The ‘Ghanaian’ in the eyes of history: Time to unlearn

Ghanaians1 Peaceful Llks File Photo

Wed, 15 Jul 2020 Source: Nicholas Mawunyah Gborse

Ghana as country has not always existed. It is an artificial creation by the European Imperialists turned Colonizers driven by economic exploitation and ‘cultural civilization.’ On the basis of the two main creation accounts – Biblical Accounts and the Evolutionary Theory – all ethnic groups in Ghana today did not originate from Ghana. They all migrated from various places to settle at their present settlements in Ghana. Thus, the peopling of Ghana is made up of different ethnic groups with different migration patterns.

Prior to 1471 when the Portuguese led by Juan de Santerem and Pedro d’ Escobar officially landed in Shama, but made their first official settlement eleven years later in 1482 after building San Jorge da Elmina with the instrumentality of Don Diego D’ Azambujar, nothing called the Gold Coast or Ghana existed. What we had were kingdoms, states and petty chiefdoms such as the Asante, Denkyira, Akwamu, Akyem, Dagbon, Anlo and Gonja. Each of these kingdoms or states was independent and autonomous of the other and had their own forms of centralized states of administration with the exception of the Ga and the Guans who were largely theocratic and the Sisala, Vagala, Tampulensi who were uncentralized although alliances existed among them.

These included Anlo- Akwamu Alliance, Asante-Akwamu Alliance and Asante- Anlo Alliance. Accordingly, each wielded power and influence within its respective jurisdiction save for some who later embarked on wars of conquest and had vassal states. None was the overall ‘owner’ of what was to become the Gold Coast or Ghana.

At best, each was the ‘owner’ of the area within its jurisdiction. This continued till the 15th Century when the Portuguese arrived at Shama and later named the coast of Ghana from Appolonia in the West to the mouth of the Volta in the East as Costa do Ouro or the Gold Coast, (the English version) because of the huge gold deposits in the area. This stretch of land which constituted the original Gold Coast extended from Nzema in the west to the mouth of the Volta in the east. The mouth of the Volta include Anyanui, Atiteti ( Anlo), Ada, Sogakope and much of the Tongu areas which used to be part of Ada).

The Portuguese later founded some other settlements in the Gold Coast and later applied the Papal Bull to claim their newly founded land for the King of Portugal just as they had done for some earlier islands they had founded. They remained the undisputed owners of their new discovery in the Gold Coast until some British Merchants such as Thomas Windham and Anes Pinteado also landed in the Gold Coast in 1553 but without any serious commitment to make settlements until the Seventeenth Century. It was the Dutch who made their first arrival on the coast in 1595 who posed the greatest trade competition and threat to the Portuguese interest in the Gold Coast by capturing Elmina from the Portuguese in 1637 and later, St Fort Anthony in 1642.

Between 1618 and 1661, the British made several unsuccessful attempts at settlement in the Gold Coast. They later established settlements at Anomabu, Accra and Cape Coast or Cabo Corso. They were followed by the Swedes who built the Christianborg Castle (but were dispossessed of it by the Danes), the Brandenburghers (whose possessions fell into the hands of the Dutch) and the Danes who later sold the Christianborg Castle to the Portuguese but rebought it three years later in addition to building forts at Ada, Ningo and Keta and exercising control over Akwapim areas.

The British later extended their spheres of influence over areas such as Dixcove, Sekondi and Winneba. When by 1821, the British funded African Company of Merchants got dissolved; its possessions were placed under the British Crown and put under the Government of the West African Settlement headquartered in Sierra Leone. This continued till the Tripartite Treaty of 1831 among the British, Asante and the Fanti following the death of Sir Charles Macarthy in 1824 in the hands of the Asantes.

After the Treaty, Her Majesty’s Government, withdrew officially from the Gold Coast and left the area in the hand of English Merchants who appointed George Maclean as the Governor with specific instruction not to interfere in local matters of the natives, nor to indulge in slavery and slave trade which the British had abolished by 1808 and 1833 respectively.

George Maclean did not only interfere in the judicial matters of the natives, he also extended the influence of the British several miles inland into some areas in what is now the Eastern Region. By 1842, a Report by the Select Committee of the British Parliament declared Maclean’s jurisdiction as one without legal basis as it rested on his personal prestige and influence with the people (Fynn, and Addo-Fenning , 1991).

In 1843, the British Parliament corrected this anomaly by returning to occupy the forts in the Gold Coast having realized that the Merchants led by Maclean had broken the terms of their engagement. In the stead of Maclean, the Crown appointed Commander Hill as Lieutenant- Governor. By 1847, the extent of British influence over the Gold Coast was 15540 sq. km.

In the year 1850, two major landmark events happened in the Gold Coast.

First, the Gold Coast was on February 24 1850 ceased to be a dependency of the Colony of Sierra Leone with the capital in Freetown. Second, the British had bought Danish Forts and protectorates from Christianborg in Accra to Prizestein in Keta. With this purchase, the coastlines from Accra to Keta and inland areas of Shai, Krobo, Akwapim, Akwamu and Krepi which include Peki and parts of Kpeve in the Volta Region officially came under British jurisdiction and control.

The Gold Coast was by February 26 1866 reunited to the Colony of Sierra Leone until 24th July 1874 when the Gold Coast and Lagos were separated from Sierra Leone and made one distinct colony until 1886 when Lagos was made a stand-alone colony (Colonial Report, 1927).

Meanwhile, by 1867, the British and the Dutch had signed what became known as the Sweet River Convention which saw an exchange of forts and castles between the Dutch (Holland) and the English, with the English taking over the eastern portion of River Kakum and the Dutch taking the western portion of the River. Unfortunately, the Dutch met tribes who were used to their relationship with the British and hence were unwilling to cooperate with the Dutch.

The result of this lack of cooperation between the native tribes and the Dutch was that the British had sealed their hold on the Gold Coast by signing in 1871 an agreement with the Dutch for the transfer of all of Holland’s possessions and forts to the English (Colonial Report, 1927).

With the official transfer of the Dutch forts on April 6 1872, the British assumed full sovereignty over the stretch of land (23, 490 sq. km) from Nzema in the west to Aflao in the east (Colonial Report, 1927). With the British having assumed a sovereign status over this territory and some miles inland, the area officially became a Crown Colony and the Crown established its authority over the area known as the Gold Coast Colony which at this time excluded the Asante, Northern Territories and British Togoland.

For effective administration of this Colony, the Crown divided the territory into three provinces as follows: Western, Central and Eastern. For purposes of clarity, this original Crown Colony of Gold Coast Colony include modern day Western Region, Western North Region, Central Region, Greater Accra Region, Eastern Region and the South Eastern parts of the Volta Region including Tongu, Krepi or Peki, part of Kpeve and parts of Adaklu ( Adaklu- Xinakorpe, Adaklu Ahunda) and Anlo. The British further divided the Colony into administrative districts. For the Western Province, the Districts included Axim, Ankobra, Tarkwa, Sekondi-Dixcove, Sefwi and Aowin. The Central Province had Districts such as Cape Coast, Western Akim, Winneba and Saltpond. The Districts under the Eastern Province were Accra, Keta-Ada, Volta River, New Juaben, Akwapim, Akim Abuakwa and Kwahu (Colonial Report, 1927).

Meanwhile, faced with French threats from the west and German advances from the east, the British were now energized to possess Asante and much of the northern territories. The British fought the much prepared and resilient Asante army for at least five times in what became known in history as Anglo-Asante Wars between 1824 and 1900 with the Asantes killing Sir Charles Macarthy in 1824 in the Battle of Nsamankow (Fynn, and Addo-Fenning, 1991). First, the Asantes who were avid traders fought to gain direct access to European merchants on the coast without having to rely on Fanti middlemen. Secondly, with a powerful independent Kingdom proud of its history, the Asantes were unwilling to entertain any form of control or colonization in the hands of the British. With a combination of diplomacy and war, Prempeh I resisted British rule and fought tooth and nail to maintain their independence.

The Asantes were only annexed and officially made part of the British Crown after their final defeat to the British in the Yaa Asantewaa War of December 1900. The British concluded their hold on the Gold Coast by relying on treaties to bring Atebubu and most parts of the northern territories under her control by using George Ekem Ferguson, an Anomabu born Surveyor to sign treaties with chiefs up north. With this accomplishment, the British issued three order-in-council. One established the Northern Territories Protectorate; the other constituted Asante into a Crown Colony with a Chief Commissioner and the third one merged the Gold Coast Colony and the Gold Coast Protectorate (Fynn, J.K and Addo-Fenning,. 1991). Thus, the British used a combination of diplomacy, direct purchase of territories, treaties and wars to establish their hold on the Gold Coast later Ghana.

Meanwhile, by August 1914, the First World War had broken out and German Togoland became a subject of interest to the British even though the German Togoland under Governor Herzog Adolf Friedrich zu Mecklenburg declared the area neutral in the war. By 26th August, the Kamina station in German Togoland was blown up and Germany was brought to her knees in the war. Following this defeat by Germany, the Allied Powers led by Britain and France signed an agreement in July 1919 for the official partitioning of the German lost territory which they later made a Mandated Territory in line with Article 22 of the Covenants of the League of Nations. This partition was protested by the various groupings within the German Togoland especially the Ewes.

With the outbreak of the Second World War and the eventual collapse of the League of Nations, a more robust and responsive international body called the United Nations was formed and the Mandated Territories were transformed into Trust Territories under the Trusteeship Council of the UN. Whereas the French assumed the eastern side of the former German Territory, the British took control of the Western side which stretched from Ho District, through parts of Kpeve to Buem-Krachi to Bawku. This excluded Tongu, Krepi (Peki), Anlo and small parts of Adaklu as they were already part of the Gold Coast Colony.

With this development, the British administered the British Trust Territory as part of its Gold Coast, and the Gold Coast now had four administrative territories – Gold Coast Colony, Asante, Northern Territories and British Togoland all of which were administered separately until 1946 when with the introduction of the Alarn Burns Constitution, the four territories were for the first time represented in the Legislative Assembly.. But for effective administration, the British created new administrative districts by doing two things. First, they integrated the stretch of land beyond Krachi (i.e. Gonja, Bawku etc) with the original Northern Territories to form one administrative territory.

Second, they cut off the South Eastern Gold Coast – Tongu, Peki, Anlo and few Adaklu towns such as Xinakorpe and Adaklu Ahunda (a part of the Gold Coast Colony) and integrated it with the Southern British Togoland which stretched from Buem-Krachi to Ho to form what became known as the Trans-Volta Togoland [TVT] by 1952. This new administrative territory existed with this nomenclature until 1960 when it was renamed the Volta Region. Thus, what we have today as Volta Region is a combination of Gold Coast Colony proper and the British Trust Territory inherited from the Germans.

This means that the 9th May, 1956 Plebiscite held to determine the true wishes of the British Togoland ahead of Ghana’s independence in 1957 did not include the whole of the Volta Region. It did not include Tongu, Peki, Anlo, Some and few Adaklu towns such as Xinakorpe and Adaklu Ahunda (a part of the Gold Coast Colony). It only included the six administrative districts of the British Togoland two of which (Ho and Kpando) were Ewe Districts. T

he rest were Buem- Krachi District (what is now Oti), Gonja District, Mamprusi District and Dagomba District all of which now form different regions. The erroneous impression that all Ewes in the Volta Region joined Ghana through a Plebiscite is a palpable falsehood unsupported by history and evidence. This impression which has become unfortunately ingrained in the minds of many and even find a place in some of our history books must be discarded.

In effect, by the successful implementation of the Plebiscite of the 1956, the boundaries of Ghana as we have them today were defined. It should be reckoned that in this state formation, none of the original ethnic groups (whether they be part of the Gold Coast Colony) or any of the later three administrative territories was projected above and beyond the rest whether in influence, power or land ownership. There was no master-servant relationship envisaged by the British, neither did they raise any of the ethnic groups above the rest. None was to be made subservient to the other.

They all enjoy equal ownership and rights as Ghanaians. None was made the owners of the territory or land space called Ghana. There is no such think as the owners of Ghana. At best, all chiefs of the various ethnic groups own the lands within their jurisdiction. Simply put, all the components that make up Ghana today were artificially woven together to make one united whole called Ghana, for which we must all aspire to uphold its unity and diversity without any master-servant inclinations. None should be more Ghanaians than the others. We should all use our individual talents, skills and expertise to build this great nation regardless of where we are from in Ghana. Our politics, social and religious life must be elevated above and beyond ethnic bigotry. Ours is a beautiful country rooted in diversity.

Email of author: gborsenicholasm@gmail.com

Columnist: Nicholas Mawunyah Gborse