History July 27, 2021 at 10:00 am

Exactly 183 years today, Ghanaian king Badu Bonso II was killed and the head taken to Netherlands for curiosity’s sake

Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III July 27, 2021 at 10:00 am

July 27, 2021 at 10:00 am | History

King Badu Bonso II. (Public Domain Image)

27th July is a dark day in the history of Ahanta. It is a day of mourning, grieving and wailing for Badu Bonso II, Ahanta’s king who was killed by the Dutch. His head was removed and sent to the Netherlands for more than 170 years before it was discovered by Arthur Japin in 1997.

The head of Badu Bonso II was brought to Ghana in 2009 after a brief ceremony in Hague. A delegation from Ahanta, comprised of chiefs and descendants of Badu Bonso II, brought the head without compensations from the Dutch government for their atrocities and heinous crimes they perpetrated against the people of Ahanta. 

In 1830, Badu Bonsu II started having troubles with the Dutch who were using the Butre treaty which was signed on 27th August 1656 as a basis to continuously exploit Ahanta. Badu Bonso II disputed the terms and references of the Butre treaty and that brought hostilities between him and the Dutch officials in Gold Coast. For eight years, Badu Bonsu II was at loggerheads with them.

The crisis heightened when Badu Bonso II banned the sale of guns and gunpowder in Ahanta and forbade selling them to neighboring tribes especially the Wassa. The ban on the sale of guns and gunpowder went against the trade and economic interests of the Dutch in Ahanta so they instigated some subchiefs of Badu Bonso II against him. One of such subchiefs was Eteroe of Sekondi.

Badu Bonso II had a healthy relationship with Eteroe of Sekondi but soon the Dutch made their relationship sour and bad. It was said that Badu Bonso II passed a death sentence on Eteroe of Sekondi when he realized that with the connivance of the Dutch, he was secretly selling guns and gunpowder to the Wassa. Eteroe sought refuge with the Dutch and eventually, the matter reached Hendrick Tonneboijier who was then the acting Dutch governor of Gold Coast stationed at Elmina. 

Tonneboijier sent for Badu Bonso II but he refused to go suspecting that the Dutch would put him on board a slave ship to the West Indies. Realizing that Badu Bonso II was not honoring his calls, Tonneboijier dispatched George Maasen who was then the commandant at Elmina to Butre, with Adrian Cremer, who was then the Dutch official at Fort Batenstein at Butre, to ensure that Badu Bonso II was brought to him at Elmina death or alive.

Eventually, Badu Bonso in a company of armed men from Busua met Maasen and Cremer at Butre but failed to enter Fort Batenstein, a fort and trading post established by the Dutch on the Gold Coast in 1656. Badu Bonso II requested that the matter be resolved in the house of one Anthony Rhule. In the course of deliberations, Maasen and Cremer made attempts to arrest Badu Bonso II by force but he resisted them. They fired warning shots at him and he reciprocated their actions by killing them and took their heads to his palace at Busua.

News reached Tonneboijier that Badu Bonso II had killed Maasen and Cremer. He mobilized forces and matched to Ahanta to have Badu Bonso II arrested by himself. Badu Bonso II also mobilized forces and met Tonneboijier and his forces at Takoradi. In 30 minutes, Badu Bonsu II had Tonneboijier killed and masscred his forces. It is said that Tonneboijier fled to Fort Tacaray but Badu Bonso II pursued and struck him to death at the entrance of the Fort. 

In February 1837, news reached Hague, the capital of the Netherlands that Badu Bonso II had killed Tonneboijier and several Dutch officials in the Gold Coast. William I quickly conveyed meetings and selected Gen. Jan Verveer to lead an expedition of 200 mercenaries to Ahanta to quell what they described as rebellion. The expedition landed in Elmina in May 1838 and in the days that followed, Gen. Jan Verveer would go round and mobilize local forces from Fante, Wassa, Sekondi, Axim and other tribes in addition to the 200 mercenaries he brought from Hague in his bid to launch an attack on Badu Bonso II. 

In July 1838, Gen. Verveer and his forces set for Ahanta. After a fierce battle between Badu Bonso II and his forces, Badu Bonsu II was arrested on 26th July 1838. He was brought to Butre and after what the Dutch called public trial and conviction, they hanged Badu Bonso II to death on 27th July 1838 at the exact spot he earlier killed Maasen and Adrian Cremer. A medical officer at Elmina castle called Schillet removed his head and placed it in Formahyde jar and they took it to Elmina and later sent it to Hague. The only reason Schillet was assigned for removing Badu Bonso II’s head was for curiosity’s sake. Several Ahanta royals particularly from Busua and Takoradi were also taken along and in August 1838, some of them were hanged at Elmina. The remaining were placed on board a ship to the Dutch West Indies.

Busua and Takoradi were completely destroyed and several Ahanta people fled. Many towns went extinct and for 10 years, there was no Ahanta king until Hima Dekyi of Dixcove ensured that a king was put on the throne later. The newly installed king died shortly and other successive kings were going to die in very unexplained circumstances. The mysterious deaths of the successive kings triggered fears among the royals of Busua especially the women. It was so fearful that royal women started hiding their male children to prevent them from being installed as kings. Others also fled Busua with their male children and never returned.

In April 1872, the Dutch sold all their trade possessions in Ahanta to the English and left Ahanta for good. They left Ahanta with divisions and confusions that have lasted to date. Exactly today is 183 years since the Dutch invasion of Ahanta and the death of Badu Bonso II.

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