Akan History

Door , 22/08/2009 18:06

Asafo Companies

The word `Asafo’ is derived from ‘sa’ (meaning war) and ‘fo’ (meaning people). Warrior groups are active throughout the Akan area, but it is the Fante tribe which inhabit the coastal region of Ghana, that has developed a sophisticated and expressive community with a social and political organization based on martial principles, and elaborate traditions of visual art.

It is certain that the local organization of warriors into units of fighting men was an established practice well before the arrival of Europeans. Nevertheless, the influence on – and the manipulation of – these groups to suit the trading and colonial ambitions of the foreigners has created many of the qualities of the Fante Asafo that continue to this day.

The situation throughout the Fante region is fraught with political complexities, for there are twenty-four traditional states along an eighty- mile stretch of the Atlantic coast, and each state is independently ruled by a paramount chief or ‘omanhen’, supported by elders and a hierarchy of divisional, town and village chiefs. In any one state there may be from two to fourteen Asafo companies, with as many as seven active companies in a single town. There is a lack of political unity within the Fante culture as a whole, so that inter-company rivalries – as well as disagreements between the states – are, not surprisingly, endemic. When the Fante were not fighting together against a common enemy, these antagonisms often extended to open conflict among themselves. observers report that battles between Asafo companies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries left many dead and wounded.

By exploiting these divisions, the Europeans could `divide and rule’ and ensure that their control of the coast went unchallenged. At the same time, by organizing the Asafo warriors into efficient military units, they could bring together an army for a quick reaction to any threat from the interior. The enemy was, more often than not, the Ashanti kingdom, a traditional opponent of the Fante, and a dangerous and unpredictable supplier of gold and slaves to the European traders on the coast. The primary function of the Asafo, as we have seen, was defence of the state, Nevertheless, the companies are key players in a balance-of- power struggle – typical of the many that exist in communities the world over – between the military and civilian groups within government. Although the Asafo are subordinate to their chiefs and paramount chief, they are intimately involved in the selection of the chief and are responsible for his crowning or ‘enstoolment’. As long as the chief has the support of the people – as represented by the Asafo – he has the authority accorded to him by tradition; the prerogative to appoint and remove chiefs remains with the people. Asafo elders also serve as advisers to the chief.

While Fante chieftaincy is aristocratic and matrilineal – the chief tracing his descent through females back to the founders of the community – the Asafo are patrilineal and democratic, Every child, male or female, automatically enters his father’s company, and membership is open to all classes, from stool holders to fishermen.


Kwahu is a region in south-central Ghana, on the west shore of Lake Volta. There are two common spellings, Kwahu and Kwawu. The “w” spelling is the official spelling from the African Studies Centre, University of Ghana, and more resembles the pronunciation. The “h” was put in by Swiss missionaries from Basel, who added the “h” to ensure that Kwa, the first syllable, was not pronounced as “eh”. The “h” is not separately pronounced in the name.

The term Kwahu also refers to the variant of Akan language spoken in this region.

The name derives from its myths of origin, “The slave (awa) died (wu)”, which was based on an ancient prophesy that a slave would die so the wandering tribe of Akan would know where to settle. The myth was part of the historical stories of the Agona matriclan, the first paramount lineage of Kwahu, and was later adopted by the Bretuo-Tena matriclan (Twidan) who later replaced them.

The paramount chief and the royal matrilineage of the Kwahu reside at Abene, north of Abetifi on the banks of the highlands.

Abetifi (Tena matriclan) is the head of the Adonten (vanguard). Obo (Aduana, Ada, Amoakade) is the head of the Nifa (Right Division) Aduamoa (Dwumena, Asona) is the head of the Benkum (Left Division).

As part of the Asante Empire, Kwahu had an Asante emissary, governor or ambassador at Atibe, next to Mpraeso, of the Ekuona matriclan). To indicate its independence from Asante in 1888 the Kwahu assassinated the Asante emissary in Atibe, about the time of the arrival of the Basel missionaries from Switzerland. The Kwahu royals invited the missionaries to build their mission in Abetifi. Obo led the pro-Asante opposition to the Swiss.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Reacties gesloten

Panorama Theme by Themocracy