The Beginning Of The Asante Nation

Legends have it that some of the clans of Asante Nation originated from a hole at Asantemenso near Asumegya.  The clans were Oyoko and Aduana. Some of the remaining clans too, state that their ancestors descended from the skies.

However, research by Historians like Dr. J.B. Dankwa reveal that the Asante nation was among the group of people called Akans, These Akan people migrated from Mesopotamia to Africa.

They continue to state that the Akans either shared the same boundaries with the Israelites or were of the same stock as the to them, the formed part of the Ancient Ghana Empire.  They moved southwards in search of arable land to farm. Other factors which hurried their southward movement were wars and desire for religious freedom.

  1. Inter-empire was created instability at their places of abode therefore they moved southwards into the forest belt to avoid constant warfare and to get the peace needed for their farming ventures.
  2. When the Moslem religion started in Arabia and entered North Africa, people were forced to accept the new religion, but Akans worshipped God through the lesser gods who they claimed to be the linguist to the supreme God. They therefore migrated into the forest belt to have religious freedom.

They first settled in the present Northern Ghana at Gonjaland. This was in the 13th century.  The area used to be a forest region; From Gonjaland, they migrated southwards into the thick forest along river valleys.  Pioneering work was done by hunters who prepared places under trees with buttresses as their hunting huts.

The hunters were joined by some relatives who followed them to give them help. Others did farming at such places.

The Akans were made up of the following people: Akwamu Guan, Fante, Denkyira, Brong, Akyem, Kwahu, Sefwi, Wassa, Asante Akwapim` and Assin. They might have migrated in their individuals groups.

In the their southward migration, the Asantes settled at the Adanse area. Oral tradition does not state when this took place, neither does it state the ruler who led them to the Adanse area. The probable time might be the 14th century. Since they were always moving from place to place, they did not build houses but lived in caves and under the buttresses of mighty trees to protect themselves from wild animals.  Others lived on trees for protection. As such if some clans claimed that they originated from a hole or they descended from the skies, the truth could not be accepted anthropologically. It might be that they were coming down from the trees on which they lived but were not descending from the sky.

The early ancestors of the Asantes lived in clans.  The clans were the following: Oyoko, Bretuo, Aduana, Asona, Asene, Ekuona, Agona and Asakyiri.  People belonging to a clan claimed to be the children of one woman, so they were brothers and sisters. Since it was a taboo for brothers and sisters to marry each other, when one needed a partner, one had to go to another clan for the partner.  This system of inter-marriage resulted in the creation of alliances among clans, therefore one clan had to go to the aid of another when the latter was attacked because nobody would want to see his children taken into captivity.

When the population increased, they started to move away from Adanse area to build new townships.  This was in the 15th century: large towns with historical importance in those days were Dwaben, Asumegya, Kokofu, Nsuta, Mampong, Bekwai, Edweso, Agona Kasse, Kontanase, Buokrom and Tafo.  Which were also of historical importance.  As time went on, the states started waging wars with one another on minor provocations, therefore they could not stand any attack from another tribe because of disunity. When tracing the history of Asante Kingdom, kings like Nana Twum, Nana Antwi, Nana Kobia Amamfi, Nana Oti Akenten and Nana Obiri Yeboa were not ruling over the whole Asante Nation.  They were rulers of their Oyoko Clan.  Nana Twum and Nana Antwi ruled over the clan at Asantemanso. Nana Kobia Amamfi ruled over them at Asumegya.  Nana Oti Akenten and Nana Obiri Yeboa ruled over them when they settled at Kwaman which later became Kumase.  There were strong connections between these kings and the kings of Kokofu, Nsuta, Dwaben and Bekwai because they were all of the Oyoko clan and descended from one ancestress.

Love prevailed among these clan states and the other Asante clan state like Mampong, Kumawu and Offinso. But with time petty wars developed among the states. These inter-state wars were at their peak during the reign of Nana Obiri Yeboa. The wars paved the way for their opponents from other tribes to conquer them.  The result was that the Asante states became very weak and were conquered by Denkyira states so they served Denkyira and paid regular tribute to her.  The tribute was in the form of firewood, plantain fibre and red clay. It was at this juncture that Nana Obiri Yeboa, king of Kwaman had a dream that the states should come together to form a united front, fight and free themselves from bondage.

He revealed this dream of Okomfo Yamoa of Agona, the elder brother of Okomfo Anokye of Asante fame.  According to oral tradition, Okomfo Yemoa interpreted the dream to Nana Obiri Yeboa that his ancestors had come to compare the Asante states to a broom which when bound together was difficult to break but when the sticks were taken apart one by one were breakable.  He therefore, advised him to a meeting of all Asante states chiefs and put their message of unity as he saw in the dream to them.

Nana Obiri Yeboa call the meeting and put the message across.  All the chiefs agreed that they were badly treated by their master, the king of Denkyira. They were not happy with the way they being treated. States around Mampong and Nsuta were sending red clay to Denkyira every Akwasidae. States around Dwaben were sending plantain fibre and the remaining states firewood, every six weeks. Young men and young women were the carries of the commodities to Denkyira.  At Denkyira, the young men were made to weed round the outskirts of the capital, Abankeseso, to keep the area clan.  The young women were made to sweep the streets of the capital. In addition, the men of Denkyira could have sex with the young women from Asante who went to serve, whether they were married to other men or not. It was no crime because the people of Denkyira were the masters of the land and the people of Asante were their servants, therefore they thought it a blessing if the Asante girls became pregnant since they were going to give birth to babies with royal blood, who would be fit to occupy the stools in Asante. These were grievances of all the chiefs.

Though some of the chiefs supported the idea of unity among Asante States others expressed some problems and fear.  The first of the problems was the question of the one to be head.

Most of them were of the same status, commanding a number of towns and people. Who then was to be the overlord?

The next points was. Giving power to one person to lord it over them” they were not prepared to kow-tow others. The third point was, how their ancestors who would come to them on the solemn days like Akwasidae, would be served. Here the debate was on the type of food to be served if all their stools were sent to the paramount chief-elect.

After a lengthy discussion, they agreed to form a loose confederation in which each state would be independent in all matters except defense. They decided to appoint a war leader who would gather them together to fight to defend themselves if any of the other Akan states around them invaded any of their towns.  Nana Obiri Yeboa was chosen to be the war leader.

The confederation had hardly gained any roots when the Dorma Brong state which was very close to them, on hearing the impending unity, took arms and defeated them state by state.  Nana Obiri Yeboa met his death as a result of sword wounds inflicted on him during the war.  According to oral tradition, other chiefs who met their death in the same war were: Okomfo Yemoa of Agona and Dwamena Akenten of Offinso.

This defeat taught the Asante states a great lesson therefore they decided to form a stronger union to enable them stand any future aggression.

Source:manhyiaonline.org