By Nicholas Osei-Wusu
The chiefs and people of Asanteman have held a durbar in Kumasi to commemorate 150 years of the most disastrous war with the British Army in 1875, in which about four thousand Asante warriors died.
In his speech, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu Ababio, expressed delight about the fact that, despite the numerous battles between his forebears and both indigenous tribes and the British, nobody could take away the very soul of Asanteman, the Golden Stool, and that the Asantes have proven resilient and unconquerable as a people till date.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu used the occasion to rally Ghanaians to unite with love as one people to propel national development.
In 1874, the British Army, under the command of Gamet Wolseley, invaded the seat of the then-Asante territory, Kumasi, and engaged the people in a fierce battle.
That war, which has now become the infamous ‘Sagrenti War’, proved to be the most disastrous for the Asantes among the five battles between the two sides.
The Asantes lost about four thousand of their warriors, eventually losing the war, with the British looting many valuable resources from the people, including regalia for the chieftaincy.
The battle was said to have been fueled by hatred, betrayal, selfishness, disloyalty, and internal strife among the Asantes during the reign of Nana Kofi Kaakari.
The Durbar at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi was to commemorate the war and to prove to the present generation that, indeed, the ‘Sagrenti War’ was actually fought for useful lessons to be drawn.
A key part of the commemorative Durbar was the handing over to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu Ababio, by a delegation of the University of California seven chieftaincy regalia looted from Asantes after the war, bought and kept by the university at its museum in the United States.
It represents the first batch of the stolen items and was meant to be kept by Asantehene.
In a remark, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Madam Harriet Thomson, noted that the commemorative event reminds the world of the sins of the past but expressed satisfaction with the existing diplomatic relations between Asanteman and Britain.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, speaking on behalf of Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, said the ability of the people of Asanteman to re-unite till present day should tell everyone that Asantes cannot be easily defeated or disintegrated.
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu Ababio, traced the history and account of the ‘Sagrenti War’ and how the Asantes became an integral part of present-day Ghana through the instrumentality of the late J. B. Dankwa, who was then the private legal adviser to the Asantehene.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu, while assuring that Asanteman will never claim superiority over any other tribe in the country, behoves all to unite in love in the pursuit of Ghana’s progress.
“Now we are integral part of Ghana, and so we are subservient to the laws also. But one fact every Ghanaian should realise is that no one can alienate us from the nation, regardless of whatever machination, not even politicians or clergy.
Whoever develops hatred for Asantes will eventually suffer. So let’s all forget in Unity to develop the country,” he asserted.
The Asantehene explained that, even though talks for the return of the looted items began by his predecessors, he has also personally been pursuing the matter since his assumption as the 16th occupant of the Golden Stool, adding that the remaining 32 items expected from Britain will be only on loan for a maximum period of six years and will be exhibited at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi for both the traditional leaders and members of the public to confirm the reality of the war and not a fiction.
Among the large number of patrons of the Durbar were Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and his wife, Speaker of Parliament and his wife, the surviving two former Presidents of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama, the British High Commissioner, Harriet Thomson, and some state and non-state actors.