The “War Of The Golden Stool” or the “Yaa Asantewaa War” began on this day in Ghana, after British rulers insulted the proud Ashanti tribe in 1900. The British Imperial government of the Gold Coast and the Empire of Ashanti clashed over the tribe’s Golden Stool throne, and a woman, Yaa Asantewaa (pictured), led her people in the months-long battle.
The war was the final result of a series of discussions and conflicts between the British colonists and the Ashanti people, which was centered around the Golden Stool throne. According to Ashanti legend, the high priest Okomfo Anokye summoned the Golden Stool from the skies to land in the lap of the first king, Osei Tutu.
The stool is believed to hold the spirit of the entire Ashanti people.
Therefore, the British made an egregious move on this day when Sir Frederick Hodgson demanded to not only sit upon the throne but also for the Ashanti to hand the throne over to them.
Because the Ashanti respected other warriors, they greeted Sir Hodgson as a honored guest in Kumasi complete with all the revelry expected. King Prempheh I, who warred with the British in 1893, was in exile thus putting Sir Hodgson in the position to demand the stool and lands under the order of the Queen of England.
The only known account of Sir Hodgson’s speech that sparked the war is as follows:
Your King Prempeh I is in exile and will not return to Ashanti. His power and authority will be taken over by the Representative of the Queen of Britain. The terms of the 1874 Peace Treaty of Formena, which required you to pay the costs of the 1874 war, have not been forgotten. You have to pay with interest the sum of £160,000 a year. Then there is the matter of the Golden Stool of Ashanti. The Queen is entitled to the stool; she must receive it.
Where is the Golden Stool? I am the representative of the Paramount Power. Why have you relegated me to this ordinary chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool for me to sit upon? However, you may be quite sure that though the Government has not received the Golden Stool at his hands it will rule over you with the same impartiality and fairness as if you had produced it.
Sir Hodgson’s bold words fell upon the ears of the Ashanti in attendance at the gathering, angering them with his disrespect and flagrant insult of demanding the Golden Stool. As a result, the Queen Mother of the Ejisu, Yaa Asantewaa, gathered soldiers to attack Sir Hodsgon’s forces and rescue their exiled king. Hodsgon’s forces tried to locate the Golden Stool to no avail, and Queen Mother Asantewaa’s forces were able to wage small assaults, forcing their enemy to escape.
Consequently, the British returned with a larger armed force — fortified by Yoroba fighters from Nigeria — but were still met with resistance by thousands of Ashanti warriors. Queen Mother Asantewaa bravely defended her lands using military savvy and did her best to inspire her people to continue the fight.
In a speech from Queen Mother Asantewaa to her resistance forces:
Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king…in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.
Queen Mother Asantewaa’s valiant efforts, although impressive and largely effective, would eventually get vanquished by the better-armed British forces in September of that year.
While she and other resistance fighters were captured and exiled, they successfully defended the Golden Stool from capture.
Queen Mother Asantewaa and other fighters were exiled from the Gold Coast to the Seychelles, with the Queen Mother dying in the Seychelles on October 17, 1921. Three years later, King Prempeh I returned from exile and would give Queen Mother Asantewaa a proper Ashanti burial.
On March 6, 1957, Ghana would gain its independence from British rule and became the first sub-Saharan African country to do so.