History August 21, 2018 at 02:00 pm

Adu Bofo, the Ashanti military general of the 1800s who was most feared for his conquests and owning slaves

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson August 21, 2018 at 02:00 pm

August 21, 2018 at 02:00 pm | History

The story of Adu Bofo is not wholly documented in the cultural history of his people even though he is one of the greatest military generals ever known in the great Ashanti history of Ghana. His survival throughout the years has depended mainly on a few mentions in research as well as folktales and songs sang among the Ashantis.

But the story of the great military general who fought in many battles, owned and sold many slaves to both local and foreign slave traders is one worth knowing and digging up.

From various readings,  he is described as a son of slaves. Among the Ashanti social class systems, slaves were the lowest of people even though tradition expected that they were treated with respect. They were poor people who belonged to other people after being captured, sold or designated.

Adu Bofo’s father, Opoku Frefre managed to rise among the social classes and become a military general. In 1811, Opoku Frefre led the Ashanti army against the Akyem Abuakwa. After emerging victorious, he manipulated the King at the time, Osei Bonsu, to make his sons eligible to the office of Gyasewa stool.

Osei Bonsu agreed to this after a lot of convincing, and Adu Bofo was thus born a “military royal” in his rights, but the significance and recognition of the Gyasewa stool were through the success of Adu Bofo. Adu Bofo became the fifth successor to the Gyasewa stool as the youngest son of Opoku Frefre.

At the time, the British were marking and extending their territory in the hopes of gaining complete rule over the Gold Coast, and the Ashanti and its army were notorious for fighting their way out of colonization.

Adu Bofo was very much feared among the people but loved by the Ashanti locals. In the book written by  Sandra. E. Greene West African Narratives of Slavery: Texts from Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth Century Ghana, Adu Bofo makes an appearance in the 1870s and was described as a raider of communities for captives and being served his food by slaves ordered from the Royal Palace.

His most significant role was his Krepi war campaign in the Volta Region of Ghana. The Ashanti were a dominant military force that was facing battles with the Anum and the Krepi. With the help of the Akwamu, the Ashantis attacked their enemies but were defeated due to the steepness of the hill at the time. Many Ashanti and Akwamu officers were killed when their enemies sent down huge rocks from the mountain preventing the Ashantis from reaching the top until Adu Bofo told his mean to retreat.

Despite being ordered to abandon the Krepi War Campaign, Adu Bofo went against the orders of the King and persisted until he defeated them and captured slaves in 1869 including white Basel missionaries who were taken to Kumasi. The missionaries, who were stationed near the east bank of the lower Volta, were identified as Ramseyer, Kuhn, Ramseyer’s wife and an infant child. They documented their captivity which spanned a period of 4 years between 1870 and 1874.

The British governor at the time named Hennessy had sent Plange, an Elmina mulatto with immense European diplomatic training from Holland and a former Dutch envoy, to Kumasi to negotiate the release of the missionaries with Adu Bofo.

Bofo asked the British governor to make a payment of 1,800 ounces of gold in exchange for the captured missionaries. This was how they were released.

In 1870, General Bofo fought and killed Dompre in the Battle at Abutia. With this success, Adu Bofo was ordered to return to Kumasi where the then Asanatehene, Kofi Karikari honoured him.

Adu Bofo was promoted to the position of commander of the army for the South-West while being the commander for the Asante Army as well.  He became a very powerful and wealthy military officer and a slave owner /trader capturing people and selling them off as slaves to wealthy locals in Kumasi and Elmina.

He was also sent off on a mission to invade the British protected territories which he successfully did freeing a lot of Ashanti captives and capturing  British officials.

Adu Bofo’s role in the Ashanti military and their fight against the British is widely spoken of till date. Many scholars have recorded the trouble that his army brought invading settlements under the British.

Through his role and achievements, Adu Bofo brought much prestige to the Gyasewa stool which before his time, was established as a small supporting staff to the military. In 1883,  the Asantehene blackened Adu Bofo’s stool going against the custom and bringing great honour to the Adu Bofo legacy.

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