UNCOVERING THE DISCOVERED (HISTORY AS IT SHOULD BE TOLD)

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UNCOVERING THE DISCOVERED (HISTORY AS IT SHOULD BE TOLD)

History is “His-story”. Every storyteller tells his story from his perspective and understanding. This reminds the writer of a story of a man who swam through a crocodile pond to claim an award. A rich man organised a competition for all inhabitants of a certain town. He had a pool well-stocked with hungry crocodiles and dared that whoever is able to swim across the pool alive will receive half of his wealth. Within five seconds, a man dived inside the pool and swam across the pool unscathed. All those present applauded him for his bravery and success. The rich man gave half of his wealth to the man. The media persons present wrote about how a brave man swam across a crocodile pond and won a prize but that was not the true story. The man told his close friends that it was his wife who pushed him inside the pool but not out of his bravery. He swam through that pool with fear. His wife also told her close friends that she pushed her husband inside the pool because she wanted him dead. So, whose version of the story would be permitted to enter into historical documents?

The man’s, his wife’s or the media’s? Any story that would discredit the bravery of the man would be muted. Stephen King, one of the most popular authors of his generation, whose book, Carrie, has been banned (screenrant.com) took to Twitter in January 2023, saying: “Hey, kids! It’s your old buddy Steve King telling you that if they ban a book in your school, haul your ass to the nearest bookstore or library ASAP and find out what they don’t want you to read.” This paper has taken time to dig into history to throw light on aspects of history which readers would need to dig into. It is the history of the War of Nsamankow and Golden Stool War that need extra light thrown on.

In 1752, the British established a trading colony they called the Gold Coast on the Gulf of Guinea. By the late 1800s, the British Empire continued to expand its territory into local kingdoms and forced tribal leaders to submit to its authority. In their expansion mission, the British entered into the Ashanti Kingdom and this brought brutal resistance. The Ashantis and the British fought five different wars which spanned from 1823 to 1900. Of these five wars, only two would be considered. On January 22, 1824, the Battle of Nsamankow began. At the start of the battle of Nsamankow, word reached Cape Coast that the Ashantis were advancing. Sir Charles McCarthy, the Governor of the Gold Coast at that time, dismissed reports that the enemy was nearby. But at about 2 pm, they could be heard approaching. There were 10,000 of them.

McCarthy ordered his band to play ‘God Save the King’. The Ashanti also responded with drums and horns. He ordered it to be played again. Any time the British band played; the Ashantis responded by approaching closer, beating war drums. After a while, a brief silence fell. The fight started shortly thereafter; the two sides were separated by a 60-foot wide stream, which the Ashanti attempted to cross by felling trees to be used as bridges. The British opened fire on the Ashanti troops who tried to cross the exposed tree trunks. By 4 pm the British were out of ammunition. Four cases of ammunition supplies arrived; the first was opened and the shot inside was distributed, but the other three were found to contain only macaroni.

McCarthy was shot twice, the second shot being the fatal one that ended his life. He was then beheaded, along with his ensign, Wetherell, by the Ashanti, who were accustomed to taking reminders from their violent encounters; his skull was cleaned and crafted into a gold-rimmed drinking cup for the Ashanti king. The war officially ended in 1831, after the Ashanti accepted the Pra River as the boundary between the British-controlled Fante coastal region and the Ashanti Empire. (www.warhistoryonline.com)

The war of Nsamankow has some untold oral history about it. The word Nsamankow contains two words; “Nsaman” which means ghosts, and “know” which means battle or fight. Simply put, the Ghosts Battle. Before the battle, the Ashantis invoked the spirits of their ancestors to aid them in the battle. It is believed that only about 2,000 Ashanti warriors were approaching but the presence of the ancestors amongst them increased their number to about 10,000. The Ashantis came with war garments that were spiritually fortified so that no bullet or weapon could penetrate through. When shot at, the bullets turned to liquid and dripped down. This made the British run out of ammunition even before the fight had begun properly. It is believed the ancestors of the Ashantis turned the ammunition (brought as back-ups) of the British into macaroni. It should also be noted that the British formed four groups whose plan was to surround the approaching Ashantis from four different angles and ambush them. The group that faced the Ashantis directly was the one led by Sir Charles. It is believed that the other three groups were deluded by the Ghosts of the Ancestors of the Ashantis and they wandered in the forest in vain. When they found their way to their intended positions, the first group were already under ambush. This mystical transformation of the ammunition and the delay of the other three groups made the British lose that war fatally.

According to history, Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson’s actions provoked the War of the Golden Stool also known as the Yaa Asantewaa war when he sat on the Golden Stool and demanded the surrender of the Golden Stool as an admission by the Ashanti of their submission to British rule. The Stool is Ashanti’s symbol of national unity. When Hodgson’s act became known, Yaa Asantewaa called upon the various chiefs to assemble their men to war against the British but some of the chiefs were adamant to join this war. So, in a meeting with the chiefs, Yaa Asantewaa addressed the members of the council in a brief speech that has become a part of Ghanaian folklore. There are many versions of the speech, including this one: Now I see that you are afraid to go forward and fight for our king. If you, the chiefs of Ashanti, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loincloths for my undergarments. She led the rebellion which resulted in the death of 1,000 British and Allied soldiers, and 2,000 Ashantis out of 5,000. The British captured Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of her advisors and banished them all to Seychelles.

Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in October 1921. Three years later, the king and the remaining members of the exiled Ashanti court returned home. The king gave Asantewaa a proper royal funeral.
There are some elements of history that have been censored from the cause of this war. The Yaa Asantewaa War was not started because Sir Frederick Mitchell sat on the golden stool or Yaa Asantewaa wanted the freedom of the Asantes. Far from it. Before readers can understand the motives of Yaa Asantewaa for leading the war of the Golden Stool, we have to go further back in history. Prior to the battle of Feyiase (1701), between the Asantes and the Denkyira people, Osei Tutu’s spiritual adviser Komfo Anokye called for a volunteer to sacrifice his life in the fighting to ensure victory. Edwesohene (King f Ejisu) Duko Pim stepped forward to be used as the sacrificial lamb. In gratitude for this selfless act, Osei Tutu swore a solemn public oath that none of his (Osei Tutu’s) successors in Kumase would ever execute or in any other way persecute the people of Edweso (Ejisu) or any other Asona clan members. Osei Tutu became Asantehene (King of the Asantes) as the first occupant of the Golden Stool, and Asante came into existence. Successive Asantehenes ‘flagrantly violated’ Osei Tutu’s binding oath. They maltreated Edweso by deliberately imposing huge fines in gold that they knew could never be paid and forced them to transfer their allegiance to those who would pay the fine for them. As was intended, the beneficiaries were rich Kumase chiefs. As a result, the Edweso stool lost thirty-seven villages. Resistance was futile.

Time passed and by 1886 Kumase was in a ruined condition and its fighting resources were greatly depleted. There were now two candidates for the Golden Stool, Yaw Twereboanna and Agyeman Prempeh. Yaw Twereboanna had fresh non-Kumase troops, mobilized and led by Sawuahene, Kokofuhene and Mamponhene. Agyeman Prempeh did not have much support as his rival. Facing military disaster, Agyeman Prempeh’s mother Asantehemaa (queen mother of the Asantes) Yaa Kyaa resorted to desperate measures. She offered wealth and honours to non-Kumase chiefs, the Asona clan kinsmen, Edwesohene Kwasi Afrane and Ofinsohene Apea Sea. Kwasi Afrane suggested that Yaa Kyaa agree to return all lands, captives and honours that were forcefully taken from them (Ejisu) by the previous Asante kings if they help her son to become the Asantehene. Akua Afriyie swore one of these oaths at Kumase Apremoso on behalf of her mother Yaa Kyaa and her uterine brother Agyeman Prempeh. Kwasi Afrane, Apea Sea, and others banded together, defeated Yaw Twereboanna’s forces, and drove them into exile. By July 1888 Agyeman Prempeh was indisputably Asantehene. The stools of Edweso and Ofinso were now raised from the status of abirempon (royal chiefs) to that of amanhene (kings). Kwasi Afrane, the architect of Edweso’s resurgence in the new order, died in 1894. He was succeeded as Edwesohene (King of Ejisu) by his only sister’s grandson Kofi Tene. Kofi Tene’s grandmother (Yaa Asantewaa) was installed as Edwesohemaa (queen mother of Edweso) in or about 1887.

As Kwasi Afrane’s only sibling, Yaa Asantewaa was privy to her brother’s plans which involved securing material compensation for the injuries inflicted on Edweso by Kumasi. Yaa Asantewaa’s actions advanced the interests of Edweso more than that of the Golden Stool because among the lands handed over to Kwasi Afrane was a district called Obuase. It was a gold-bearing area already exploited by local Asante miners. The newly enstooled Edwesohene Kofi Tene granted a concession over the ‘Obbuassi Mines’ to G. A. Robertson, the king of Winneba on the Gold Coast. In January 1896, Kofi Tene was among those arrested by the British and exiled with Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh. Yaa Asantewaa was now in charge of Edweso, and she was paid the renewal rent on the concession by Robertson. However, the new British rulers in Kumase were determined to regulate the gold mining in Asante. In late 1896, Stewart, sent by the British Governor in Kumase, went to Edweso to talk with Yaa Asantewaa about the Robertson concession. She told Stewart that Kofi Tene had leased Obuase to Robertson.

Upon this information reaching Governor Maxwell, he declared the Robertson concession null and void, and Obuase was taken from the Edweso stool to the Asante. Yaa Asantewaa was also told that, under the new regulations regarding the Obuase Mines, Asante lessors would receive concession rents and no share in mining profits. The British had simply exercised their power to take away what Kwasi Afrane had secured and been granted under oath. By 1900 Edweso had lost all titles to Obuase. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was Sir Frederick Mitchell being allowed by some selfish and greedy Asante chiefs to sit on the Golden Stool.
Do you now see why some men were adamant to join Yaa Asantewaa to war against the British? Firstly, this was not an Asante national war against the British. Secondly, if the existing Kumase chiefs were satisfied with allowing Sir Frederick Mitchell to sit on the Golden Stool without the Obuase Mines concession taken away from Ejisu to be given to Kumase, Yaa Asantewaa would not have bothered herself to rebel. Yaa Asantewaa wanted to war against the British to cause the return of the exiled Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh and Edwosehene Kofi Tene. She knew that with the return of these two, the oath that allowed Ejisu stool to receive the royalties from the Obuasi Mines would be restored.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more on history untold.

Story by Smart Asante Mireku
Sources:
doi:10.3366/afr.2007.77.2.151
kuulpeeps.com

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