By Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
WHEN Asanteman celebrated the 75th anniversary of the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy, many paid glowing tribute to the 14th occupant of the Golden Stool, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, under whose reign the significant event of the restoration took place.
When he ascended the throne, the Ashanti Kingdom was a conquered territory and colony of the British with some of the small states within the out of the conferderacy and as one historian said, “the Ashanti Kingdom was in a coma and the Ashanti Confederacy had disintegrated.”
With the exile of the 13th Asantehene, Nana Prempeh I, to the Seychelles Islands by the British in 1896, the Ashanti Confederacy ceased to exist and even when he returned to Kumasi in 1924 there was no restoration until in 1935 when Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh II ascended the Golden Stool.
Otumfuo Ageyman Prempeh II, therefore, has a special place in the history of Ashanti and it was no wonder that his name was eulogised as Ashantis celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of the important event at the forecourt of the Manhyia Palace.
The event was marked with the typical pomp and pageantry, reminding the people of the need to further cement the bond of unity and commonness of purpose that had catapulted Asanteman’s development over the years.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the principal celebrant, appeared in full traditional apparel and sat in state to receive homage from his subjects.
The ceremony was without political colour as nananom believed it could have shifted the focus of the celebration.
“The whole ceremony was meant at charting a course to perpetuate our rich culture and how to integrate them into modernity for the betterment of our people,” Mr Fosuaba Mensa Banahene, the Chief of Staff at the Manhyia Palace told Graphic Nsempa.
Ashanti has a rich history, part of which is the Ashanti Confederacy.
Initially, located in what are today the southern and central parts of Ghana, the Ashanti Confederacy was a powerful state in West Africa prior to European colonisation.
Opemsuo Osei Tutu I, with the support of his friend, Okomfo Anokye, was the architect of the confederacy in the late sixteenth century having subjugated about 30 under Kumasi.
Having used the states to defeat the stubborn Denkyira, King Osei Tutu and his successors oversaw a policy of political and cultural unification, and the union reached its full limit by 1750.
It continued as an alliance of several towns, which acknowledged the authority of the ruler of Kumasi, known as the Asantehene.
The Asantehene was the sole person allowed to sentence people to death and was the leader of the Ashanti in wartime.
Under the administration of the confederacy, in times of conflict each member of the confederacy would send troops to the Asantehene's army and as a result the army became very powerful.
Each member of the confederacy was also obliged to send annual tribute to Kumasi.
All other governing powers were left to the members of the confederacy with each of them ruled by a governing council made up of the powerful men of the community.
The history of the confederacy was one of slow centralisation. In the early nineteenth century the Asantehene used the annual tribute to set up a permanent standing army armed with rifles, which allowed much closer control of the confederacy.
Despite still being called a confederacy it was one of the most centralised states in sub-Saharan Africa.
Aware of moves by the Europeans, mainly the British, to subjugate them, the Ashantis aligned themselves with the Dutch to check British influence in the region.
In 1826 the first of a long series of direct wars between the Ashanti and British began in 1826 when the powerful Ashanti army fought off the British forces. The British acknowledged the Ashanti borders but the Ashanti were forced to acknowledge British control of most of the coast.
Determined to exert their superiority, the Ashantis invaded the British coastal possessions, but were rebuffed and the important coastal town of Elmina fell to the British in 1874.
The British took the offensive invading the Ashanti homeland, and occupied Kumasi. The British formally declared the coastal regions to be the Gold Coast colony.
The Ashanti Kingdom, cut off from traditional trade routes slowly fell apart until in 1900 when the British finally subdued the kingdom and annexed it to the Gold Coast.
Nana Prempeh I, who preferred exile to subjecting his people to the troubles of military battles with the British, was exiled to the Seychelles thus disintegrating the Confederation
Relations between the British and Ashanti later improved and in 1935 under the reign of Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, the Ashanti Confederacy, under the leadership of the Asantehene was restored.
Upon independence the Gold Coast became known as Ghana and the hereditary Ashanti Crown continued to be honoured by the Ashanti people alongside the authority of the state.
Today, Ashantis do not engage in wars of conquest as it used to do in the past. The present wars are against poverty, ignorance and disease.
Indeed, under the reign of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Ashanti’s development process has seen tremendous progress.
By the next 25 years when the Golden Jubilee of the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy is celebrated, the general expectation is that Asanteman would have seen much more development.