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.
THE CAUSES OF THE ASANTE-F ANTEIBRITISH CONFLICTS IN 19TH
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.
EFFECTS OF ASANTE-F ANTEIBRITISH WARS.
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