THE REIGN OF NANA OSEI TUTU KWAME ASIBE BONSU
( 1799 – 1824 )
Nana Opoku Fofie was succeeded by his younger brother, Nana Osei Tutu Kwame Asibe Bonsu. It was during his reign that the Asante Nation first clashed with the White man. This was in 1805 when war broke out between the Asante Nation and the Coastal States, specifically the Fantes. The cause of this war was the offence committed against Asantehene by two Assin chiefs, Otibo and Aputae. In the bid of Asantehene to punish them, the chiefs bolted away to Fanteland and asked the Fante chiefs to protect them. The Fantes had the not come into open confrontation with the Asante Nation (before) therefore they decided not to, give the chiefs up, and if war should break up, they would fight the Asante Nation to halt their superiority. War, therefore broke out. Soldiers were sent from the Cape Coast Castle to, help the Coastal forces. Though the battle was fierce, the Asante army was victorious. The defeat of the coastal forces earned the Asante Nation the papers of the forts at the Coast. The war was commanded by Nana Osei Asibe Bonsu himself. After defeating the Fante forces, he swam in the sea at Winneba, and that earned him the name Bonsu. Bonsu is the Akan word whale. Therefore, if Nana Osei Asibe had defeated the forces at the coast and stepped into the sea without a challenger, then he could boast of power on the like a whale.
The defeat of the Coastal states extent the Asante, Empire to the sea. The then governor at Cape Coast, Colonel Torren, recognised that Asante Nation extended as far as to the sea but the coastal states, especially the Fantes, did not recognise this. For this reason, the Asante Empire under Nana Osei Tutu Osei Asibe Bonsu waged other two wars on them in 1811 and 1814 to exert their superiority over them. In these wars, the people of Akyem and Akwapim went to help the Fantes but again they were defeated by the Asante Nation.
The objectives of the Asante Nation for wagging wars were many. However, the most important among them were:
1. To free themselves from bondage (ref. War with Denkyira)
2. To punish people for wrongs done against the Asante Nation, e.g. the first Asante war with the Fantes.
3. Other wars were waged to extend the Asante Nation, e.g. wars with Gyaman and Banda people.
4. They waged wars to get slaves to increase the population and sell some for ammunition. According to Dupuis conversation with King Osei Asibe Bonsu in 1820, the King stated this ” I cannot make war to catch slaves in the bush like a thief. My ancestors never did so. But if I fight a king and kill him when he is insolent, then certainly I must have his gold and his slaves and the people are mines too”.
5. The Asante Nation had one disadvantage which was lack of direct access to the sea. They needed to trade with the Europeans at the coast, but they had to sell their wares to middlemen from the coast. They, therefore, waged war on the coastal states to get direct access to the forts and trade with the white men. Their dream was therefore fulfilled when in 1806, they defeated the Fantes and their king, Nana, Nana Osei Asibe Bonsu swam in sea.
6. Another motive of waging wars was to unite all the nations around, especially the Akans, to form a vast Kingdom under the Asantehene. Though they waged many wars with the view of getting a united Akan nation, this could not materialise but instead sowed the seed of disunity because :
( A ) They left the conquered nations on their own without appointing someone to govern them. They allowed the ruler of the state rule his subjects and gave him a friend who was a chief in Kumase on who he fell for information and who also led him to Asantehene whenever he wanted audience at the King,s palace. This was known as the Adamfo system. Their main interest was the payment of tribute to the Asante Nation for Defence. The proper annexation of the states to the Asante Nation which started during Nana Osei Tutu,s time was replaced by later Kings. All these gave the states the chance to organise themselves and rebel again the Asante Kingdom.
( B ) Secondly, wars were associated with deaths, therefore conquered states lost many of their men. As such, the subjects of such states always blamed the Asante Kingdom for the loss of their dear ones and therefore hated the Asante Kingdom. This too prevented them from embracing the unity idea.
( C ) Thirdly, some unscrupulous Asante people made it their hobby to cheat the people from those new states and this act brought mistrust. They therefore prayed and looked for changes to withdraw from cheats.
( D ) There were other Asante nationals who treated the newcomers with contempt, sometimes regarding them as second class citizens. This also sowed the seed of discontent among the new states. Therefore the new states always looked for any small opportunity, especially when civil war broke out within the Asante Nation itself, to break away from the Kingdom.
Nana Osei Kwame Asibe had fought and conquered the coastal states; he had swam in the sea and as a result, added the name ‘ Bonsu’ to his name. The coastal states had become part of the Asante Kingdom, all the forts had become the of the Asante Kingdom, therefore they had started paying rent to the Asante Treasury. His next step, therefore, was to make friends with the White man and ask the white man,s government to appoint his ambassador to Kumase. He requested one, but his request was not granted at the time.
It was in 1817 that the white man saw the necessity of appointing an ambassador to Kumase, therefore envoys were sent to Kumase to make a peace treaty with the Asantehene. The most important terms in the treaty were:
( A ) How payments on the forts would be effected
( B ) How the European traders would protect the Asante Nationals who went to trade with them.
( C ) How settlement of cases of assault or insult against an Asante Nationals by a citizen from the coast should be handled peacefully and how an insult or assault from an Asante Nationals on those from the coast should be settled too.
The first ambassador appointed to Kumase was Mr William Hutcheson . The treaty was not accepted by the Governor because each of the three copies produced carried a different idea. While the king,s attention was focused on the gains at the coast and the kingdom’s relationship with the governor, the chief of Gyaman, Kwadwo Adinkra Kakari, thought that the king was no more concerned with the affairs of the interior of the state, therefore, he also made a golden stool for himself. This news reached the King and he raised an army to go to punish Kwadwo Adinkra Kakari for insubordination. A fierce battle was fought at the banks of River Tain. The Asante army could not penetrate the forces of Gyaman as was expected. Face to face with this strong resistance, the chief of Kokofu sent messengers to the King( Asantehene) that he was thirsty and needed some water to drink. The King (Asantehene) ordered some of the warriors to send sixty calabashes full of water to him. When The Chief of Kokofu ( Kokofuhene) received the water, he poured it out on the ground and sent another message that he needed water from the River Tain to quench his thirst. He said the King ( Asantehene) should permit him to penetrate through the Gyaman forces in order to go and drink from the river. The King (Asantehene) granted him the permission and he was accompanied by the chief of Akyem Bosome and three hundred soldiers as they fought their way through to the River.
Reinforcement was sent by the King (Asantehene) to help the chief of Kokofu (Kokofuhene) and they soon drove away the Gyaman forces. This deed earned the chief of Kokofu (Kokofuhene) the appellation ” Okogye Asuo” I.e. He who fights to, capture a river. At the coast, it was rumoured that the Gyamans had defeated the Asante forces. When people with a bone or contention against the Asante Kingdom received the news, they smeared themselves with power, indicated happiness and victory and took to the streets singing and jubilating. Chief among them were the people of Komenda. The news, however, refuted by the Asante nationals present. The King (Asantehene) sent messengers to the Governor to break the news of his victory, but all these were disbelieved by the people of Komenda. They even hooted at the messengers and drove them away. This action by some of the coastal people annoyed the Asante Kingdom because the treaty made with T.E. Bowdich stipulated that ” Should any coastal state act in a way to cause annoyance in the camp of Asante Nation or to show disrespect towards the King, (Asantehene) , the Governor was to reprimand the state, ” but if the Governor was silent on the issue, then the white man could not keep his promise. The King (Asantehene) , on hearing the act, sent a strong petition to the Governor to act on the issue, but nothing was done. This nearly started another war. However, the King (Asantehene) received the message that the British parliament had appointed Mr Joseph Dupuils as her resident representative in Kumase, therefore everything was deferred until his arrival.
On his arrival, he started seriously to patch up all misunderstanding and further made a new treaty with the King (Asantehene). However, when the King presented his new treaty to the Governor, he did not approve of it . This was a great disappointment to the King (Asantehene) but he had patience because of the promise made by Mr Dupuils that he himself would present the treaty to the British Government for approval.
After waiting for some years without hearing a word about the treaty, Nana Osei Kwame Asibe Bonsu advised his to stop trading with the British, because he was view that the British Government approved of the treatment meted to them by the people of Komenda and Cape Coast. The Government at Cape Coast was recalled and a new Governor, Sir Charles MacCarthy, was appointed the Governor of the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone. The former Governor,s refusal to accept the Dupuils treaty was still a grievance being nursed by the people of Asante and their King (Asantehene), therefore in 1822 when exchange of words arose between an Asante trader and a policeman, the abusive words uttered by the policeman were reported to the Asantehene. Immediately messengers were sent to capture the policeman and behead him . This result a open confrontation between the coastal states and the Asante Nation. It developed into an actual war between the Asante Nation on the side against the British and the coastal states on the other. The war , known as the of Nsamanko , which was worn by the Asantehene. The Governor, Sir Charles MacCarthy lost his life in the battle. That was the second Asante war with the British. The Asante Nation could not celebrate this victory with jubilation, because their King (Asantehene) Nana Osei Tutu Kwame Asibe Bonsu was called to eternity on the day the Governor, Sir Charlse MacCarthy lost his life.
Source: The Kingdom of Asante