Fanti Confederation

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Fanti Confederation describes both a loose union of fantasy kingdoms in the 18th and 19th centuries (here called the "1st Fanti Confederation") and the much more centralized Fanti confederation between 1868 and 1874 in what is now Ghana .

The 1st Fanti Confederation

In contrast to their neighbors in the north (the Ashanti ) and east (the Fon of the Dahomey Empire ), the Fanti were never united in a common kingdom. Under the pressure of the threat from the mighty Ashanti Empire, the 1st Fan Confederation was established between 1670 and 1730 , which loosely united 21 fan states. The federation expanded its sphere of influence in the early 18th century at the expense of some smaller neighboring states such as Asebu , Cabesterra and Agona . In the 1730s this alliance took on closer forms, the king ( Omanhene ) of the central fantasy kingdom of Mankessim , who was also the high priest of the national deity, received the title of Brafo and was recognized as head by the other kings. After 1750 , however, this empire broke up into a western and an eastern part. The Fanticon federation, allied with the British, existed in a loose form as a defensive alliance against the Ashanti Empire , allied with the Dutch , against which several wars were fought (1806, 1811), until the 19th century.

Fanti Confederation of Mankessim

The impetus for the establishment of the second fan federation was primarily the defense against external threats. But since the middle of the 19th century, the creeping colonization of the Fanti area by the British had become more important than the threat posed by the Ashanti . In 1844 the Fantikönige had agreed to a union with the British, which turned the federation into a British protectorate - but at the same time guaranteed the traditional rulers control over their internal affairs. Between 1844 and 1865, however, the British increased their influence, particularly in the legal field, with English law increasingly replacing traditional jurisprudence and the courts of the heads of the Fanti. In 1852 a British head tax decree was approved by a gathering of traditional chiefs, and other tax levies sparked fierce opposition. The Fanti area had become a de facto British protectorate.

In 1865 John Aggrey was elected King of Cape Coast . In the same year, a British parliamentary committee recommended a large-scale withdrawal from West African possessions and a policy that would allow administration to be handed over to local authorities. With reference also to this parliamentary report, John Aggrey soon became a central figure in the resistance to British influence. His program included B. the establishment of a national army. In 1866 he formulated a violent protest letter to the British administration against the disempowerment of the traditional authorities. The British governor then had him interned and deported to Sierra Leone .

An agreement concluded in 1867 between the British and the Dutch on the exchange of various forts located in the Fanti area, which was agreed without the participation of the Fantikönige, was ultimately the final impetus for the establishment of the federation. The agreement was perceived as threatening due to the traditional ties between the Dutch and their old rival Ashanti Empire. In addition, like other African rulers, the Fantikönige saw the Europeans only as tenants and not as owners of the forts on their coast. In fact, the Europeans also regularly paid rents to the African rulers on the basis of corresponding written contracts. Thus the Fanti felt it was a blatant violation of their ancestral right that the decision to replace the forts had been decided over their heads.

The internal structure of the Confederation

In 1868 the heads of the Fanti and some neighboring peoples ( Ahanta , Wassa , Denkyra, etc.) then met in the town of Mankessim and decided to reject the British-Dutch agreement and to found a joint government under a single head. The Mankessim Assembly established a council in which each member state was represented by seven elected members and elected three joint presidents.

In 1869 Robert Jones Ghartey from Winneba was elected president and in 1871 the Confederation adopted a written constitution after discussions among educated Africans. This constitution was influenced by European models, e.g. B. the individual institutions should control each other. However, it was not planned to involve the farmers in the political decision-making process. Power was shared here by the traditional authorities and the western educated "elite" of the region. The discussion was chaired by J. (Africanus) Horton , a nationalist leader from the British colony of Sierra Leone . An executive council was established and the composition of the representative assembly changed. From then on it consisted of two delegates from each member state, one of whom had to be a traditional chief and the other an "educated man". A national assembly of kings and important leaders was established, which met annually to appoint the members of the executive council, ratify the decisions of the legislative assembly and elect the president as head of the entire federation. Eventually a poll tax and export duties were levied and a joint court of law began to operate. An army of 15,000 men was raised and taxes were to be used to achieve ambitious development goals in road construction, agriculture (focus on new, commercially usable agricultural products), education (e.g. the establishment of schools for girls) and industry.

Armed conflicts with Dutch and Ashanti

The Confederation created a national army that successfully assisted the Kommenda and residents of Dixcove in defending the fort there, abandoned by the British, against the Dutch. The attempt to conquer Elmina , the most important fort of the Dutch in West Africa, failed, however, and again brought the Confederation into conflict with the Ashanti Empire . Its only direct access to the lucrative trade with the Europeans and to the supply of rifles and ammunition was via Elmina, for which she had stolen the lease from the Denkyra a few decades earlier. The result was continued fighting with the Ashanti, which increasingly depleted the Federation's resources.

Decline of the Confederation

The Confederation began to decline as early as 1872 , and in early 1873 it practically ceased to exist.

In addition to the exhausting battles with the Ashanti, the rivalry between the two mighty kings of Mankessim and Abora also led to this decline. Above all, however, the British now saw the Confederation as a threat to their power on the Gold Coast and did their best to undermine the unity of the member states. In 1871 the British administration imprisoned the members of the Executive Council on charges of treason. The colonial authorities condemned this action and the detainees were released. However, the Federation never recovered from this apparent loss of authority. In 1874 the confederation was finally history with the official annexation of the southern areas of the Gold Coast including the Fanti areas by the British, the Gold Coast Colony was born.

Classification and effect

The Mankessim Fanti Confederation was one of the first anti-colonial movements for “self-government” in Africa. Their example primarily influenced the Western educated elite in British West Africa and directly stimulated similar attempts. The short-lived Accra Native Confederation was founded in Accra based on their model , and the Grebo Reunited Kingdom in Liberia .


  • JB Webster, AA Boahen: The Growth of Westafrican Civilization: The Revolutionary Years, Westafrica since 1800.
  • Marx, Christoph: History of Africa. From 1800 to the present. Paderborn u. a. 2004. ISBN 3-506-71748-0
  • Limberg, Lennart: The Fanti Confederation 1868 - 1872. Dissertation Gothenburg 1974
  • Shumway, Rebecca: The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Rochester 2011.