Anglo (British) – Asante wars
The Asantes and the British fought several times. Those battles were called Anglo-Asante wars. Prominent amongst them are the Nsamankow war (January 21, 1824), Akatamanso war (August 1, 1826), Sagrenti war (March 14, 1874) and Yaa Asantewaa war (March 25, 1900).
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Causes of the Anglo-Asante Wars
1. The British traders saw the constant attacks by the Asantes on the Fantes as a great interference to trading activities on the coast. The constant attacks by the Asantes against the Fante States disturbed trading activities on the coast. The two sides fought in 1801, 1806, 1826, 1863, 1869, 1873, 1874 and 1900. The Southern states like the Fante and Ga relied on the protection of the British, who had economic interest on the coast, against the Asantes and this angered the Asantes, who directed their anger towards the British. For example, Sir Charles MacCharthy, the British Governor of Sierra Leone refused to accept Asantes total control over the Fante states and their lands. This started the first Anglo-Asante war on January 21, 1824.
2. The British traders’ intention to control completely the terms of trade at the Gold Coast. The British traders realised that, the total destruction of the Asante state, would ensure a peaceful trade and open up the interior (inlands) of the Gold Coast, where many natural resources, including gold, could be exploited. Therefore, they informed the Home Government to take serious actions against the Asantes. When the Dutch sold their castles and forts to the British in 1872 and left the Gold Coast, the British became the only European country still trading on the shores of the Gold Coast. It must be noted that, after the take-over, their income rose to £ 90,000.00 between 1875 and 1880. Therefore, they decided to take total control over trading activities of the Gold Coast, in order, to increase their income. They (British) annexed (took total control) of the Southern states in July 1874. When they defeated the Asantes on March 14, 1874, in the Sagrenti War, it weakened the military might of the Asante Kingdom and led to the independence of the captured states, including the Southern states like Denkyira, Akyem, Wassa and Accra. Asante was reduced to a common community. Therefore, they decided to take that opportunity to extend their influence to cover the Asantes and the other inlands; but the Asantes resisted. This led to the Yaa Asantewaa War fought in 1900.
3. The Asantes also saw the British as a stumbling block in the trading activities of the coast. The Asantes wanted to control the coastal trade and even extend their territories in order to acquire more lands, timber, gold, slaves, villages and towns. This would increase their wealth and fame. However, with the British protection of the Southern states and the constant interference in their local matters by the British, the Asantes shifted their attention from the Fantes to the British. For example, Governor Richard Pine, who refused to hand him over to the Asantehene, harboured Kwasi Gyani, who refused to hand over a gold nugget he had found. This might have led to the capture of the German and Swiss missionaries F. Ramsyer and G. Kuhne as captives and sent to Kumasi.
4. The Sweet River Convention between the Dutch and the British on 5th March 1867 also necessitated the Anglo-Asante wars. This agreement brought Elmina under the control of British (enemies of the Asante state) and British Komenda (close friends to the British) under the Dutch. Komenda did not want to be under Dutch but the British, their old time friends, therefore Dutch landed an attack on them. Later, Komenda attacked Elimina. The Fante states, together with Denkyira and Wassa offered their help to Komenda against the Dutch. The Asantes close link with the Dutch and Elmina allowed them to get most of their supplies of European goods like guns and gunpowder, and then help them to export slaves they had bought to Cape Coast. Therefore, an attack on Elmina posed a great threat to their trading interest on the coast. Therefore, when the Fantes attacked Elmina in 1806, in order for them (Elmina) to give up their alliance (close ties) with the Asantes. The Asantes saw it as a threat to their trading activities on the coast. The British decided to side with the Fante states in order to protect their economic interest on the coast.
5. The annexation (take-over) of the Southern states by the British. The Asantes were not comfortable with the take-over of the Southern states, especially, Elmina, who were close business allies (friends) with the Asantes and who helped them to acquire foreign goods like guns and gun powder from the Elmina Castle. With the annexation of the Southern states as a protectorate of the British, the Asantes attacked Elmina, which was now part of the British Protectorate. The British did not take likely to the attack. They responded swiftly, which brought about the Sagrenti War in 1874.
6. The British had the intention to permanently stay at the Gold Coast and transact business with the local people, in order to get regular supply of raw material, like gold and ivory; acquire slaves to work on their farms on America and the Caribbean; open a new market on the Gold Coast to sell their surplus commodities like textiles, alcoholic drinks, guns and gun powder and re-settle some of their citizens there in order to control the over-population in their country.
1. Both the British and the Asantes had the intention to rule the entire Gold Coast:
Prior to the coming of the Europeans to the gold Coast, the Asantes were reigning in the area. They had conquered several lands and their people, as far as the Northern part and extending even into present day Togo. When the British came, they also wanted to rule the land. This led to the constant wars beteeen the British and the Asantes. The Asantes posed as a stubborn and strong force that would stand against British. There had been several persuasions by the British to bring the Asante states under their rule but the Asantes disobeyed those terms of agreements and protested. Prominent amongst them was the Treaty of Fomena signed between the Queen of Britain and Ireland (Queen Victoria) and the Asantehene (Kofi Karikari) on February 13, 1974. When those persuasions failed, then they applied full force on the Asantes. This led to Sagrenti War (1874) and subsequently, the Yaa Asantewaa war (1900), which led to the Asante Kingdom becoming a colony of the British.
2. Disturbance of the Southern states by the Asantes:
The constant attacks on the Southern states threatened their very existence on their own land. Therefore, they sought refuge from the British, who offered them their help. The British took the side of the Southern states, especially, the Fantes. They made a tight alliance in order to fight and defeat the Asantes completely. This led to the battle at Nsamankow, where Sir Charles MacCharthy was murdered and his head severed (cut off) and sent to Kumasi as trophy. Moreover, the British, under a charter (agreement) in July 1874 formally annexed (took possession or control of) the Southern States on the coast as the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast. Therefore, the British saw any attack on the Southern states, as an attack on them. For example, what led to the Sagrenti war in 1974 was that the Asantes attacked Elmina in 1973. The British responded quickly. Meanwhile the Asantes had captured two Basel Missionaries F. Ramseyer and G. Kuhne in a town called Krepiland in Togo as captives to Kumasi in 1869. The British became annoyed at the attack on the coastal states and decided to attack the Asantes and destroy their military power. They warned them to withdraw their troops from their protectorate, pay for the losses inflicted on the protected tribes, release all prisoners, stop human sacrifice, and slave raiding. The Asantes refused to yield to their demands and so they attacked the Asante Kingdom and defeated it in the Sagrenti War in 1874.
3. The British did not respect Asantes:
The Asantes was the most powerful force on the Gold Coast, even after the arrival of the Europeans. Their fame resided in their military might. They had captured many states, especially, the Southern states and exercised total rule over their lands and people. Local British, Dutch, and Danish authorities were all forced to come to terms with Asante, and in 1817 the African Company of Merchants signed a treaty of friendship that recognized Asante claims to sovereignty over large areas of the coast and its peoples. Therefore, the British refusal to accept the Asantes control over the Southern states caused many battles between the Asantes and the British. The first was MacCarthy’s encouragement of coastal states to oppose Asantes’ rule over them and the subsequent 1824 British military attack further indicated to Asantes authorities that the Europeans, especially the British, did not respect Asante. McCarthy’s mandate was to impose peace and to end the slave trade. He sought to do this by encouraging the coastal peoples to oppose the Asante rule and by closing the great roads to the coast. Moreover, MacCharthy called the Asantehene “This barbarian chief”. The disrespect of the Asantehene was against their laws and customs and carried very heavy punishment. This caused the battle of Nsamankow in 1824. In addition, Governor Richard Pine’s refusal to hand over Kwasi Gyani, a fugitive, who refused to send a gold nugget to the Asantehene, caused the coastal invasion in 1863.
4. The British’s refusal to honour the “Castle notes”:
There was a written agreement, called the Castle Notes, making it obligatory for the payment of rent on the land, which the European forts stood. The rent of Elmina Castle was 2 ounces of gold a month, increased to 4 ounces at the end of the seventeenth century. James fort, Accra – 2 ounces, Cape Coast and Anomabo - 4 ounces each. An ounce of gold was valued at £ 4. The British refused to honour the terms of agreement in the Castle Notes was one of the major causes of their constant battles. Finally, in the Treaty of Fomena, the Asantes was forced to cancel the payment of rent on the Castles and forts as indicated in the Castle Notes.
5. The interference of the British in the local affairs of the Asantes:
The Asantes’ defeat in the Sagrenti War fought in 1874 boosted the moral (confidence) of the British over the Asantes; but it weakened the military might and fame of the Asantes. They were forced to sign the harsh Treaty of Fomena, which forced them to give up their control on the Southern states like Fantes, Denkyira, Akyem, Adansi and Assin. This also led to the breakaway of other states like Kwahu, Mampong, Agona, Nsuta and Bekwai. The treaty also opened up all the trade routes the Asantes had captured. The British took this opportunity to establish their rule over the Asantes. A new charter issued on September 1874 made Asante a protectorate colony to be administered separately from Sierra Leone. This led to the British to exercise her complete control over the Asante state. The Asantes protested and this led to the Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900. For instance, Governor Sir Fredrick Mitchell Hodgson was always insisting on the Asantes to sit on the sacred Golden Stool. This was an insult to the Asantes. It angered them and so they attacked the soldiers sent to search for the stool.
6. The Asantes’ refusal to be governed by the British:
The Asantes refused to allow a British residence in Kumasi. This posed a great threat to effective control of the Asante state. The Asantehene was unwilling to pay the 50,000 ounce of gold fine imposed on the Asantes by the Treaty of Fomena. This was seen as a breach of the Fomena Treaty and the Asantehene Prempeh I, the Queen mother and some members from the royal house were arrested and sent to Seychelles Island. The people still protested and requested their royal leaders to be brought back. The last straw was Sir Frederick Hodgson’s demands to take over the Asante Golden Stool.
7. The British feared that their rivalry powers – the Germans and the French – would take over the interior of the Gold Coast:
The Berlin Conference of 1884/1885 was held to formally regulate the division of the African continent amongst Europeans powers. The key purpose of this was to regulate trading activities on the African continent amongst the Europeans. They enacted a general act, which permitted the European powers to rule over lands they already possessed and territories they had entered into signed agreement with the local chiefs to rule or control them. This was termed as the “The principle of Effective Occupation. Therefore, with the occupation of the French and German at Cote D’Ivoire and Togo respectively, and their activities in the Northern states. (Do not forget that Cote D’Ivoire and Togo share close boundaries with Ghana on the West and East respectively). Therefore, the British, who had the intention of controlling the whole of the Gold Coast felt the need to quickly annex the Asante state and the Northern territories. Therefore, they had to use all means, either persuasion or force, to bring the Asantes and the Northern territories under their rule. However, the Asantes did not want to be colonized by the British.
The Effects of the Anglo-Asante Wars:
1. The Asantes took the opportunity to exhibit their military might against the British, who had always thought of the African race as inferior. The Asantes defeated the British in the Asikuma and Bobikuma battles and the famous Nsamankow war in January 21, 1824. In fact, in the Nsamankow war, the British was completely humiliated and defeated because they under-estimated the military might of the Asantes. Their Captain, Sir Charles MacCharthy was murdered and his head cut off and sent to Kumasi as trophy. About 186 men from their camp died. This changed the British mentality about the Asantes and they began to take them very seriously. Some British accounts pay tribute to the hard fighting of the Asantes at Amoaful, particularly, the tactical insight of their commander, Amankwatia in the Sagrenti War. Moreover, Yaa Asantewaa is now famous, although, she is dead, because of the bravery she exhibited during the Yaa Asantewaa War in 1900. The Asantes claimed a victory as they had not lost their sacred Golden Stool, although, they were defeated. It must be noted that, throughout the Anglo-Asante wars, the Asantes displayed much bravery and skills.
2. It led to the protection of the sacred Golden Stool of the Asantes:
What led to the Yaa Asantewaa War in 1900 was the demand of the sacred Golden Stool by the British governor, Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson. He continuously insisted to sit on the sacred Golden Stool because he did not understand that it was the royal throne of the Asantehene and the Spirit of unity of the Asante Kingdom. Although, they lost the war, they were able to protect the sacred Golden Stool. They even claim that, they did not lose the battle because, they were able to protect the stool from getting into the hands of the British.
3. The British regained their self-respect (confidence):
The defeat of the Asante in the Sagrenti War and the subsequent Yaa Asantewaa War helped the British to regain their image and respect they lost during the Nsamankow War in 1824.
4. The independence of the states captured by the Asantes. The signing of the Treaty of Fomena by the Asantes after their defeat in the Sagrenti War necessitated the freedom of Southern states: Denkyira, Wassa, Akyem and Accra and other vassal states like Krachi, Kwahu and Salaga.
5. Slavery including domestic slavery was abolished. Prior to the capture of the Asante state by the British. The Asantes took slaves from the states they had captured. Moreover, some were taken through wars, raids and panyarring (The unlawful act of seizing an innocent person in order to compel an offender to pay the debt or compensate the offended). The capture of the Asante state and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Fomena helped to ban such inhumane activities perpetrated by the Asantes.
6. There was a long period of peace on the Gold Coast. With the defeat of the Asantes, there was a long period of peace between 1828 and 1860 and after 1874. This ensured peaceful and reasonable trading activities. The subsequent calm on the Gold Coast also resulted in safe Christian missionary activities (The spreading of the Gospel), formal education, and social developments like building of hospitals, roads, railways and schools. This is because the Asantes – the trouble makers – had been silenced by the British.
7. The Fante states became more united. The Southern states became a British colony in 1874. Therefore, the British had total control of the Southern states. With the defeat of the Asantes in the Sagrenti War in 1874 and the signing of the Treaty of Fomena, the Asante was forever forced to give up their control on the Southern states including Elmina. With Elmina (formerly, under Dutch and close allies to the Asantes) and Komenda now fully under the British control, much unity now existed amongst the two states and the other Fante states. Moreover, the British saw an attack on any of the Fante states as an attack on them. Therefore, the British did everything to protect their Southern protectorate.
8. It brought the end to the hostilities perpetrated by the Asantes. The Asante was known for their constant attacks on the other states, raiding other states for slaves, panyarring and human sacrifice. The silencing of the Asantes by the British and their subsequent colonizing ended such cruel and inhumane activities perpetrated by the Asantes.
9. It necessitated the colonizing of the Asantes and the entire Gold Coast. The British based on the defeat of the Asantes in the Sagrenti War and the Yaa Asantewaa War to colonize the Asantes. Finally, on January 1, 1902, Asante became a British Crown Colony and a resident chief commissioner was sent to Kumasi to take full charge of the territory.
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- Ernest Offei (Autor), 2017, The Anglo-Asante-Wars and its political effects, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/366987