Opinion

The Oracle: Historical Reminiscences: Great Empires of Yore (Pt 14)

By Chief Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

ASHANTI EMPIRE (continues)

Last week, we delved into the theocratic system of government of the Ashanti, their means of livelihood, communication, population and way of life. This great empire remained an alliance of several large city-states which acknowledged the sovereignty of the ruler of Kumasi and the Ashanti Kingdom, known as the Asantehene. Today, we shall be concluding our 4 part series of the Ashanti Empire.

THE ASHANTIS’ MILITARY PROWESS

The Ashanti armies served the empire well, supporting its long period of expansion and subsequent resistance to European colonization. Armament was primarily with firearms; but some historians hold that indigenous organization and leadership probably played a more crucial role in Ashanti Military successes. These were perhaps, more significant, considering that the Ashanti had numerous troops from conquered or incorporated peoples, and faced a number of revolts and rebellions from these peoples over its long history. The political genius of the symbolic “golden stool” and the fusing effect of a national army however, provided the unity needed to keep the empire viable. Total potential strength was some 80,000 to 200,000 making the Ashanti army bigger than the well-known Zulu, and comparable to possibly Africa’s largest- the legions of Ethiopia. The Ashanti army was described as a fiercely organized one whose king could “bring 200,000 men into the field and whose warriors were evidently not cowed by Snider rifles and 7-pounder guns. While actual forces deployed in the field were less than potential strength, tens of thousands of soldiers were usually available to serve the needs of the empire. Mobilization depended on small cadres of regulars, who guided and directed levees and contingents called up from provincial governors. Organization was structured around an advance guard, main body, rear guard and two right and left wing flanking elements. This provided flexibility in the forest country the Ashanti armies typically operated in. The approach to the battlefield was typically via converging columns. Tactics included ambushes and extensive maneuvers on the wings. Unique among African armies, the Ashanti deployed medical units to support their fighters. This force was to expand the empire substantially and continually for over a century, and defeated the British in several encounters.

From 1806 until 1896, the Ashanti Kingdom was in a perpetual state of war involving expansion or defense of its domain. Ashanti exploits against other African forces made it the paramount power in the region. Its impressive performance against the British also earned it the respect of European powers.
In 1806, the Ashanti pursued two rebel leaders through Fante territory to the coast. The British refusal to surrender the rebels led to an Ashanti attack. This was devastating enough that the British handed over a rebel; the other escaped. In 1807 disputes with the Fante led to the Ashanti–Fante War, in which the Ashanti were victorious under Asantehene Osei Bonsu (“Bonsu the whale”).

In the 1811 Ga–Fante War, a coalition of Asante and Ga fought against an alliance of Fante, Akwapim and Akim states. The Asante war machine was successful early on defeating the alliance in open combat. However, Asante were unable to completely crush their enemies and were forced to withdraw from the Akwapim hills in the face of unconventional warfare. They did, however, manage to capture a British fort.

In 1814 the Ashanti launched an invasion of the Gold Coast, largely to gain access to European traders. In the Ashanti–Akim–Akwapim War, the kingdom faced the Akim–Akwapim alliance. After several battles, some of which went in favor of the Asante and, some of which went in favor of the out-numbered Akim–Akwapim alliance the war ended. Even though the outnumbered Akim–Akwapim won some key battles and had moments of glory by 1816, the Ashanti Kingdom was established on the coast.

The first of the Anglo-Ashanti wars occurred in 1823. In these conflicts, the Ashanti Kingdom faced off, with varying degrees of success, against the British Empire residing on the coast. The root of the conflict traces back to 1823 when Sir Charles Mac Carthy, resisting all overtures by the Ashanti to negotiate, led an invading force. The Ashanti defeated this, killed Mac Carthy, took his head for a trophy and swept on to the coast. However, disease forced them back. The Ashanti were so successful in subsequent fighting that in 1826 they again moved on the coast. At first they fought very impressively in an open battle against superior numbers of British allied forces, including Denkyirans. However, the novelty of British rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. In 1831, a treaty led to 30 years of peace, with the Pra River accepted as the border.
With the exception of a few Ashanti light skirmishes across the Pra in 1853 and 1854, the peace between the Ashanti Kingdom and the British Empire had remained unbroken for over 30 years. Then, in 1863, a large Ashanti delegation crossed the river pursuing a fugitive, Kwesi Gyana. There was fighting, casualties on both sides, but the governor’s request for troops from England was declined and sickness forced the withdrawal of his West Indian troops. The war ended in 1864 as a stalemate with both sides losing more men to sickness than any other factor.
In 1869, a European missionary family was taken to Kumasi. They were hospitably welcomed and were used as an excuse for war in 1873. Also, Britain took control of Ashanti land claimed by the Dutch. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate. General Wolseley and his famous Wolseley ring were sent against the Ashanti. This was a modern war, replete with press coverage (including by the renowned reporter Henry Morton Stanley) and printed precise military and medical instructions to the troops. The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who were unrestrained in selling to both sides.
All Ashanti attempts at negotiations were disregarded. Wolseley led 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops to Kumasi. The capital was briefly occupied. The British were impressed by the size of the palace and the scope of its contents, including “rows of books in many languages.” The Ashanti had abandoned the capital after a bloody war. The British burned it.
In January 1896, the British formally annexed the Ashanti Kingdom to the British Empire.

The British and their allies suffered considerable casualties in the war losing numerous soldiers and high ranking army officers but in the end the firepower was too much to overcome for the Ashanti. The Asantehene (the king of the Ashanti) signed a British treaty in July 1874 to end the war.

In 1895, the Ashanti turned down an unofficial offer to become a British protectorate.

The Ashanti Kingdom wanting to keep French and European colonial forces out of the Ashanti Kingdom territory (and its gold), the British were anxious to conquer the Ashanti Kingdom once and for all. Despite being in talks with the kingdom about making it a British protectorate, Britain began the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War in 1895 on the pretext of failure to pay the fines levied on the Asante monarch after the 1874 war. The British were victorious and the Ashanti Kingdom was forced to sign a treaty.

Standing among families was largely political. The royal family typically topped the hierarchy, followed by the families of the chiefs of territorial divisions. In each chiefdom, a particular female line provides the chief. A committee of several men eligible for the post elects the chief.

Education in the Ashanti Kingdom was conducted by Asante and imported scholars and Ashanti people would often attend schools in Europe for their higher education.

Tolerant parents are typical among the Ashanti. Childhood is considered a happy time and children cannot be responsible for their actions. The child is not responsible for their actions until after puberty. A child is harmless and there is no worry for the control of their soul, the original purpose of all funeral rites, so the ritual funerals typically given to the deceased Ashanti are not as lavish for the children.

The Ashanti adored twins when they were born within the royal family because they were seen as a sign of impending fortune. Ordinarily, boy twins joined the army and twin girls potential wives of the King. If the twins are a boy and girl, no particular career awaits them. Women who bear triplets are greatly honored because three is regarded as a lucky number. Special rituals ensue for the third, sixth, and ninth child. The fifth child (unlucky five) can expect misfortune. Families with many children are well respected and barren women scoffed at.

 

CRACK ROUR RIBS

EBA DON READY!!!

I was coming home Saturday evening after a hectic day and found a small bag on the ground.

I opened it and behold what I found inside; $10,000!!!

Fear first catch me.

I took the bag home and when I emptied it, I found some document, ID card, ATM card and an IPhone.

I thought about throwing the SIM away and keep the Phone and also dispose the document and keep the money.

After a long thought, I decided to leave things as they were, hoping that the owner would call.

Not long after, a call actually came through on the IPhone.

I picked and talked with the caller.

Apparently, it was the owner of the bag because he named absolutely every content of the bag.

We met afterwards and I handed him the bag, he offered me $3000 but I turned it down.

However, he took my phone number, saved it on his phone and left.

Yesterday he called me and offered me a job at SHELL worth #950,000 per month, a 3 bedroom flat fully furnished and with a gift of 2014 Range Rover Sport jeep.

As I was smiling and testing the car, my daughter just touched me and said: “Mummy Mummy, Not until my sister called out Mimi mimi wake up EBA DON READY”.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” (Winston Churchill).

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