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The Escape From Denkyira: 1600s

Asante tradition says that when it was clear that the Atwima people were welcomed by Osei Tutu, others from Denkyira followed in numbers. Denkyira tradition also paints an image of emigrant flight. ‘Anwanawia [Anwianwia] ran away as did Sabi [Asabi]’ because of Ntim Gyakari’s ‘ruling over them with despotic tendency. He sent men with whips to take whatever he required from them’. Some ‘Sabis’ [Asabi] were resettled at Atwima Agogo, while others from ‘Anwanwenem’ [Anwianwia] eventually came to live at Gyedu in Ahafo.

Similarly, the ‘Dawu-Dawu’ [Awu Dawu], a group of Denkyirahene’s servants (gyrase), fled to Osei Tutu. They were placed under the authority of Amankwatia, himself a Denkyira who had been the young Osei Tutu’s servant during his stay in Abankeseso, but who was now a senior general with the titles of Kontihene and Bantamahene in the Kwaman army. Others of Ntim Gyakari’s household servants also defected. These included Kyerema Di of Otiman (near present-day Mease on the Ofin–Oda river confluence), the Denkyira head drummer, who is said by Asante tradition to have defected with his sister Boatemaa Twum and many followers. He made ritual obeisance to Osei Tutu by asking for some boiled maize (abete), the common food of the servant, and so he was nicknamed Kyerema Di Abeta. Osei Tutu appointed him Nkukuwafohene. The brothers Akwadan and Nuamoa, hornblowers of the Denkyirahene came on the side of King Osei Tutu’ with their golden horn and followers.

They were resettled at Akuropon and later brought into Kumase when Osei Tutu created the Asokwa stool for them so that they might act as his traders as well as hornblowers. Asante stool histories record numerous other flights from Denkyira. Thus, Domakwai in Kumase has links with Ntoamu and Ayamfori migrants; the first chief of Akumanten, once head of those who cleared the forest for Ntim Gyakari, left Denkyira with his people because he was ‘indignant’ at the treatment gave him; the Atwima Besiase royals left Mmayeremu near Kotimso to side with Osei Tutu; the founders of Okyerekrom, north of Kumase, migrated from Denkyira because they ‘disliked’ its ‘administration’; Okyerekrom’s neighbour Amoako was also created by Denkyira migrants; Nkwantakese was settled by people dissatisfied with Ntim Gyakari’s ‘despotic rule’; Ahensan, a very old settlement, is said to have gone over to Osei Tutu when Ntim Gyakari insulted its chief; the ancestors of the Bosommuru Fabem Linguist’s stool quit Denkyira ‘because of tyranny’; Nkwanta Esaase was settled by people who migrated from Denkyira Adwaaduamu; remote Ndwema in Ahafo was built by refugees who fled from Ayamfori. This list is far from exhaustive. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh II himself observed that ‘many others that cannot be mentioned came’. Asante tradition states that the ‘Bontwumafo’ were the first to change allegiance from Ntim Gyakari to Osei Tutu. As noted, their example was widely emulated. Perhaps the most important among those who followed their lead were the ‘Inkwayulaes’ or Nkawie people.

Nkawie, 20 miles north of Abankeseso, was arguably the second most important town in Denkyira. It was a gold-mining centre between the Ofin and Oda rivers. It exercised authority over Abori, Ntobroso, Abuaso and the now-vanished settlements of Obi, Atintim, Wuakrom and Nkyena. Nkawie was itself an ‘estate’ of some importance. It was ruled over by a lineage that occupied ‘an ancient stool from which you become Omanhene of Denkyira [Denkyirahene]’. Its female stool was occupied by Denkyirahene’s ‘nieces’, women who were ‘eligible’ to become the Denkyira queen-mother. The male and female stool-holders resided at Abankeseso under surveillance, because ‘Ntim and [his] predecessor Boa Ponsem were not from this royal line but from another. Ayamfori tradition states that Boamponsem was ‘a very strong man [i.e. an obirempon] who pushed off the proper heirs from the [Denkyira] stool to succeed them. He was a great King who lived for a long time and so Oman gave the stool in turn to Ntim his relative’.

Elsewhere Denkyira tradition adds that ‘Boa[mponsem] was not the right heir but came up to take it [the Denkyira stool] as he was the famous fighting man’. The suggestion here is of usurpation, or at least of a change in the succession. A possible further implication is that when Boamponsem succeeded ( the 1650s), power in Denkyira shifted from the northern Nkawie ‘estate’ to its southern Abankeseso counterpart. As noted, changes of this kind were an endemic feature of forest Akan history during this period. In the 1660s the two royal stools that controlled the Nkawie lands were occupied by Asensu Kufuor and his sister Adoma Akosua. It is severally reported that in Abankeseso the detainee Osei Tutu had a child with Adoma Akosua, and then secretly married her with her brother’s consent. Whatever transpired, the three principals were united in a grievance against Boamponsem.

In the 1670s Osei Tutu offended Boamponsem – the traditions mention sexual transgression – and fled from Abankeseso to Asamankese (or Nyanawase) in Akwamu to the east. In the 1680s Osei Tutu returned home to Kwaman to succeed Obiri Yeboah. Then, in or about 1694, Boamponsem died and Ntim Gyakari won out over Asensu Kufuor in the contest to succeed him. Nkawie tradition reports what happened next: “Then a certain case happened between Assansu [Asensu Kufuor] and the Denkyirahene’s it was about a stool.

Assansu was living with Ntim [Gyakari] at the Denkyira capital called Ebenso [Ntibanso, i.e. Abankeseso]. When this dispute arose Assansu separated from Denkyirahene. He settled in a village called Awioso near Ntoboso [Ntobroso]. Also is now in ruins. (Obliterated) He heard that his brother-in-law Osei Tutu occupied the [Kwaman] Stool. Then Assansu came to him. When he came several Denkyira people followed. He was connected with the Denkyira Stool and they must follow him … Nkawie Stool was not made by the King of Asante. It came in the full state with Assansu. It came with its Nsafohene [subordinate chiefs], and no chief has added more subjects … My ancestors came to Coomassie direct to the Golden Stool.

In another account, the same Nkawie source remarked that ‘Assensu [AsensuKufuor] quarrelled with [Ntim] Gyakari and went to Asante for help to revenge himself’. Tradition affirms that Asensu Kufuor was the single most important defector from the cause of Ntim Gyakari. He was a royal qualified ‘ to occupy the stool of Denkyira’, and though he failed in the contest to succeed Boamponsem he remained a potent rival of Ntim Gyakari. When he threw his lot with Osei Tutu he took many followers with him and, so it is said, gold and guns. Most significantly, Asensu Kufuor’s shift of allegiance detached the largest ‘estate’ after Abankeseso from Ntim Gyakari’s control, and called into question the reliability of much of northern Denkyira.

After Ntim Gyakari was killed at Feyiase, Asensu Kufuor was confirmed in the title of Nkawiehene and went to live in that town. His lands were restored to him. Asantehene Opoku Ware ( 1720–50) extended Nkawie’s lands westward over the Ofin river as far as Bibiani. However, and paradoxically, if Nkawie became an Asante town then it also retained a vivid sense of its past identity as a seat of Denkyira royalty. Tradition describes one detailed case of Denkyira migrants reversing their the decision to ally themselves with Osei Tutu. Aboabo was a settlement on the Nsutase tributary of the Oda River, about 10 miles southwest of Abankeseso.

It was inhabited by Denkyirahene’s shield-bearers (akyamfo), and by villagers who prospected for gold on the Ofin flats east of Waters. A quarrel arose between the two groups over the ownership of a gold nugget (sika boba) and in the course of this, the villagers killed some of the shield-bearers. Ntim Gyakari was told of the matter. He was incensed and summoned the villagers to appear before him. At the meeting, the village head Owusu Koanyama: did abuse the occupant of Bankam Dwa [the Denkyira stool, abankamdwa] saying that the King’s servants [the shield-bearers] were ruffians who stole every thing from the people.

Ntim flew in a rage and ordered that the man [Owusu Koanyama] should be killed immediately together with all his family This was done on the spot!! The people were afraid and thought to run away to Asante. They did so until they crossed the Aboabo river to Poano [Poanu]. They took counsel with themselves to return to their home and beg the King to forgive them. Ntim was in readiness to fight the Feyiase War [against Osei Tutu] and he killed them during the war (The Denkyira migrants who reversed their decision to go back) The Boaduru Suman [a charm, human called ‘ the hard stone’, obo duru] was buried at the spot to mark it.
Source: Ashantibiz