THE AKWANTUKESE FESTIVAL OF NEW JUABEN (1)
By Razak El Alawa
The Chiefs and people of New Juaben are celebrating the historic Akwantukese Festival this year with a series of events which will be climaxed with a grand durbar on Saturday, at the Jackson’s Park, Koforidua. It has the theme ‘Ensuring Peaceful Co-existence for Development.’
This years’ festival commemorates the 130th anniversary of the great migration of the Juabens and their allies from their ancestral homes in Asantes to establish the New Juaben settlement with its capital, Koforidua, in the Eastern Region. It also marks the 16th anniversary of progressive leadership of Daasebre Professor (Emeritus) Oti Boateng as Omanhene of New Juaben.
The history of the New Juaben State is a complex story of a people who had to migrate from their traditional homes in Ashanti in the 1870’s to resettle in the then British Protectorate of Akyem Abuakwa. In the 1830’s, the Juabens under their great leader, King Kwasi Boateng sojourned at Kyebi in self imposed exile and savoured the lavish hospitality of the Akyems.
The founding of the New Juaben State in 1878 was a consequence of two civil wars in 1832 and 1875 between Kumasi and Juaben, two of the most prosperous states in the Asante Union, which led to the historic exodus.
Juaben Asante, which spearheaded the migration, was an established State for nearly two centuries prior to the formation of the Asante Union. Under their successive leaders from Nana Amponben Afra (1530-1550) to the first two kings, Adarkwa Yiadom (1670-1715) and Osei Hwedie (1715-1730), Juaben developed into one of the largest and most powerful pre-union Asante states through the conquest and incorporation of pre-existing states in the area.
Juaben was one of the five established states (Amantuo Nnum) that joined in a coalition to form the Asante Union. The people of Juaben, renowned for their courage and military prowess, played a crucial role in the war between Ashanti and Denkyira that led to the victory and subsequent establishment of the Ashanti nation with Kumasi as its capital.
It was indeed the Juabenhene, King Adarkwa Yiadom, who triggered the war by rejecting the outrageous demands of Ntim Gyakari. It was again the Juaben army under the command of Adarkwa Yiadom, who captured and killed Ntim Gyakari, the King of Denkyira. In recognition of the important and decisive roles played by the kings of Kumasi and Juaben, the former was appointed the head of the Asante Union, the Asanthene, while the Union, the Oyokohene of Asante. The smooth and spirited co-operation between the two brotherly states of Juaben and Kumasi from the second half of the eighteenth century to the third of the nineteenth century assisted the Union to grow into an empire encompassing an area larger than the modern state of Ghana, but the two wars broke up that Union.
The New Juaben State as presently constituted, comprised eight distinct communities, namely; Suhyien; on the northern border with Akyem Abuakwa; Jumapo, Ayoko, Asokore and Effiduase to the south and Suhyien; Ada on the border with Yilo Krobo; Akwadum on the western border with Akyem Abuakwa; and Koforidua, its capital, on the border with Akuapem.
Invasion and First Migration
In August 1826, the Ashanti army suffered its first defeat at the hands of the British and their allies at Akatamanso near Dodowa. In the confusion the Akwamus captured the Golden Stool. Nana Kwasi Boateng, the King of Juaben, swore to recapture it and he precisely that. But, instead of praising and rewarding him for his bravery, the Asantehene, Osei Yaw Akoto, rather accused him of having stolen some gold dust that was kept with the Golden Stool. The Juabenhene felt so offended that he refused to go to Kumasi.
Juaben –Kumasi relations deteriorated; war broke out and Kumasi invaded Juaben in 1832. This invasion was against all Asante laws, customs, traditions and particularly against the pact of Okomfo Anokye, the shrewd politician-priest, that under no circumstance should either Kumasi or Juaben take up arms against the other. Nana Kwasi Boateng defended his state with courage but in the end he was forced to migrate with his subjects to Akyem Abuakwa.
Asanthene Osei Yaw Akoto died in 1834 and was succeeded by Nana Kwaku Dua I. In 1838 the new Asanthene sent emissaries to Akyem Abuakwa to persuade the Juabens to return to Ashanti with the assurance that Nana Kwasi Boateng would be restored to his former status in Juaben and in the Confederacy. Nana Boateng reluctantly yielded to the importunities of the Asantehene and left Kyebi in the late 1839 with members of the royal family, including his mother. Queen Ama Juaben Serwah alias Juaben Serwah.
Nana Boateng was taken ill and suddenly died at Saaman near Osiano. His only surviving brother, Kofi Boateng, inherited the stool as Juabenhene and resumed the journey back to Ashanti. Unfortunately, he also died at Obo Kwahu. The two surviving members of the of the royalty- Queen Ama Serwah, mother of the late Kings, and her daughter Afrakoma led the Juaben people back to Juaben in 1841.
The Queen occupied the Juaben Stool as the substantive Omanhene for four and a half years during which she tried hard to reconstruct the State of Juaben. When she died in 1846, her daughter Ohemaa Afrakoma II succeeded her. Upon the death of Afrakoma, also as Afrakoma Payin, her daughter, Akua Sarponmaa, became the Omanhene of the Juaben State.
The Great Migration under King Asafu Agyei
Ohemaa Saponmaa was married to her cousin Nana Agyei TWUM, SON OF Juaben Kwasi Boateng and Krontihene of Juaben. The couple had two daughters, Akosua Afrakoma and Akua Boatemaa. Oral traditional has it that when Ohemaa Sapomaa died, Agyei Twum was appointed as caretaker of the Yiadom Hwedie Stool for the duration of the minority of his royal children.
However, ambition got the better of Agyei Twum and he contrived to get him as Juabenhene under the stool name of Asafu Agyei. His conduct outraged the rulers of the other Oyoko clan states of the Asante Confederacy- Kokofu, Bekwai, Nsuta and Kumasi- as Asafu Agyei was not the royal blood of Juaben and a member of the Oyoko clan. His reign was marked by acrimony and dissension.
Although not of royal blood, Asafu Agyei proved to be a great King and soon succeeded in rebuilding and re-uniting the state, re-establishing peaceful and friendly relations with Kumasi and the neighbouring Asante states such as Effiduase and Asokore and winning back the allegiance and support of such vassal states as Krakye and Bassa.
He was also able to establish very strong trading links between Juaben and Salaga, the important terminus of the lucrative caravan trade between Hausa land and Ghana. By the early 1870’s Juaben had indeed assumed its position as one of the most powerful and prosperous states of the Asante Union.
King Asafo Agyei and his compatriots, Yaw Omane, Chief of Effiduase and Anka Akyemfuor, Chief of Asokore, traveled subsequently to Cape Coast to petition the British Government for ammunition to continue the war against Asante but this was declined.
The bulk of the migrants became squatters on the lands around the site of modern Koforidua. In March 1877, the Government began negotiations with Adontehene of Akim Abuakwa, Nana Ampao, for land to resettle the Juaben people in the vicinity of Kukurantumi. King Asafu Agyei resisted Government’s efforts to resettle his people in the Kukurantumi forest. He was detained in Elmina castle on August 4, 1877 and exiled to Lagos, Nigeria, a few months later, together with Yaw Omane and Anka for persistently plotting to renew the war with Asante.
In February 1878 the Juaben Chiefs informed Governor Freeling of their willingness“to settle at once upon the land which it was arranged they should occupy. Within a few weeks the Juaben Chiefs arrived at the present site of Koforidua to lay the foundation of the modern state New Juaben. The towns were conceived as “extensions” or outgrowth of the migrants’ hometowns in Ashanti. Hence those from Effiduase, Asokore and Oyoko named their new towns after their old ones in Ashanti. The others from Juaben Ashanti, settled in Koforidua, Ada, Akwadum, Jumapo and Suhyien.
Some of the migrants founded their own communities in the heartland of Akyem Abuakwa. The category of settlements included Ngeresi, Kankan (Sekyere), Abekoase and Akadewaso. Until the early 20th century owed allegiance to the New Juaben Sate. Other migrants settled as individuals among the Akyems in their communities and owed allegiance to Kyebi. This category of Juabens could in Asuom, Kyebi, Osino, Osiem, Tafo, Kukurantumi, Apedwa, Osenanse, Nkronso, Kwaben, etc.
In May 1879, some fifteen months after the foundation of the New Juaben State was laid, Yaw Omane and Anka were repatriated from Lagos. Early in October of the same year, the new Governor of the Gold Coast Colony, Herbert Taylor Ussher, had King Asafu Agyei repatriated to Accra and released to join his people at Koforidua.
Asafu Agyei proved unrelenting in his animosity towards Asante and was exiled to Lagos for the second time on November 8, 1880, some weeks after the death of Queen Afrakuma in Accra on October 26, 1880. Between November 3, 1880 and August 1885 four petitions for the repatriation of Asafu Agyei were turned down by the Colonial Governor, W.B. Griffith, who however, paid the passages of the King’s son Asafu Boateng and daughter Boatemaa to visit their father in Lagos for 19 days. About eight months after their return, news was received of the death and burial of King Asafu Agyei in Lagos.
Until 1898 a triumvirate comprising Chief Akyeampong Kwasi, Chief Okyere, and Chief Asafu Boateng managed the affairs of New Juaben State on behalf of Princess Ama Serwaa. In October 1901 Ama Serwaa left for Juaben, Ashanti. In her absence Chiefs Okyere and Asafu Boateng acted as caretakers. In June 1907 the Chiefs of New Juaben elected Asafu Boateng as their head Chief and petitioned Government for his formal recognition as Omanhene of New Juaben.
As government recognized the need to rally the New Juaben settlements around a central stool at Koforidua, it approved the consecration of a paramount stool for the New Juaben State and supported the enstoolment of Asafu Boateng, erstwhile Krontihene of Juaben Ashanti, and son of King Asafu Agyei as the first Omanhene of New Juaben State.
With the issue of the paramouncy settled with the active support and cooperation of Queen Ama Serwaa, it became necessary to assign responsibilities to stool bearers. The Effiduasehene became the Nifahene (Commander, Right Wing); the Asokorehene- Benkumhene (Commander, Left Wing); while the stool occupants from Juaben Ashanti, retained their respective titles. Chiefs were chosen for Oyoko, Akwadum, Suhyien, Jumapo and Ada. In the early 1940’s the Oyokohene was made the Adontenhene (Commander of the Vanguard). The NEW Juaben State, as presently constituted, has ten divisions.
Nana Asafu Boateng died in 1931 and was succeeded by Nana Kwaku Boateng I, a member of the royal family of Juaben Ashanti and son of Queen Ama Serwaa. It was during his reign that the present Palace at Koforidua was built and a number of Mission school established in the state. When he died in 1930, he was succeeded by his cousin, Osei Hwedie.
Nana Osei Hwedie’s successor was his own brother, Adarkwa Yiadom, who occupied the stool on two occasions. In the interval was Nana Yaw Sarpon who was succeeded by Nana Adarkwa Yiadom. After him was Nana Akrasi, who was also succeeded by Nana Kwaku Boateng II, from 1962 to 1990. His reign of twenty –eight years saw the modernization of the New Juaben State. He promoted social and economic activities, played a leading part in attracting the Workers Brigade to Koforidua, offered great assistance in the establishment of a number of secondary and preparatory schools in the Traditional area and played an important role in the transfer to Koforidua of the Regional House of Chiefs from Dodowa. He was an outspoken advocate of improved delivery of utilities, water, telephone and electricity in the traditional area.
Daasebere Kwaku Boateng II did a lot in fostering and developing cordial and effective links with Old Juaben, Kumasi and the other States of Ashanti. In furtherance of closer and cordial relations between Ashanti and the Juaben State, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, the Asantehene, made a triumphant entry into Koforidua in 1985 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebration of the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy. This visit has had a tremendous impact on the entire population of the New Juaben State.
In 1990 Daasebre Kwaku Boateng II died. He was succeeded in 1992 by Daasebere Professor (Emeritus) Oti Boateng, a member of the Yiadom-Hwedie royal family of both Asante Juaben and New Juaben, and son of Nana Akosua Akyamaa II, the late Queen of Juaben. Daasebere is the blood brother of his predecessor, Nana Akosua Boateng II; their grandmothers Nana Akosua Kyem alias Nana Akosua Akyamaa I and Nana Ama Bonsu were the daughters of Nana Akua Boateng of Juaben.
By reason of his excellent education, rich working experience and the high visibility of his tenure in the national public and international civil services, Daasebere Oti Boateng, Omanhene of the New Juaben State, has already made a notable and impressive impact on the social and economic conditions of the traditional values and practices. He has taken steps to fill vacancies on stools and created new stools to handle other responsibilities.
Last year Daasebre and the New Juaben Traditional Council broke new grounds in advancing the course of traditional authority with the creation of the New Ntotoye Division that will positively respond to the numerous planning and protocol challenges facing chieftaincy institutions in Ghana. Only two months ago Dr. S.A. Ofosu, Registrar of the Veterinary Council of Ghana, was installed the Ntotoye to lead the Division to translate the dream into reality.
The Akwantukese Festival which was instituted in 1997 by Daasebere Oti Boateng with a mission of development in unity for the welfare of the people is a truly historic and cultural legacy for the people. Among its cardinal objectives is the strengthening of the unity between New Juaben and Ashanti.
It is noteworthy that the late Asantehene Otumfuo Opoku Ware II actively supported the Akwantukese Festival and wrote a goodwill message for incorporation in its launching brochure in 1997. It is equally gratifying that Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has accorded the Festival whole-hearted goodwill and support which has reinforced the unity between Ashanti and New Juaben. It is hoped that this traditional bond of ancestral unity will be further strengthened to the mutual interest and benefit of all.
Under Daasebre’s inspiring and visionary leadership, corporate executives, professionals and other eminent citizens of New Juaben have recently formed themselves into a dynamic group, the New Juaben Development Board, to ensure that appropriate structures are put in place for accelerated development, wealth creation and poverty reduction in the area. This situation has led to the establishment of close relationship between the New Juaben State, the City of Rochester and the Livingston the development of the New Juaben State.
Finally, the recent three national and international awards to Daasebre, namely;
o The Order of Officer of Volta in Public Service and Traditional Leadership.
o The Daasebre (Professor) E. Oti Boateng Award Foundation Established by the American Biographical Institute to Honour Distinguished Statisticians Worldwide and
o The Key to the City of Rochester in Recognition of the Promotion of Twin Sister City Relations, have brought honour not only to academia and the chieftaincy institution but also to the numerous Ghanaians Daasebre continues to inspire every day
Long live the Akwantukese Festival
Long live the New Juaben Traditional Council
Long live the Chieftaincy Institution
Long live Ghana
*Source: The Ghanaian Times page 9 Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Ghanaian Times page 9 Friday, November 21, 2008