Resource 4: The Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900
Background information / subject knowledge for teacher
The Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900 By P.K. Acheampong
The Yaa Asantewaa War, which was fought between the Asantes and the British colonialists, is an important event in the history of Ghana. It was a war fought to force the British to return the Asantehene (king of the Asantes) Nana Agyeman Prempeh 1 who had been captured by the British in Kumasi and exiled to the Seychelles Islands.
The Asantes before 1900 had waged incessant wars against the southern and coastal people including the British. In an attempt to subdue the Asantes, some British expedition forces were sent to Kumasi in 1896, and they defeated the Asantes. The Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh 1 was captured, and Nana Yaa Asantewaa led an army of the Asantes to force the British to release their king.
The early 19th century: The first British people arrived at the coast of what is the present Ghana as traders. But with their close relationship with the coastal people, especially the Fantes, the British become the enemies of the Asantes.
1817–1821: Two British ambassadors are sent to Kumasi to discuss peace with King Osei Bonsu, but the attempt fails.
1823–1824: Sir Charles Macarthy and his Fante allies support the Denkyiras in the war against the Asantes. Macarthey dies in the war.
1826: The Asantes are defeated in the battle of Katamanso near Dodowa.
1831: George Maclean signs a treaty with the Asantes; 600 oz of gold is kept for the Asantes; two princes are sent to Britain. The princes return after six years in Britain in 1842.
1844: Commander Hill signs a bond with the Asantes called ‘The bond of 1844’.
1863–1864: The Asantes defeat the British at the Battle of Bobikuma. The Asantes again defeat the British in another war.
1873–1877: Kofi Karikari the Asantehene invades southern and coastal areas. Major General Sir Garnet Wolseley with British expedition forces defeats the Asantes. The Treaty of Fomena is singed in 1874.
1896: British troops led by Sir Francis Scott march to Kumasi. The Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh1 is captured and first exiled to the Elmina Castle, then to Sierra Leone, and finally to the Seychelles.
1900: Sir Fredrick Hodgson goes to ask for the ‘Golden Stool’ of the Asantes. The Asantes are infuriated. Asante chiefs hold a secret meeting in Kumasi in which Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of Edwiso (Ejeso) is presnt. The chiefs discuss how they should wage war on the British and force them to release their king to them. Nana Yaa Asantewaa observes that some of the chiefs are afraid; they say that there should be no war. Rather they should beg the governor to release the king. Suddenly Nana Yaa Asantewaa stands up and speaks as follows:
Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: If the men of Asante will not go forward, then we will. We women will. I shall call upon my fellow women.
This speech stirs up the men who take an oath to fight the British until they release the Asantehene. For months the Asantes, led by Nana Yaa Asantewaa, fight very bravely and keep the British in the fort in Kumasi. A British reinforcement totalling 1,400 soldiers arrive in Kumasi. The Asante army is defeated. Nana Yaa Asantewaa and other leaders are captured and sent into exile. Nana Agyemang Prempeh 1, over whom Nana Yaa Asantewaa led the Asante army to fight the British, returns to Kumasi in 1924; Nana Prempeh 1 dies in 1931.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa’s war becomes the last of the major wars in Africa led by a woman.
Adapted from : On War, Website