The power of the Asantehene
The Ashanti people constitute one of the major tribes in Ghana. Sustainable Development is synergistic with political stability in Africa. Currently, Ghana is trying to bring a balance between traditional leadership which still exists as one of Africa’s richest and oldest monarchy and the modern democracy that has been successfully achieved after the turbulent political past.
Most African communities held traditional posts before annexation by the European, but they discarded these roles after independence, adapting instead, the office of a state president. The presence of the Ashanti king also called the Asantehene, is of controversy because Ghana also holds democratic elections and elects a president who is expected to lead the country.
The Ashanti king is the symbol of unity for the Ashanti tribes who are the most influential and populous in the country. Past governments have supported the role of the Ashanti king and have supported the revenues and royalties that are given to him by the different clans. As such, the Ashanti king has remained economically powerful.
This thesis will seek to determine the role and the political power of the Ashanti king in Ghana and his influence in the local and regional politics as opposed to the president. The thesis will also evaluate his significance to the Ashanti people and the power and allegiance the people pay to him.
I will seek to demonstrate his position in the international community as compared to the elected presidents’ role.
During the fifteenth century, the Europeans were competing for resources to fund their military expansions as well as to take meet the needs of their growing populations. Different empires from Europe explored to different regions including Africa and discovered the vast resources that the continent had to offer. Their interests changed from those of merely exploring the regions to wealth acquisition (Jackson, 154).
West Africa had their initial contact with the Portuguese in 1470 when the first group landed on the shores of the gold coast forming a trading post for the regions timber, gold and ivory and then converting it to the more profitable slave trade.
The region became a hot spot with various countries clamoring to secure the unexploited resources for themselves. The French, the British the Swedish and the Danish communities all rushed to the area competing for trade in any of the resources in West Africa.
Ghana’s Ashanti people led by Opemsuo Osei Tutu had already established a growing empire before colonization. The origin of the Ashanti monarchical kingdom arose out of a coalition of the people occupying the Pra and Ofin basins. These basins are located in the Twifo and Adanse regions.
The specific clans that formed the coalition to come up with the formidable kingdom were the Aduana, the Asene clan, the Oyoko, the Ekoona and the Bretuo clan. The Denkyiras were among the clans that joined the coalition later after being defeated in warfare. The kingdom was established who succeeded in his attempts of forming a unified force of all the Ashanti states (Goldstein, 238).
These states were brought together through a common allegiance to the Golden Stool which is also referred to as the Sika Agua Kofi. It is the symbol of a common soul and heritage for the Ashanti people.
Social and cultural changes have been evident in many African communities. African communities had established different political systems that were mainly tribal. After colonization and independence, they developed more unifying political positions which were not founded on tribal tenets but were representative of the whole state.
Modernization led Ghana to implement a central democratic government after independence in 1957. This was initially led by Kwame Nkrumah and represented the interest of the country at the international arena.
Ghana has continued to support and hold its traditional governance roles while it has also adapted modernity trends by implementing a state position for a democratically elected president. Even after independence, Ghana did not dispense with the traditional role of the Ashanti king and though his main role was leading the people into war, his office has remained mainly ornamental, but the royalties and the revenues he collected are still being demanded from the people of Ghana (Ward, 242).
The power of the Ashanti kingdom can be traced back to the colonization era when they formed a common empire in their attempts to resist the British. The power and skills that they held allowed them vast dominion over Ghana allowing them expansion in the area.
They entered in to endless wrangles with the British who were more interested in amassing the residents’ wealth for themselves and in 1873 Kumasi which was the epicenter of the Ashanti was captured. After unsuccessfully trying to ward of the British, the British managed to exile King Prempeh.
They however realized that they still did have control over the Ashanti since the power and authority was symbolized by the stool which was still with the people. The British mandated the people to hand over the golden stool and this was met with a resistance that even the British had not foreseen (Davidson, 182). This led to wide uprisings and the eventual treaty that saw the area being declared as part of the British protectorate, gold coast.
The reign of the Asantehene symbolizes a neo-colonial African government which was able to establish itself as an empire within the region and assume control over a lot of populations in Africa (Jackson, 180).
It amassed vast masses of wealth and went on to use these resources to establish one of the best military forces in Africa that successfully posed a challenge to the colonization by the British.
Though the political system of the Ashanti has been accused of marginalizing its people by leading them into religious sects and exploiting them by dictatorial rule it is still significant in today’s society and the values and cultures of the kingdom are inculcated in the day to day affairs of the government and the people (Gocking, 163).
In the past, the king was mainly responsible for positioning his people in battle and to this end the king established a strong military force which was responsible for the resulting victories at over other governments as well as in ensuring the entire kingdoms security.
The continual overthrow of neighboring territories ensured that the kingdom expanded and increased its pool of resources over all other governments in the region. The king also established a national holidays for example the Odwira festival which is celebrated annually.
The role of the king has changed with time (Goldstein, 238). The current king of the Ashanti, who is called Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, committed his reign to improving the national unity of the Ghanaian people. He has committed himself to, issues regarding education, improving land reform and enriching the environment. The kings’ role is merely that of implementing a seemingly traditional justice within the Ashanti territory.
The relationship between the king and the government has been supportive as evidenced by the relationship between the support that the president of Ghana Ignatius Acheampong gave to the Asantehene Opoku Ware in 1970’s after Ghana acquired independence over the disputes which emerged due to the costs of constructing the kings palace.
This is mainly because the Ashanti people have amassed great wealth over the years and currently constitute majority of the governments’ opposition wielding a lot of political power and affluence (Ward, 253).
The Asantehene has demonstrated support for the democratically elected president, John Kofuor who is the first president to be elected without violence in the country. The king recently warned the former president Mr. Rawlings and his party against uttering derogatory comments aimed at the current president Kofuor and his government (Davidson, 115).