Creature of The Golden Stool

This month of January marks almost 200 hundred years since the battle of Nsamankwo,  which occurred between the British and the Ashanti Kingdom. On January 22, 1824, in the Battle of Nsamankow, the Ashanti Kingdom brutally defeated the British forces.

This war forms part of a total of four Anglo-Ashanti wars; Nsamankow war (January 21, 1824), Akatamanso war (August 1, 1826), Sagrenti war (March 14, 1874) and Yaa Asantewaa war (March 25, 1900).

The Anglo-Ashanti Wars were five conflicts that occurred between the Ashanti Empire and the British Empire and which ultimately resulted in the Ashanti Empire being incorporated into the British Gold Coast Colony (now the nation of Ghana).

 Asante Empire (Asante TwiAsanteman) was an Akan empire and kingdom from 1701 to 1957, in what is now modern-day Ghana. It expanded from Ashanti to include the Brong-Ahafo RegionCentral RegionEastern Region, and Western Region of present-day Ghana as well as some parts of Ivory Coast and Togo. Due to the empire’s military prowess, wealth, architecture, sophisticated hierarchy, and culture, the Ashanti Empire has been extensively studied and has more books written by European, primarily British authors than any other indigenous culture of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Otumfuo Agyeman Prempe I, the 13th Asantehene, for the love of his nation, refused to raise guns against the British troops and rather offered himself to be exiled to Seychelles. However, when upon persistent demands, Nana Prempe I returned to Kumase in 1924,

Starting in the late 17th century, the Ashanti king Osei Tutu (c.  1695 – 1717) and his adviser Okomfo Anokye established the Ashanti Kingdom, with the Golden Stool of Asante as a sole unifying symbol. Osei Tutu oversaw a massive Ashanti territorial expansion, building up the army by introducing new organizations and turning a disciplined royal and paramilitary army into an effective fighting machine. In 1701, the Ashanti army conquered Denkyira, giving the Ashanti access to the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean coastal trade with Europeans, notably the Dutch.

The Ashanti Empire fought several wars with neighboring kingdoms and lesser organized tribes such as the Fante. The Ashanti defeated the British Empire’s invasions in the first two of the four Anglo-Ashanti Wars, killing and keeping British army general Sir Charles MacCarthy’s skull as a gold-rimmed drinking cup in 1824. Due to British improvements in weapons technology, burning and looting of the capital Kumasi and final defeat at the fifth Anglo-Ashanti War, the Ashanti empire became part of the Gold Coast colony on January 1, 1902.

Today, the Ashanti Kingdom survives as a constitutionally protected, sub-national traditional state in the union with the Republic of Ghana. The current king of the Ashanti Kingdom is Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Asantehene. The Ashanti Kingdom is the home to Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana’s only natural lake. The state’s current economic revenue is derived mainly from trading in gold barscocoakola nuts, and agriculture.

The main reason for the war was the struggle for economic power between the Ashantis and the Fantes. Access to the coast and control of coastal trade was a source of continued conflict with the Fanti city-states along the coast. The British needed to either protect the Fanti tribes with whom they traded from being massacred and enslaved by the Ashanti Kingdom, or leave them to their fate.

  The War began when the Ashantis had a territory dispute with the Fantes, a client of Great Britain. The Ashantis were seeking control of the River Pra which was a major trading route for the Fantis.

The then British Governor, Sir Charles McCarthy led an army of barely 600 men against perhaps 10,000 Ashanti warriors and their king, Osei Tutu Kwadwo.  He was caught and beheaded after his men were defeated by the Ashantis during the war.

It is believed the British lost as a result of poor planning and military strategy. They ultimately run out of military ammunition and logistical supply. It is also alleged that the Fantis deserted the war,  leaving the British soldiers vulnerable and at the mercy of the Ashanti soldiers.  

 The king of the Ashantis was so confident that he prophesied that soon he would defeat the British and McCarthy’s jawbones would be used as drumsticks and his skull as a drinking cup. As the Ashanti advanced, Sir Charles ordered his band to strike up with, “God Save the Queen”. Legend has it that indeed,  his skull was used as a drinking cup by Ashanti Kings.

Queen Yaa Asantewaa in Batakarikese (Ceremonial war dress)

Eventually, a treaty was signed in 1831 to define the boundaries of the Ashanti kingdom and the authority of the British territorial claim in the Gold Coast.

This day is notable and worthy of remembrance because our forefathers fought to protect the land we now live on. Thus, the onus is on us and posterity to keep such memories alive.

The fourth Anglo-Ashanti War occurred between 1894 and 1896.  A decade after the Partition of Africa, the British wanted to ensure that neither French and German forces would conquer the Ashanti. They decided to capture and annex the entire Empire.  The war started on the pretext of failure to pay the fines of 50,000 ounces of gold levied on the Asantahene, the Ashanti emperor, by the Treaty of Fomena. Colonel Sir Francis Scott left Cape Coast along with the British and Indian Troops in December 1895 and arrived in Kumasi in January 1896. Major Robert Baden-Powell led an army of African allies who had opposed the Ashanti rule. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was arrested and deposed. Prempeh was forced to sign a treaty of protection and with other Ashanti leaders, was sent to exile in the Seychelles Islands when the war ended in 1896.

The Golden Stool (full title, Sika Dwa Kofi) has been the symbol of power in Ashanti Kingdom since the 17th century. According to oral tradition, Okomfo Anokye, a High Priest and one of the two founders of the Ashanti Confederacy, conjured the Golden Stool, decorated with golden bells, and caused it to descend from the sky where it landed at the feet of Osei Tutu I, the first Asantehene (King) of Ashanti.  Beginning with Osei Tutu I, the Ashanti have believed that the Golden Stool houses the soul of the Ashanti nation.
The Stool, made of gold, stands 18 inches high, 24 inches long, and 12 inches wide. It was never allowed to touch the ground and was considered so sacred that no one was allowed to sit on it. Each new Ashante king is lowered and raised over the Golden Stool without touching it.  No one could be considered a legitimate ruler without the Golden Stool, which usually occupied its own throne next to the Asantehene.

The final war, a rebellion called the War of the Golden Stool, took place from March through September 1900.  That conflict began when British representative, Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, sat on the Golden Stool.  The Stool which was understood by the Ashanti to be the symbol of national unity was not a throne.  When Hodgson’s act became known, Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of the Asantahene, led the rebellion which resulted in the death of 1,000 British and Allied soldiers and 2,000 Ashanti.  Both totals were higher than the deaths from all previous wars combined. The British eventually subdued the rebellion and sent Asantewaa into exile in Seychelles.  From that point, the British controlled the entire Gold Coast until Ghana became independent in 1957. On 17 October 1921, the great Ashanti warrior queen Yaa Asantewaa passed away. Her story is that of a queen who rallied masses to fight for their independence; hers is a story of courage, determination, and stamina. Yaa Asantewaa led a rebellion against the British at a time when the men surrounding her were low in spirit, afraid, and discouraged. She arose them to fight for their independence, and for their nation.  Her fight against British colonialists is a story woven throughout the history of Ghana.

Seychelles was uninhabited prior to being encountered by Europeans in the 16th century. It faced competing French and British interests until coming under full British control in the late 18th century. Since proclaiming independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, Seychelles has developed from a largely agricultural society to a market-based diversified economy, characterized by rapidly rising servicepublic sector, and tourism activities. From 1976 until 2015, nominal GDP grew nearly sevenfold, and purchasing power parity increased nearly sixteenfold. Since the late 2010s, the government has taken steps to encourage foreign investment.

Today, Seychelles boasts the highest nominal per capita GDP of any African nation. It is the first African country with an HDI score exceeding 0.800, and is one of the only countries in the continent with a very high Human Development Index, after Mauritius. It is one of only two countries in Africa classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank, the other being Mauritius. Despite its relative prosperity, poverty remains widespread as the country has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world and markedly unequal wealth distribution, with the upper and ruling class commanding a vast proportion of the country’s wealth.

Seychellois culture and society is an eclectic mix of French, British, and African influences, with more recent infusions of Chinese and Indian elements. The country is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and the Commonwealth of Nations.

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