Government of Ashanti

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The government of the historic Ashanti Kingdom in West Africa was more than a mere tool for the public administration of the common state in the Ashanti Kingdom . From a political point of view, it was primarily a guarantee of power for the ruling nobility, through whom it was repeatedly possible in the past to suppress or prevent absolutist efforts on the part of the ruling personalities and from their circle. The numerous dethronings that have taken place in the course of Ashantic history are vivid testimony to this real power of the nobility, which had its legitimacy and basis in the system of government.

In general, within the government and public administration of the Akan states , one speaks of “chairs”, which denotes offices that are associated with a special authority of their incumbent.

Structure and structure

The Asante government consisted of the following main pillars:

  1. the king (title: Asantehene (leader of the Ashanti), Osai (king), Nana (clan elder))
  2. the aristocracy
    • the queen mother (Asantehemaa or Ohemmaa)
    • the Kotoko Council
    • the council of elders (Mpanyimfo)
  3. the Asantemanhyiamu (later: the General Assembly)

The Kotoko Council

The Kotoko was a kind of government council in the Asante government. In the past he was also known as the Ashantee porcubine , which should imply that “ nobody should dare to touch him ... ” Politically, he formed the counterweight to the king's council of elders and basically embodied taken the noble party in government. During the reign of Osai Bonsu (ruled 1801-1824), the Kotoko Council consisted of the following people:

  1. the King (Asantehene Osai) (The King of Asante is the occupant of the " Golden Chair " and is traditionally provided by the Oyoko clan.)
  2. the Queen Mother (Asantehemaa or just Ohemaa)
  3. the first three chiefs of the country
    • the Mamponghene (The Mamponghene is the occupant of the "Silver Chair" and as such the Viceroy Asantes. He is traditionally provided by the Bretuo clan.)
    • the Juabenhene (also: Dwabinhene or in similar spellings)
    • the Bekwaihene
  4. four aristocrats from Kumasi
    • the Kumasi Akwamuhene
    • the Kumasi Gyaasehene (the "Minister of Finance")
    • the Adumhene
    • the Kontihene (or Krontihene) (The Kontihene was the commander-in-chief of the Ashanti Army in the absence of the king.)

All members of the Kotoko Council were also known as Abrempon. After the introduction of the Adamfo office, the persons listed under 3 were "outside Abrempon" who were represented at the court by the Adamfo.

The chiefs of the Kotoko Council were mostly also the “viceroys” or “governors” of Asantes for the conquered and tributary states. For example, during the government bonsus B. the Kumasi Gyaasehene, Opoku Frefre, responsible for Akim and Akwamu, the Kumasi Akwamuhene, Kwakye Kofi, responsible for Denkira or the Krontihene and Kumasi Nsafohene, Amankwatia, responsible for Assin, Wassaw, Twifo, Sefwi as well as for large parts of the southwest.

The tasks of territorial administration were mostly delegated to selected officers with regard to smaller territorial units. The above-mentioned Amankwatia appointed a Kwini Akim as provincial governor for Assin, who also delegated his administrative tasks further downwards, in which, for example, he appointed an Akasse as the responsible administrator for the Kyikyiwari district.

Accra was an exception. Since three European nations were present in Accra, the Ashantine provincial administration for Accra was also divided into three parts, with each of the three provincial governors also being responsible for one of the European nations. So was z. For example, during the Bonsu government, a man named Akwa Amankwa was in charge of the British and another named Bekwa was in charge of the Danes. The provincial governors also belonged to the king's council of elders (Mpanyimfo).

The Mpanyimfo

The Mpanyimfo is generally the assembly of the oldest members of a group represented by the Akan peoples. As a rule, they represent a lineage that is matrilineally defined. They are generally considered to represent the people in government. In the past, influential traders and representatives of the baristocracy could also be found here. Your successor in possible management positions was generally inherited by maternity leave.

The Asantemanhyiamu

(English: " Union Council ", also: " The General Assembly of the Caboceers and Captains of the Ashantee Nation ")

The Asantemanhyiamu was a kind of Federal Council of Asante, which met at least once a year. The king, who was also a councilor, presided over the meetings. The council consisted of the representatives of the individual matrilineal family clans, who were elected and appointed by the Queen Mother and the most powerful chiefs from among several candidates nominated by the lineages. This was seen as a very effective system which largely, if not always, spared Asante from devastating succession disputes.

The Kwadwo'sche administrative reform

The offices of government and public administration in Asante were completely reorganized during the reign of Asantehene Osei Kwadwo (r. 1764–1777) in a major administrative reform or even created in the first place. One went over to the following group classification:

The group of Adehyedwa chairs

The Adehyedwa chairs are those offices that were originally independent of the king, that is, they were either pre-Ashanti chairs that were incorporated into the Ashanti administration system after the establishment of the kingdom, or they were non-Ashanti chairs that one later, due to special loyalty and loyalty to the Ashantic administrative system. The succession in office was mostly regulated by maternal law, with the exception of the Asafo chair from Kumasi. Matriculate succession means that the successor for the office of an Adehyedwa chair has been determined through the election of a noble who is suitable for the office within the maternal consanguinity of the nobility.

The group of poduodwa chairs

The Poduodwa chairs are those offices that had been created by the king and the occupation of which was inherited by a certain lineage.

Example : the Bantama chair in Kumasi (title: Bantamahene or Bantahene)

Bantama is the place where the mausoleum of the royal family is located. The bantahene, ie the head of the place and the boss of the mausoleum, is traditionally exercised by the Asante Krontihene (the commander in chief of the Ashanti army).

The group of Esomdwa chairs (including the Mmammadwa chairs)

The Esomdwa chairs are all those offices of public administration ("Esom") that do not fall into category a) or b). Among them are the Mmammadwa chairs, ie those offices whose succession was organized via the "Fekuw" system, ie via kinship relationships that arose from the paternal blood line. However, the king had the right to intervene in the successor and to appoint a successor himself.

Example : the Pinanko-Suhl (= the office of the Gyaasehene = the finance minister)

All office holders of a chair of the three categories mentioned had to swear allegiance to the king, ie these “chairs” (offices) were subordinate to the top of all chairs, the “ golden chair ”, which is occupied by the Asantehene. They are therefore strictly separated from the group of Abusuadwa chairs, which were not subject to the " Golden Chair ".

The chiefs of the regional and supraregional public administration had the Ahenfie, ie the local palace police, at their disposal to exercise state executive power.

The group of Abusuadwa chairs

The Abusuadwa chairs are all offices within a family clan (defined by the maternal bloodline) that do not fulfill any public function and whose function, occupation and succession is solely the matter of the respective matrilineal Abusua.

Example : the Oyokohene (the head of the Oyoko clan)

With the Kwadwo'schen administrative reform, among other things, the Asokwafo, ie the previous troop of the royal hornblowers, was transformed into a kind of "personnel pool" for the education and training of future government officials. The king then recruited his officials from the Asokwafo community for a wide variety of administrative tasks. The head of the Asokwafo was the Batahene, who was also responsible for the management of the state trade organization Asantes. The post of Okyeame (spokesman for the king), newly created under Kwadwo, was filled with people from the Asokwafo group. Likewise, the liaison men to the Europeans during Osai Bonsu's reign had previously been members of the Asokwafo.

To the office of Gyaasehene

The Gyaasehene (formerly: Gyaasewahene) was the head of the treasurer's office at the court of the King of Asante. He was responsible for the implementation of a general financial budget and expenditure control of the Kingdom of Asante and he presided over the tax court (English: " Exchequer Court "). The office occupied by the Gyaasehene was also called the Pinanko chair, a term that was used parallel to "Gyaasewa" as a chair designation. Subordinate to him were the Sanaahene, who was responsible for the routine administration of the "Great Chest" (treasury), that is, through which all payments with gold dust from the royal treasury were processed. Subordinate to the Sanaahene (and thus also to the Gyaasehene) was the photo taker, who was the chief of the cashiers and gold digger. The office of the photographer was also called the Nnimbi chair.

The Gyaase (wa) hene (Kumasi Gyaasehene) also had a seat on the Asante Kotoko Council. Since all members of the Kotoko council were also viceroys or governors for areas outside Asante with Ashantic supremacy, the Gyaasehene also had such an office. For example, Opoku Frefre was also viceroy for Akwamu and Akim at the time of Asantehene Osai Bonsu (ruled 1801–1824).

Gyaasehene as owners of the Pinanko chair were in the past:

owner Period comment
Opoku Frefre appointed under Osai Kwadwo (Kudscho) (ruled 1764–1777) until around 1818, then retired, died around 1826
Adu Damete 1818 to 1826 died in 1826
Kwahu Boahen
Adu Bofuo 1869 to 1876 died around 1876
Kofi Poku died around 1884
Opoku Dum died in 1888
Opoku Mensah died in 1900
Manwere Okoku died in 1900
Kwame Tuah 1905 to 1922
Asubonte 1922 to 1937
Kwadwo Poku 1937 to 1942
Kofi Poku 1942 to 1946
Adu Nantwiri 1946 to 1958
Kwesi Adu Bofuo 1958 to?
Opoku Mensah

The office of Gyaasehene in Asante, that is, a treasurer in Asante of course existed long before an Asumadu, but the office was exempted from maternal succession in the course of the Kwadwo administrative reform and was mainly given administrative tasks (perhaps earlier ), so that only from here on can one speak of real “finance ministers”.

The successor to the Pinanko chair has since been regulated under the “Fekuw” system. Only 1st, 3rd and 11th have no patrilineal blood relationship with Opoku Frefre. After his retirement from the office of Gyaasehene (around 1818) three of his sons (4th, 5th and 6th) and no fewer than eight of his grandchildren (7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th , 13th, 14th, and 15th) and two of his great-grandchildren (16th and 17th) followed on to the Pinanko chair. In this context it should be mentioned that Opoku Frefre was once a servant of the "Oyokohene", who was delivered to the court of the then Osai Kwadwo at a young age after the death of the then Oyokohene (as part of the "Ayibuadie" (death tax)) was. He made a career and was finally named Gyaasehene by Osai Kwadwo, although his blood was neither matrilineal nor patrilineal in relation to his predecessor.

Exceptions to these relationships are Adu Damete (No. 3), who was the son of No. 1, and Kwame Tuah (No. 11), who was appointed in 1905 by the British colonial administration with the consent of the then Mmammahene of the Patrilineage of Opoku Frefre .

To the office of the Krontihene

Among the Akan of the Gold Coast, Krontihene (or Kontihene) is the title of "leader of the warriors", who was sometimes referred to as Sahene (war leader). He embodies the war minister of the Ashanti state and the commander-in-chief of the Ashanti army in the absence of the king. In the past, the Asante Krontihene was also the Bantamahene among the Ashanti. (see above)

The Kronti- or Kontihene belonged to the Nsafohene. He was also the Adamfo of Mamponghene at the court of Asantehene. Since the Kwadwo'schen administrative reform, the Asante Kontihene has traditionally been provided by the Ekuona clan, whose original hometown is Bantama. However, since the Ekuona clan had or does not have any claims to the Golden or Silver Chair, it was also very unlikely that a Kontihene would ever attempt to usurp the Ashantine throne (if he had, no one in Asante would have accepted). As a result, the Kontihene had a certain level of trust with the power superiors in Asante and was therefore often used in positions in which he had a great deal of power. He was indisputably one of the most powerful men in historical Asante. Being part of the power structure of Asante meant that the rulers were also less likely to build up an opposition around the Ekuona clan, which was otherwise excluded from power.

Well-known Kontihenes were:

  • Amakwatia at the time of Osai Bonsu
    He was the commander-in-chief of the Kumasi division in the Ashanti Army and, as viceroy (governor), was responsible for Assin, Wassaw, Twifo, Sefwi and large parts of the southwest. He was at the court of the Adamfo of the Mamponghene and a member of the Kotoko council at the Asantehene.
  • Amankwatia in the time of Osai Kofi Karikari
    He was the Adontenhene, ie he commanded the main part of the Ashanti army in the war against the British in 1873/1874.
  • Amankwatia at the time of Osai Prempeh I.
    He commanded the Ashanti Army during the campaign against the Brong Confederation in 1893.

To the office of the Okyeame

In contrast to the historical kingdom of Fetu or Akim, where the office of the Okyeamme was described in historical literature with the term "chancellor" or "royal doorkeeper", it was the Okyeame within the Ashantine government after the Kwadwo'schen administrative reform the post of "spokesman for the king". Since there was not only one royal speaker in historical Asante, the office of the "Boakye Yam Panyindwa" chair ("Chair of Boakye Yam, the Elder") also existed as the "chief speaker" of the king. This office is named after the venerable Boakye Yam, who was the first to exercise this office after Kwadwo's administrative reform. The posts of the speakers are comparable to the "diplomatic service" of the Ashanti State and therefore required a high qualification of their incumbents in relation to both foreign and provincial matters. It was primarily they who (along with personal relatives of the king) were repeatedly sent out as liaison officers for the Asantehene on diplomatic missions. The succession to the “Boakye Yam Panyindwa” chair was also organized through the “Fekuw” system, that is, the office was inherited within the paternal bloodline.

Well-known chief spokesmen for the king were:

Official Period comment
Boakye Yam until 1814 He was appointed during the reign of Osai Kwadwo (Kudscho) (ruled 1764-1777) and died in 1814. He is probably identical to the Boakye who, in the last year of Kwadwo's reign in 1776, became the Resident Commissioner for the Dutchman in Accra was appointed to Fort Crèvecoeur. The same Boakye Yam accompanied Abiniova's army in 1814 as part of his office. He died during this campaign in 1814 at Akrofroom in Aquapim.
Oti Panyin 1814-1826 Literally: "Oti the Elder"; (Son of 1.) He fell into the hands of the British in 1826, near Katamanso (very close to the place where his father died) while accompanying an Ashanti army. He died in the same year, 1826.
Kofi Boykye 1826 -? (Son of 1.)
Kofi Nti ? - 1875 (other patrilinear line)
Boakye Tenten 1875-1885 (Son of 2.) He served after 1875 as permanent commissioner of the Asantehene in Salaga for the Ashantine trade with the northeastern hinterland, a post which he shared with the French Marie-Joseph Bonnat, who as governor of the Asantehene organize and organize this trade should set up a financing system for this. In 1881 Boakye Tenten was entrusted with leading the critical Ashanti-British negotiations at Prasuh and Elmina, on which the question of war or peace then hung.
Kwaku Fokua to 1900 (Another patrilineal line, not identical to 4.) In 1894/1895 he was a member of an Ashantin delegation that had been sent to the British government in London.
Oti after 1900

A famous Okyeame was also Agyei during the reign of Osai Bonsu (ruled 1801-1824), although he did not hold the office of chief spokesman.

The mentioned assignments emphatically underline the importance of the office of Okyeame in Asante, whether in the position of the “Boakye Yam Panyindwa” chair or in a subordinate position.

See also


  • Emmanuel Akyeampong, Pashington Obeng: Spirituality, Gender, and Power in Asante History. In: The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 28 (3), 1995, pp. 481-508.
  • Ivor Wilks: Aspects of Bureaucratization in Ashanti in the nineteenth century. In: Journal of African History. 7 (2), 1966, pp. 215-232.
  • Margaret Priestley: The Ashanti question and the British: eighteenth-century origins. In: Journal of African History. 2 (1), 1961, pp. 35-59.
  • William Tordoff: The Ashanti Confederacy. In: Journal of African History. 3 (3), 1962, pp. 399-417.
  • John K. Fynn: The reign and times of Kusi Obodum 1750-64. In: Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana. 8, 1965, pp. 24-32.