Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Kumasi, the ‘Garden City’
Story: Compiled by: ENOCH DARFAH FRIMPONG &
GEORGE ERNEST ASARE, - Kumasi
KUMASI, the capital of the Ashanti Region, is located in the forest region of Ghana and is popularly known as “The Garden City” because of its various species of flowers and other plants.
It is the second-largest city in Ghana, located in the central part of the country, about 250 km from Accra.
Moved by the varied plant life, Queen Elizabeth II of England gave Kumasi the name “Garden City” of Africa when she visited the area in 1960.
Lake Bosomtwe, the largest natural lake in Ghana, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean, is located approximately 32 km south of Kumasi.
With a population of about 2.5 million today, the city spans a radius of 18 to 20 miles.
The largest ethnic group is the Asantes, but other ethnic groups are growing in size. Approximately 80 per cent Muslims, with a very small number of adherents of traditional religion.
The Golden Stool is regarded
sacred by the Asantes and …
contains the ‘Sumsum’
The city rose to prominence in 1695 when it became the capital of the Ashanti Confederacy due to the activities of the then ruler, King Osei Tutu I, who was known as the Kumasihene and who served as ruler of the Ashanti Confederacy.
A relatively young city then, Kumasi was said to have been founded by King Osei Tutu I. The King named the city after the Kum tree, which he planted as a symbol of victory for the Asante Empire over the British.
Legend has it that the King planted two Kum trees at two different areas, one could not survive and died while the other survived, hence the area where the Kum tree could not survive was called Kumawu, which literally means Kum died, while the area where the Kum tree survived was called Kumasi, which literally means under the Kum tree.
Ashante political organization centres around various clans, each headed by a Paramount Chief or Omanhene.
ONE of these clans, the Oyoko, settled in Ghana’s sub-tropical forest region, establishing a centre at Kumasi. During the mid-1600s, under Chief Oti Akenten, the Oyoko started consolidating other Asante clans into a loose confederation that occurred without destroying the authority each paramount Chief had over his clan.
This was done in part by military assault, but largely by uniting them against the Denkyira, who had previously dominated the region.
The new home of the Ashanti was rich in alluvial gold and kola nuts, and they were soon trading with the Songhay Empire, the Hausa states and, in 1482, with the Portuguese at the coastal fort Sao Jorge da Mina, now Elmina Castle.
Relations improved, however, and in 1926, the Asantehene was given ceremonial control over Kumasi. In 1935, the full role of leader of the Asante people was restored, but limited to purely ceremonial functions.
Upon Independence, the Gold Coast became known as Ghana, and the Asantes continued to give honour to the hereditary Asante crown, just as they do the authority of the state.
Asante wealth was based on the region’s substantial gold deposits, which were mined to create intricate works of art and also for trade. Asante was one of the African States able to offer serious resistance to the European invaders. Britain fought four wars with the Asante Kingdom between 1826 and 1896 (the Anglo-Asante Wars), one of which was noted as the first conflict in which the Maxim gun was used.
In 1900, the British finally subdued the kingdom and incorporated it as protectorate and made it part of the Gold Coast colony in 1902.
Synonymous with the Asantes is the legend of the ‘Golden Stool’ (Sika Dwa), which actually tells the story of the birth of the Asante Kingdom itself.
Upon independence, the Gold Coast
came to be Known as Ghana
In the 17th Century, in order for the Asante to win their independence from Denkyira, then another powerful Akan state, a meeting of all the clan heads of each of the Asante settlements was called for a meeting in Kumasi, where the Golden Stool was commanded down from the heavens by Okomfo Anokye, a fetish priest.
OKOMFO Anokye declared the stool to be the symbol of the new Asante union (Asanteman) and allegiance was sworn to the Golden Stool and to Osei Tutu as the Asantehene.
The newly founded Asante union, with its capital in Kumasi, went to war with Denkyira, defeating them in the process.
The Golden Stool is regarded sacred by the Asantes and it is believed that the Golden Stool contains the ‘Sumsum’ – spirit or soul – of the Asante people.
Parts of Kumasi, including the Royal palace, known as Manhyia, were destroyed by British troops in the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War of 1874.
The king resides in Kumasi, and his home, the Manhyia palace, is one of the city’s most spectacular sights. The city holds an important place in the history of the Asante people.
Near the palace grounds a copper sword was said to have been driven into the ground by Okomfo Anokye, which no one has been able to remove to date.
Kumasi remains a royal city; the role of the King has been symbolic, Due to large gold deposits that have been mined in the area, Kumasi has been among the wealthier cities in Ghana.
Today’s major exports are timber and cocoa. Kumasi has 50 per cent of the timber industry in Ghana with more than 4,000 employed in the sector.
Trade, commerce, farming and mining are leading industries in Kumasi. In addition, its region boasts of rich cultural heritage, particularly evident in smaller surrounding towns.
Features of the city include the large Kumasi Central Market, Fort Kuamsi (built by the British in 1896 to replace an Asante Fort and now a museum) and the Kumasi Hat Museum (built by the late Nana Kofi Genfi).
ROYAL Asante attractions include the Kumasi National Cultural Centre (including the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum with various Asante regalia, including a reproduction of the Golden Stool), the Okomfo Anokye Sword being hosted at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, the Asantehene’s palace (built in 1972), and the Manhyia Palace, dating as far back as 1925, now a museum.
Kumasi is also home to a Zoo, the Kumasi Zooligical Gardens, located next to the Centre of National Culture (CNC), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana (which started as the Kumasi College of Technology).
The Kumasi area has one public hospital (Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital), five public clinics and a host of private clinics.
Kumasi has witnessed some appreciable level of development running from the post-independence era. However, it is also on record that some projects initiated in the colonial era, which were a showpiece in the metropolis, have not been maintained effectively.
In terms of expansion, the city has developed extensively and is gradually merging with the surrounding districts.
Acknowledged as a viable commercial centre, the Kumasi metropolis, which shares boundaries with the Bosomtwe-Atwima-Kwanwoma District to the south, the Ejisu-Juaben District to the east, the Atwima District to the west and the Kwabre District to the north, has an advantage over other commercial centres of the country because all roads from the four corners of the country converge there.
The unique position of Kumasi, coupled with its rich culture and traditional values, is impacting on the socio-economic development of its residents.
These have contributed to transforming the area into one of the busiest commercial centres in the country.
With an estimated population of 219,200 just after independence, the population of Kumasi has increased tremendously, reaching 1,171,311 in the year 2000 and estimated 1,584,335 now.
Thousands of people from the surrounding communities in the Ashanti Region and other parts of the country also travel to Kumasi daily for business transactions and other things such as administrative procedures.
One significant landmark in Kumasi is the Kajetia terminal, regarded as the biggest lorry park in the country. Kejetia used to be engulfed with dust during the dry season, and mud in the wet seasons.
This greatly undermined effective business transactions because whether in the dry season or wet season travelers and other users of the terminal never felt comfortable.
Now, Kejetia has been totally transformed into a neat and modern car park to adequately cater for the transportation needs of visitors who troop to Kumsi everyday.
Another landmark in the Kumasi metropolis is the Central Market, which covers an area of about 20 hectares with over 10000 stores.
The Kumasi Central Market was constructed over 50 years ago and is not only regarded as one of the biggest in the West African sub-region, but also one single commercial area which offers direct and indirect employment to over 20,000 residents in the metropolis and its environs.
EFFORTS to modernize and expand the Central Market to enable it to cope with the business opportunity adequately have proved futile and this has resulted in massive congestion.
Adum, which is one of the suburbs of the Kumasi metropolis, and directly opposite the Kumasi Central Market, is the hub of business in Kumasi.
Due to the unattractiveness of some of the satellite markets to traders, the business community prefer transacting business at Adum and the Central Market, and this attracts a lot of people to these areas, especially during the morning rush hours.
Adum, which used to be choked with vehicles as a result of inadequate parking spaces for vehicles, has now taken a new shape.
The business community used to enjoy free parking of vehicles at Adum since independence, and this encouraged the wealthiest among them to assume full control over a greater portion of the parking lots.
However, since June 12, 2006, vehicle owners pay a fixed parking fee of ¢3,000.00 per hour from Monday to Saturday for parking at the spaces designed for vehicles, while those who park at the off-street parking spaces pay a fixed rate of ¢5,000.00 a day from Monday to Saturday.
The new development has brought sanity to Adum because it has not only reduced the volume of vehicles that converge there daily but has also enhanced business transaction.
With some landlords at Adum eager to demolish their old structures and replace them with storey buildings, the suburb has now undergone tremendous change.
The road network in the metropolis is another area which has undergone a lot of transformation since independence.
Single carriage lanes like those between the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to Adum, the Santasi-Adum route and the Ring-Road from the Angola Junction to Sofoline have now been developed into dual carriage ways to reduce massive vehicular traffic congestion and accidents which were frequent in these areas.
The Kumasi Sports Stadium was built in 1959 and renovated in 1978 and it provided a seating capacity of 80,000, the largest in the country. It is currently undergoing another renovation in readiness for CAN 2008, which is being hosted in Ghana.
The city has the Kejetia Terminal, considered as the biggest car park in West Africa. The terminal has undergone changes since independence and today its facilities have improved tremendously.
At the moment, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) has started planting flowers and trees in-between the dual carriageways as part of the beautification process.
The city has the Kejeitia Terminal,
Considered as the biggest car park in
Notwithstanding the construction of dual carriageways in parts of the metropolis, vehicular traffic congestion is getting worse by the day.
Traveling from Tafo-Pankrono to Adum, from Tanoso to the Central Business Area, from Atonsu-Agogo to Kajetia and from Kentinkrono to Adum, among other suburbs, has become a nightmare to commuters.
DURING the morning rush hours, workers and the business community whose work schedules bring them to the Central Business Area and its environs daily spend not less then an hour in traffic, and when they close from work, traveling back home to rest also becomes a Herculean task.
The situation has now grown form bad to worse as a result of the undue delay of work on the Asafo Interchange now under construction.
Most of the major routes which link Adum have been closed to vehicular traffic for some six months now to facilitate constructional works at the Asafo Interchange and this has compounded the vehicular traffic congestion in the Kumasi metropolis, as a result of which precious time is wasted in traffic when traveling to Adum.
The need for stakeholders to put pressure on the contractor undertaking the Asafo interchange project to complete the project in time is crucial for accelerated development in the metropolis.
The delay in developing the Sofoline-Abuakwa road, the Suame Roundabout, Tafo Road, the Asafo/Atonsu Agogo Road, the Suame Roundabout-Bereman road into dual carriageways to reduce the massive vehicular traffic on these routes is also affecting productivity tremendously.
This is because, the labour force spends much of their time on these routes, much more than they do in their offices and workplaces.
Added to this, the undue delay in giving the Angola Junction-Asokwa portion of the Ring road on contract also has greatly affected traffic movement in Kumasi and the expectation is that this portion would soon be awarded on contract, to enhance vehicular movement and productivity.
The attractiveness of the metropolis in terms of commercial activities and others comes with its social implications. Many of the youth who move from other parts of the country to find jobs there fail in that bid and the result includes social vices.
Teenage pregnancy is associated with most of the females who are easily induced by the opposite sex to have unprotected sex with them.
Access to public health facilities also remains a big problem in Kumasi because the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), which was opened in 1954, has not seen the expected expansion.
The KATH remains the only referral hospital, not only for residents in Kumasi and its environs, but also the only one which adequately caters for patients from the Northern sector of the country and neighbouring countries.
The irony is that it was only the last four years when the KATH started witnessing expansion works to meet the demands of the time.
At the moment, the maternity and children’s blocks are under construction.
The projects are expected to be completed by the end of next year to enable the KATH authorities to meet the demands of the ever growing number of patients.
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Kumasi Polytechnic (K-POLY), the Kumasi campus of the University of Education Winneba, the Wesley College and the St. Louis College, as well as the few second cycle institutions like Prempeh College, Opoku Ware, Kumasi Anglican Secondary School, Yaa Asantewa and St. Louis Secondary built years ago have not seen any major expansion works.
They therefore lack the facilities to admit the numerous students who seek admission to these schools and universities.
With education being identified as the key to development, it is expected that all stakeholders would collaborate to devise means of expanding the educational facilities in Kumasi to ensure that no hindrance would be placed before students who have the ability to further their education.
The Barekese and Owabi Dams have been the only sources of potable water supply for residents in Kumasi since independence.
Notwithstanding the fact that these dams still operate with obsolete equipment, workers are committed to providing potable water to residents.
However, the rapid expansion of Kumasi is making the provision of potable water supply very difficult.
Suburbs like Atimatim, Pankrono, Buokrom Estate, Ahwiaa, Chiapatre Estate, Esreso and Abrepo, Atafowa and Kronom have always complained of perennial water shortage.
This compels them to use polluted water for domestic activities, which mostly affect their health.
The extension of electricity to suburbs springing up every now and then has been a problem over the years and assurances by both the Ghana Water Company of Ghana (ECG) to come to the aid of the affected suburbs have not been fulfilled.
The expectation is that the government, the Kumasi Metropolitan Authority, and all other stakeholders would collaborate in an affective and efficient way to expand the road network, develop educational and health facilities and also assist both the GWC and ECG to obtain modern equipment for constant water and electricity supply to residents to boost business transaction and life in general.
This will go a long way to raise the standard of living among residents to enhance sustainable peace.
* Source: KUMASI METROPOLITAN ASSEMBLY
Daily Graphic - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 Pages: 16, 33 & 34