded to clear the enemy from the forest of Fufumpo...Repeated assaults of the Asantes were repulsed.

On the 11th of July a furious attack was made on the lines by the entire Asante force and again driven back; and on the 13th, a random ball having hit the king's palanquin, the Asantes retreated. It was stated that an Akra man, a prisoner, was asked by the new King Osei Yaw Akoto [brother of Osei Bonsu] who those men were that fought so bravely and fiercly against him. The man replied: "They were Akras, old friends of the Asantes, in whose blood they in the past never imbrued their hands, and whom they had often defended against Fantes, Akyems, and Akuapems." Then the King said: "Let us march back to Kumasi, and I will come upon them." (Op. cit., p. 190).

The decision by the Ga to aid the Fanti army led to what most historians have considered to be the first defeat of the formidable Asante army on the coast. The infuriated Asantehene, Osei Yaw Akoto, decided to punish the Ga for breaking their alliance with the Asante. The siege of Cape Coast was raised and he marched back to Kumasi in preparation for the punitive battle against the Ga.


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