Durbar at Manyhia to mark 150th anniversary of Sagrenti War
Asanteman yesterday converged on the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi for a grand durbar of chiefs to welcome back home some of the Asante artefacts that were looted 150 years ago.
After 150 years, 39 of the Asante royal regalia and objects looted by British troops during the third Anglo-Asante war of 1874, popularly known as Sagrenti War, are returning to the Asantehene in Kumasi.
The first batch of seven treasures from the Fowler Museum of the University of California in Los Angeles was handed over to Asanteman at the grand durbar of chiefs at the Manhyia Palace.
The durbar, also known as the Kuntunkuni durbar, held yesterday, was addressed by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who called on all Ghanaians to live in peace with one another.
The solemn event, characterised by the rich display of Ashanti culture, attracted people from all walks of life, including politicians and religious leaders.
To signify the solemn nature of the event, the Asantehene and his retinue of chiefs were clad in the traditional mourning cloth, Kuntunkuni, while all other guests also wore black.
Among the guests were the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and his wife Samira; the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin; former Presidents, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama; the Independent presidential candidate for the Movement of Change, Alan K. Kyerematen, the Chief of Staff at the Presidency, Akosua Frema Osei Opare; the the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah as well as some Ministers of State.
Also present at the durbar was the British High Commissioner, Harriet Thompson.
Spirit of Asantes
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, in his address asked those trying to undermine the Asantes to desist from it as no hatred formed against them would stand.
He said Asantes constituted an integral part of the country and “Asantes cannot be taken out of the history of Ghana.”
Nana Otuo Siriboe II, Juabenhene, receiving an ornamental chair which is one of the items that have been returned from the Fowler Museum in USA
He said while Asantes had over the years tried to live in peace and harmony with other tribes, they had been rewarded with nothing but hatred.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II observed that even though the durbar was a sad remembrance of what happened one and half centuries ago, it was also a demonstration of the united spirit of the Asantes.
Recalling the events that led to the unfortunate war that saw the total annihilation and looting of the Royal Palace of the Asantes, he said the golden stool, which represented the soul of Asanteman, was never taken.
He called on the youth, particularly Asantes to rededicate themselves to the cause of Asanteman and defend the golden stool as their forefathers did.
Commenting on the return of the regalia from the Fowler Museum of the University of California, Los Angeles, Otumfuo said that had been the desire of past Asantehenes to see the return of the royal artefacts that were taken away from the palace during the war.
He said while the items were taken through war, through dialogue and diplomacy, the Americans agreed to return seven of the items in their museum, while the British agreed to ‘loan’ the items to Manhyia Palace for a duration of six years after which they would be returned to the United Kingdom.
He said per the discussions held with the Buckingham Palace, the laws of the UK would not allow the complete return of the items.
The British have 32 of the items in their museums.
Otumfuo said while he would have loved the permanent return of the items, he was glad that the British had agreed to loan them the items.
“At least my people would see that truly these items were looted from here and get to see them even if it is for a while”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of Dr Bawumia, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Osei-Mensah, said great lessons could be learnt from the Sagrenti War which depicted the resilient spirit of the Asantes.
He said the war was supposed to disintegrate the Asante Kingdom, but it had rather strengthened the people and brought them together.
He said the gods had also shown their powers by ensuring that the items stolen from the palace were returned to their rightful place.