The 19th Century Fante-Asante and British relations in West Africa.

The  19th  century  history  of the Gold  Coast  and the  interior  was  characterised  by hostile relations  between  the  Fante  and  the  Asante  people  on  one  hand  and  the  collaboration between the Fante and the British on the other.

The period of 19th century witnessed hostile relations between Asante and the Fante British forces for example,  they had serious encounters  on  1806, 1824,  1826, 1836, 1863,  1873,

1874, 1875, 1888, 1896 and  1900. The causes for these attacks were varied and successive rulers on either side were involved as they inherited these war circumstances.

The period  between  1806-1824  the hostility  was only  between  Asante  and Fante states. Asante was able to annex many parts of Fante  state in this period.  After  1824, tbe British tried to use the Fante/Asante  conflicts to serve their imperial  interests. In effect, the British decided  to ally with the Fante against  the Asante  and some serious wars were fought  that weakened Asante.                          

By Formena treaty of 1874, Asante was reduced to Metropolitan  size. In 1874, the British contigent  did not only repulse  the Asante  attack on the coast but also drove them back to Kumasi  which  they looted and burnt  down. At the Formena  treaty,  Asante  was forced to recognise the independence  of Vassal States and to give up all claims  of port EImina. This defeat marked the beginning  of collapse of Asante's  independence  as for example in 1896

Kumasi was fully occupied by the British forces.



1.    -Desire for both Asante and Fante to monopolise  trade opportunities  in the area. The Fante had for long acted as the middlemen  in the trade and could not allow the Asante traders to reach the coast. Asante did not want to remain cut off and struggled  to gain a direct access to the coast  by conquering   some  of the Fante  states  towards  the  coast.  This  inevitably became a basis of the conflict between the Fante and Asante.

2.    Asante  people  wanted  to  control  the trade  routes  through  the  Fante  territory  and  even maintain  a permanent  alliance  with port  Elmina  at the coast.  Asante  wanted  to use port Elmina  mainly  for importation  of fire  arms and  ammunitions   from  their  friends  (Dutch people). Fante oftenly attacked and raided port Elmina thus causing the Asante to intervene for liberation of their relatives occupying port Elmina.

3.    Asante-Fante  conflicts were worsened by British fear of the Asante full occupation  of Gold coast that would  disrupt  their trade relations  in the area as for example  increase  of taxes, imposition  of poor trade policies against foreigners  etc. therefore Britian wanted  to protect her trade in the region.

4.    Desire  to  exploit  the  Asante  natural  resources   such  as  gold,  kolanuts   etc.  the  British merchants  on the coast hoped that if Asante power could be slashed, they would get access to the interior  raw materials  and lucrative  market  for British  goods.  This  convinced  the British government. to support Fante in a fight against the Asante.

5.    British  wanted  to open up the  interior  for European  activities  by destroying   the  Asante power that has been an obstacle to this progress   For example, missionary work would start, slave trade and slavery would be abolished,  legitimate  trade would be started and western Education  introduced. All this would prepare  for British colonisation of the Gold Coast.

6.    Disrespect  of Asante  traditional  culture; the British  ignorance  or refusal to respect  Asante laws  and customs  also  led to the outbreak  of Asante-British   wars in the  19th  century  for instance,  the  Asante-British   conflicts  of  1864, partly  were  caused  by governor   Richard Pine's  refusal to hand back the Asante criminal  Kwasi Gyani who had stolen a gold nugget that would form part of the golden stool.

7.    Asante reacted against British intervention  in Judicial  matters. This steady growing  protest against the extension  of British power came to peak in 1865 when John Alfred was elected as a king of Gold  Coast.  Two months  after  he became  king,  he clashed  WIth the  British when  he objected  to appeals  against  decisions  of the court  being steadily  reduced  by the British.

8.    British's   interference   in Asante 's  conflicts   with  her  vassal  states:  The  reason   for  the conflict   arose  from  the  British  interference   in  the  conflicts   between   Asante   and  her southern  vassal  states  such  as  Denkyira,   Akwapim,   Fante  states  and  Wassaw   in  1874 northern states also had to break up and these included Dwaben,  Kokofu, Nsuta,  Mampang and Adansi left the Asante union in 1874.•

9.    The Asante protested  the exchange  of forts between  the Dutch  and the British.  In 1873-74 war, the major trouble was related to the port of Elmina which has just been handed over to British by the Dutch.  Asante argued that, the port belonged  to them and handing  it over to British was illegal. The conflicts over the ownership  of port Elmina eventually  resulted into war. Dutch being friends to Asante had been in custody of Asante's  port ofElmina.

10.    Rise ofPrempeh   Ito power. He consolidated  Asante  power and made a number  of reforms some of which affected  the progress  of British hence leading  to a full scale war on Asante. For example,  one of the causes  for  1896 revolt  was that,  British  traders  had  been denied freedom of trade in Asante. This is why  in 1896, Prempeh  I was attacked  and caught  by a British  general  Sir Francis  Scott,  arrested  and deported  to Sierra  Leone  with  his  family, relatives and close friends.

11.    Fante as middle men were dishonest to the Asante as they could mix impure stones in their gold before finally selling it to Europeans    for a difference. This directly affected the Asante people who were  involved in gold mining. As a solution Asante had to fight Fante off and create a direct contact with the coastal people.

12.    Asante  had  a desire  to re-establish  their  historical  political  structures.  In  14th and  15th centuries,  Asante  region was connected  with  Fante and the Fante  were the underdogs  of Asante, Therefore one of the causes of 19th century conflicts between the two was the hope for Asante to dominate Fante once again.

13.    Fame military pride: The formation of a confederation  in 1868 was another cause for 19th century   conflicts   in  Gold  Coast.   A  confederation    scheme,   transformed   Fante   State politically  as for example  a council was formed in which each state was to be represented by 7 members, 3 joint presidents to head the council, a State secretary and a strong military force was put  in place mainly  to defend  the independence  of Fante  from being taken  by British on one hand and by Asante on the other.

14.        In  1896, British  declared  a protectorate  over  Asante  and proceeded  to consolidate  their position.  They  introduced  changes  in  social,  political  and  economic  spheres  of  Asante which culminated  into 1900 Asante-Fante/British  uprising. For example, native chiefs were not recognised,  imposition  of 4 Shillings  poll  tax  in  1897 as a war  indemnity  for  1896 invasion,   abolition   of  slavery,   Basel   missienaries    disruption   of  Asante   culture   and imposition of forced labour under which Asante were to work on public utilities  and carry goods to the coast,

In reaction against such policies, Prempeh I had this to say;

"My kingdom  of Asante  will never  commit  itself to any such policy.  Asante must  remain  independent  as of old,  at the same  time  to be friendly  with  all Whiteman.  1 do not write this with a boastful spirit but in the clear sense of its meaning".

This shows how Prempeh  1 was determined  to defend the independence  of his people but unfortunately  in 1896, Asante was made a Bntish  Crown land. In 1924 Prempeh I returned and was restored to power in 1926 only with ceremonial functions until  1931when he died.


1.      Formation  of Fante Confederation  scheme. At the onset, Fante collaborated  with British in

order  to protect  themselves   from Asante  threats.  As time  went  on,  Fante  realised  that through  collaboration   response,  British  began  encroaching  on Fante  independence   and therefore  in  t 868, Fante  chiefs  and the  educated  elders  sat at Mankessim  and  formed  a confederation   scheme  and by  1871 a constitution   for the confederation  was  in place  to safeguard the Fante independence.

2.    On a number  of occasions,  Asante  was always  overpowered  and its metropolitan  centre (Kurnasi)  destroyed  as for example,  in  1873-74  war,  the  British  led  force,  armed  with modem  breach  loading  rifles  easily  defeated  a poorly  armed  Asante  force. Kumasi  was captured  and burnt down  although  British  withdrew  to the coast  later. The  1873-74  war greatly destroyed the Asante militarily.

3.    Generally,  in these  19th century  wars of West  Africa,  they involved  enormous  loss of lives and  property.   For  example,  in  1863·64  war,  war factors  combined  with  an outbreak  'of

dysentry  and Malaria  on both sides had to lose soldiers.  trade   relations  was' disrupted 'and trade routes connecting  the interior and the coast had to be politically  destabilised.'

4.    Vassal  States  used  the  opportunity   of these  conflicts   and  rebelled  against Asante   state leading  to its disintegration.   For example  following  the results  of  1874 war,  Asante  was forced  to give  up her  claims  OI,l   port  Elmina; her  northern  vassal  stites   broke  away  and these  included  Dwaben,  Kokofu,  Nsuta,  Mampong  and Adansi.  And in the same  year, the British  assisted  the  southern  vassal  states  to break  away  such  as: Denkyira,   Akwapim, Wassaw,  Gyaman  Ga and Akim.

5.    In  1873-74   defeat   of  Asante,   it  resulted   into  the  signing   of  Formena   treaty   which undermined   the  sovereignity   of Asante,  paid  the war  indemnity   to British  and  forced  to give up her control  over the coastal states. Asante accepted  this condition  under duress.

6.    There  developed  increased  imperial  interest  in politics  of Gold  coast  as for example  the weak side of Asante  attracted  powers  like France  from Ivory  Coast,  German  activity  from Togoland  and Britain,  the enemy  of Asante  feared  quick  possible  compromise  with  other European powers  and 1896 the British had to declare a protectorate  over Asante.

7.        Prempeh  I and his principle  chiefs were captured  and exiled in March  1896 to Sierra  Leone where  he stayed  until  1924 and when he returned  be was made  a king again  in 1926 with just  ceremonial  powers until his death in 1931.

8.    The  sour  effects   of  previous   wars  on  the  side  of  the  British   and  the  1898  and   1899 emergence  of local disturbances  organised by Asante military  leaders who had hidden arms in stores made the governor  Hodgson  to attack customary  value of Asante  by demanding  to sit on a hidden golden  stool which culminated  into  1900 uprising  as Asante  considered  it as a violation  of native  law.

9.    The 1874 defeat  of Asante  and the 1896 declaration  of a protectorate  over Asante  and  1900 declaration   of crown  colony  mixed  with  the  1873 collapse  of a confederation   scheme  in Fante  with  Asante  in the  formation  of Gold  Coast  and  total  loss  of their  independence which culminated  into formation  of a modem  Ghana  state.

10.        Asante-FantelBritish   wars  taught  a lesson  to other  African  states  that were  oppressed  and suppressed  by similar internal and external  imperialism  that war of liberation  is difficult  but not impossible.  That is; although  they were defeated  fmally  but the Asante  expressed  their nationalistic    feelings   against  FantelBritish    cheating   imperial   interests   over  their  land. Perhaps  this  is why  there  were  numerous  wars  of  liberation   in Africa  at the  climax  of colonisation   process.  These  included  the  1847-96  Shona-Ndebele   war,  the  1898  Hut  tax rebellion,    i904-07   Nama-Herero   rebellion,   1905-07 -Maji-Maji rebellion  and      1906-07

Bambatha  rebellion   in Zulu  kingdom  in' South  Africa  among  others' 'similarly  they  were

defeated but their uprisings  created a check up on mal-administration   of colonial  powers.

11.    The eventual  defeat  and occupation  of Asante  led to thorough  exploitation  of Asante  Gold mines   and  other  valuable   materials   by  British   colonialists    which   for  long  had  been protected  by Asante Kings