By: Kwame Ampene
(Founder of the Guan Historical Society)
BEREKUM Traditional Area in the Brong Ahafo Region shares boundaries with Wenchi (Tain District) to the north-east, Dormaa to the south, Sunyani to the east, and Jaman to the west.
In 2004, Boateng Akuamoah of the Institute of African Studies Legon investigated how Berekum got it authentic name and thereby threw much light on the early history of Berekum. He noted: The early settlers of Berekum comprise migrants from Asante-Asokore, Adanse and Denkyira. He claimed that Berekum was established by a contingent of about 300 warriors Asante-Asokore led by one Kwaku Tia whose relative was Amankona Diawuo who eventually became the first chief of Berekum. This settlement was found at the instance of Asantehene soon after the first invasion of Jaman, about 1740. The motive was to enable the warriors to spy on Jaman and report any plot of rebellion and revolt by the conquered states of Jaman and Dormaa (vide: Boateng Akuamoa – Succession dispute in Chieftaincy A case study of Berekum Traditional Area’IAS, Legon, 2004)
The second batch arrived from Adanse to settle at Awaasu a marshy land, so they moved to Pepase and then to Akroforo before settling at the present site of Berekum. The Asokore group descended from a woman who came to seek cure for infertility from the deity Taa Kwasi who had powers against barrenness. Others moved into the areas because of the Asante wars of expansion and domination. Yet, others did so because the deity Taa Kwasi was believed to have wonderful powers against barrenness. Later immigrants came due to the attraction of natural resources and the abundance of game reserves, hence the etymology of the name BEREKUM (Bere-an-wakum) which literally means ‘ a place where game are killed with great difficulty’(qv.Arhin Kwame: ‘Asante Security Post in the N. West’1973 p.3)
Another version is that the feuding fathers of Berekum where tired of the high incidence of deaths resulting from the incessant wars during that period. Berekum was therefore a haven of peace and quiet. Apart from the early settlers, other immigrants were said to have settled in the area. Subsequently, they became the major sub-chiefs and divisional heads - there were nine settlements whose herdsmen where known as Adanpankron’ who were principal counselors of Berekumhene.
The Gyaasehene claimed that his maternal ancestress migrated from Adanse Fomena and got married to Amankona Diawuo the then Berekumhene who made her eldest son, Kwasi Darte, the first Gyasehene. However, according to Dormaa tradition, the Berekumhene, Amankona Diawuo otherwise known as Asokorehene, was the son of Dormaahene Kyereme Sikafo who married the Queenmother of Berekum and gave birth to Amankona Diawuo.
The Adanse Fomena royal lineage consists of three family groups – the Abontema, Papaase and Babianiha. Succession of the Amankona Diawuo Stool had always been the exclusive preserve of the two royal lineages, namely the Adanse and Asokore. The Adanse as a royal lineage consists of three family groups- Papaase , Abontema and Babianiha. The Asokore on the other hand is a group of people. Out of the 12 Paramount Chiefs who have so far occupied the Amankona Diawuo Stool, 10 had come from the Adanse line, and two from the Asokore line. As at 2004 the first two Paramount Chiefs namely, Amankona Diawuo and Kyere Diabour, came from the Asokore line; all other subsequent chiefs, about 10 in number, have come from Adanse side. The Babianiha group although belong to the Adanse group has never had a candidate to occupy the principal Stool (Vide: Boateng Akuamoa, op. cit. p.41). The Asokore claim that their ancestors Amankona Diawuo, Kyere Diabuor and Ameyaahene were maternal relatives of Kwaku Tia, the earliest Asokore settler in the Berekum area.
In the mid-18th century, conquered states such as Odomase, Bechem, Nsoatre and Dua Yaw-Nkwanta were incorporated into the Berekum sub-kingdom by the Asantehene who intended to strengthen Asante’s defence against her powerful enemies –Jaman and Dormaa. But none of them considered themselves directly under the Berekumhene, except Nsoatre due to their proximity to Berekum.
Berekum participated in Asante’s wars by contributing contingents to fight on behalf of the Asantehene. They even recall that they fought in the first invasion of the Fanteland, 1806-1807 by Asante during which the Berekum seized the ‘Apesemako’ drums from the Fante.
Berekum relations with Dormaa and Jaman were hostile due to Berekum’s role as surveillance outpost for Asante. The hostility became open and violent during the reign of King Mensah Bonsu (1874-1887). When Dormaa and Jaman attacked Berekum and Nsoatre on a Tuesday, routed the Berekum army and carried away a number of captives to Dormaa and Bondugu. This rather eroded the power of Berekumhene. This war was the origin of the ‘Nkyibena’ Oath by which both Berekum and Nsoatre commemorate. As a result, Berekumhene Kwasi Diawuo broke his allegiance to Asante, and no longer sent tribute to Asantehene’s court, because Asante failed to send military aid to Berekum. On 1st July 1901, C.N Armitage, a Travelling Commissioner, of the Government of the Gold Coast, signed an Agreement with the chiefs of Bechem, Nkwanta, Odomase and Nsoatre, they later agreed to reconcile and serve Berekum.
In 1935, Berekum decided not to join Asante amalgamation. And on 10th May, 1955, elders and the chiefs decided to join the Bono Kyempem Council founded in 1947 by Nana Akumfi Ameyaw of Takyiman. The signatories to the Constitution of Bono Kyempem were Dormaahene, Takyimanhene, Abeasehene, Drobohene, Atebubuhene, Wiasehene and Odomasehene. Membership was open to every state, chief and two of Brong origin. The master-servant relations between Asante and Berekum came to an end.
The Paramount Chief of Berekum, Nana Akuamoah Boatenf (1959-1967), was elected unopposed as the first President of the Brong Ahafo House of Chiefs in 1959. He was succeeded by Nana Yiadom Boakye Owusu II (1967-1998). The Berekum chieftaincy still, has its strength and enjoys support of the people.
Source: The Spectator Saturday, May 26, 2012 Page 31