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ASANTE UNION
 

The Asante kingdom was founded at about the end of the seven­teenth century by Osei Tutu with the help of his priest friend and constitu­tional adviser Okomfo Anokye. This kingdom emerged from a union of a number of states which had been established within the radius of about thirty miles of the modem city of Kumasi , then known as Kwaaman, by various matrilineal clan groups and families which migrated there from the Adansi-Amansie area, the cradle of the Akan people of Ghana , in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among the first batch of states to be founded were Tafo, Otikrom, Amakom, Anyinase, Domaa, Kaase, Ohwim, Obookrom and Kwaaman by the Ekoona, Aduana, Asenee and. Agona clan groups.

The second batch of states included Atasomanso, Amoafo, Baworo, Essumeja, Of in so, Denyaase, .Edweso, Mampong, Afigyaase, Asokore, Antoa, Beposo and Agyaase (later changed to Kumawu) founded by the Bretuo, Aduana and Asona clan groups probably during the first three decades of the seventeenth century. The last group of states in the area were Kokofu, Dwaben, Bekwai, Nsuta, Asaaman and Kenyaase, probably between 1630 and 1660. Many of these later states absorbed some of the earlier ones either through conquest, diplomacy, marriage or a combina­tion of all the three strategies. Thus the Oyoko immigrants who founded Kumasi on a piece of land bought for 30 preguans from Adwoa Krawiri of Kwaaman under their first three rulers Kobia Amanfi, Oti Akenten and Obiri Yeboah, conquered such states as Anow and Kwadwokrom or won the allegiance of Mamponten, Anyinase, Atutue, Ahenkro, Awiem, Pampaso, Oyoko-Breman and Esereso which Osei Tutu was to group into the present three Oyoko groups of states of Abohyen, Atutwe and Oyoko­Breman, while Obiri-Yeboa's successor, Osei Tutu, acquired Amakom and Tafo and conquered Domaa. The Oyoko of Dwaben also conquered or absorbed the pre-existing states of Appianyinase, Abooso, Nsuoso and Bomfa. Thus, by the 1680's, a number of fairly large independent king­doms had emerged in the Amansie, Kwabere and Sekyere areas, the lead­ing ones being Kumasi , Dwaben, Kokofu, Bekwai, Nsuta, Mampong, Essumeja and Kumawu. But by the last decade of the century, all these had been conquered and subjected to tyrannical rule by Denkyira, and it was the common hatred of this oppressive domination of Denkyira that enabled Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye to convince all of them to form a union to fight for their liberation. Hence the name Asante , meaning "because of war".

To preserve the unity of the Confederacy and consolidate it, Osei Tutu promulgated a number of laws, forbidding under pain of death any member of the Union to disclose or even make reference to the origins or conquest of any clan state in the Union, recognising the head of the Kumasi state as the Asantehene, Kumasi as the new capital of the Union and a national annual festival, the Odwira. It was to provide a seal of Union that Okomfo Anokye is believed to have conjured the Golden Stool (Sikadwa Kofi) from the sky to be the pre-eminent stool for the whole of Asante . The Golden Stool became the repository of a national spirit transcending all local ties. The Golden Stool also became the visible symbol of the mystical bond that united all Asante . The stool is both the symbol of unity and a source of strength for the Asante nation.

Finally, it was to ensure the power, survival, rapid expansion and continued independence of the Union that Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye devised a politico-military constitution for the Union which involved "a definite strategy of militarisation not only of politics but also of govern­ment". Under this constitution, the Union was to be governed by a coun­cil headed by the Asantehene as not only the political head but also the supreme commander-in-chief of the Asante army. Members of the council were the Krontihene and Akwamuhene, who were the first and second war chiefs as well as administrators of the Union in the absence of the Asantehene. The next officers were the Nifahene, who was also the com­mander of the right wing of the Union army, the Benkumhene who was also the commander of the left wing of the army, the Kyidomhene was the com­mander of the rear guard, and finally, the Gyaasehene was commander of the Asantehene's bodyguard as well as the minister in charge of domestic affairs and head of the Asantehene's bureaucracy.

The Union states were appointed to these offices. Thus, the Mamponghene became the Asante Krontihene and deputy commander-in­chief of the Asante army, and the Essumejahene became the Asante Benkumhene while the Bekwaihene and Nsutahene became members of the Asante right and left wings respectively. Each of the component states of the Union also adopted this five-wing politico-military organisation of the Union . Since each adult Asante automatically became a soldier, and armed with a gun provided by his father or the state imported from the coast, and by adopting and improving upon the military organisation learnt from Akwamu and Denkyira, Osei Tutu and his successors developed a powerful army which soon acquired fame for its martial ardour, bravery and invincibility. It was this army which, inspired by its leaders and the Golden Stool, was able not only to overthrow the oppressive Denkyira rule at the battle of Feyiase in 1700, but to expand the frontiers and domination of the Union over an area wider than modem Ghana between 1700 and 1750 under its great kings Osei Tutu I and Opoku Ware I.


 
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