Juaben: The Africa that was not allowed to be

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Juaben: The Africa that was not allowed to be


In April of 2013, I spent two memorable weeks in the lush, lovely and peaceful Juaben town, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Juaben is one of the founding states of the famous Ashanti Confederacy.

The Ashantis belong to one of Africa’s largest national groups, the Akans, who formed majority in both Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire.

Akan state formation is believed to have started around 1000AD. Ashanti rose to prominence and became the most powerful of the Akan States in the 18th century after it had supplanted another Empire, Denkyira, which had imposed its hegemony over large swathe of real estate.

The Ashanti Kingdom began life at a settlement based at Kokofu; it was then called Asantemanso. Asante (Esa Nti), literally, means born of war.

A new ruler moved his capital to Kwaaman, in modern Kumase. With a blend of magic and diplomacy, the new ruler, Osei Tutu, with the assistance of his spiritual advisor, the legendary Okomfo Anokye, created a unified Asante Kingdom around 1699.

The new kingdom comprised of nine original states.

Ashanti became one of Africa’s most powerful pre-colonial States with formidable military prowess, refined culture, immense economic prosperity and unrivalled political sophistication.

Ashanti was also one of the last African states to be subjugated by colonialism. The type of bloody nose the colonialists received at the hands of Ashanti Warriors still remain the stuff of legends. And the kingdom was not subjugated until the ever sneaky British formed alliances with old enemies of the Ashanti Kingdom.

Without a doubt, the British behaved like wretched criminals in Africa, and their conduct in Ashanti should shame any people with a notion of right or wrong.

It is difficult to read the accounts of the colonialists’ bestial conducts in Africa and not be irritated by the obstreperous noises their heirs deafen our ears with today, with their sanctimonious cacophony of ‘human rights.’

Internal political crises in the kingdom led to military confrontation between the central authority at Kumase and one of its strongest states, Juaben.

Juaben was defeated and its Chief went into exile and formed New Juaben in present-day Eastern Region of Ghana.

Attempts at reconciling the feuding Ashanti states were thwarted by the British as attested to by the famous declaration of one colonial official, R.H. Meade:”Let them fight it out and if the Ashantee (sic) Kingdom breaks up, all the better for its neighbor.” To which Colonial Secretary Kimberly eagerly agreed:” The revival of Ashanti power would be sure to bring serious trouble to the British, and so it was better to encourage the independence of the border countries, and to cultivate good relations with them.”

Ever the masters of divide-and-conquer, the British took advantage of the weakened, feuding state and without provocation, imposed a protectorate on a people that never asked to be protected.

It should be remembered that prior to their coming back to Africa as colonial conquerors, European powers (French, British and Dutch) have maintained long relationship with African Kings to whom they supplicated. They have all sent envoys to African rulers to seek favour.

When their haughty diktat was rejected, the British sent their top dogs, Sir Francis Scott and his lieutenant, Major S. S. Baden-Powell, to occupy Kumase.

The usurpers then demanded to be paid 50,000 ounces of gold for the cost of their expedition. They even rejected part payment and sent the Ashanti Royal family into detention at the infamous Elmina Castle. They then proceed to systematically loot the palace and the mausoleum.

To add insult to the Ashanti injury, Governor F. M. Hodgson asked to sit on the Ashanti sacred Golden Stool by arrogantly demanding: “What must I do to the man, whoever he is, and who has failed to give it to the Queen, who is the paramount power in this country, the stool to which she is entitled? Where is the golden stool? Why am I not sitting on the golden stool at this moment? I am the representative of the paramount power. Why have you relegated me to this chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the golden stool and give it to me to sit upon?”

Of course, the Ashanti would rather perish than succumb to this sacrilege.

When the Chiefs appear to dither, a woman, the legendary Nana Yaa Asantewaa, led a war against the imposters.

The Yaa Asantewaa War was the last major war the Ashantis fought. The British formally annexed the kingdom in September 1901.

Unlike most traditional African states, the Akan has a matrilineal culture, and they practice a sophisticated political system that choose leaders based solely on merit.

“In Akan culture, the rule of succession to political office differs from the practice of primogeniture in patrilineal cultures which guarantees the right of the oldest child to succeed. As eminent Ghanaian jurist J. E. Casely Hayford points out: “no Akan king ‘is born a king.’” He has to be elected from a field of multiple contestants on the basis of well-known criteria, among which are strength of character and knowledge of the culture and ethos of his community. Ideally, succession passes down in the order of seniority, beginning with brothers first before nephews. However, the maxim that “niwa mma nsaea wofaasie nni adee,” (nephews succeed only when there are no surviving brothers) may be overlooked in certain cases. Kingmakers also reserve the right to remove a ruler for being profligate, incompetent, or “for any just cause.”

“The apogee of the leadership formation process of a potential Akan chief was the Apatam rites which begin from the day of his election. “Apata” literally means a hut constructed for temporary use… Apatam (literally inside the hut) signifies a place of instruction, a school for putting finishing touches to the training of chiefs-elect and sharpening their knowledge of the norms, values and skills essential for their successful tenure of office.” – Nana Otuo Siriboe II (an exemplar of the modern traditional ruler), by R. Addo Fenning, p.58

Contrary to what apologists of colonialism would later write about Africa ruled by blood-thirsty savages, the rigorous exercise of choosing the best, plus the vigorous check and balances make despotism or tyranny impossible.

On a Thursday, I was privileged to watch the judicial system of the Juaben at work. Starting early morning, the Chief held court together with his top Chiefs and Elders. They patiently sat through several cases where people are giving all the time they want to air their grievances.  At the end, the Chiefs and Elders pass judgement, the object of which was to reconcile the feuding parties.

I cannot but shake my head in admiration at this most effective and humane system of justice.

Not only were the people given all the opportunities they needed to vent their anger, they spoke in their own in their own language, and they are judged by rules and customs in which they are well accustomed and comfortable.

We can contrast this system to the judicial system Ghana adopted form the British, where litigants have to employ the services of high-priced lawyers, who go to court and speak a language only few initiates understand.

At the end of the day, wigged judge will pass a judgment that lay heavy emphasis on punishment and none, whatever, at reconciliation.

My two weeks stay at Juaben was one of total bliss and total immersion in natural living.

It enabled me to live the Africa into which I was born, and in which I, thankfully, spent my formative years.

Absence in Juaben is all the artificial pollutants that make healthy living impossible in the giant concrete jungles we call modern cities.

Juaben air was so pure you could feel it cleaning your system.

Fruits were so plentiful that ripe mangoes are left unmolested – unbelievable.

I don’t recall ever eating so much fresh and natural avocado peas in my life like I did in Juaben.

It remains a two unforgettable weeks I shall cherish for a long time to come.

I recommend a holiday in Juaben every time.

As I enjoy myself in this lovely part of Africa, I cannot but feel sorry about how much we Africans have lost as a people.

For sociologists, Juaben remains and it represents an Africa that was not allowed to be by the callous intrusion of those accursed colonialists, who cannot resist stealing what did not belong to them.

Throughout my stay in Juaben, I did not see a single policeman apart from the one guarding the rural bank – which I was told was part of the mandatory regulations on banks.

There is a police post, all right; but it remains largely a symbolic presence.

At Juaben, I saw how people live healthy lives in total, I mean total security and in complete harmony with nature.

There was not a single time I saw people engaged in any form of altercation or noise making. People were so friendly and they take time to greet one another.

So secure was Juaben that people still leave their doors ajar and go to farm. And as I wander around towns and villages, I occasionally left my video equipment under trees on the streets – no one stole a thing from me.

Despite the absence of policemen on the streets of Juaben, the place remain calm, peaceful and secured.

I was highly impressed with the modern layout of Juaben town. The streets were wide and many of them were tree-lined promenades.

Probably because of the fresh, wholesome food they eat, the people of Juaben look so healthy, with smooth skin that shine like polished ebony.

Funeral posters show people living to very old age – 100+ years.

It remains incredible how we so-called educated and intellectual in Africa always fail to factor all these unique features of our African heritage in our analyses of traditional Africa.

About all we seem to do is mimic and parrot the nonsense of a primitive Africa where people hopped from treetop to treetop until they were rescued by European mis-adventurers.

Like complete idiots, we continue to repeat the nonsense the colonialists wanted to impose on our psyches that we were ahistorical, good-for-nothing mindless little children who needed to be salvaged by some racist imposters.

Anyone with iota of brain cell ought to ask how idiots could manage to establish the type of sophisticated, highly-cultured, complex, peaceful and totally secured environments like we still have today in the Juaben Traditional Area.

We ought to ask how a people managed to build societies with no instrument of coercions (police, standing armies, navies et al) and yet remain peaceful and secure.

Farming is the main occupation of the citizens of Juaben. They cultivate both food and cash crops with cocoa and palm oil as the two main cash crops.

Led by their Chief, the Juabenhene, Nana Otuo Siriboe II, the people of Juaben have taken to palm oil cultivation on very large scale. I visited several large plantations, two of which belong to the Chief himself.

Rather than continue the practice of shipping resources out in their raw state, Nana Otuo Siriboe built the giant Juaben Oil Mill, complete with a refinery. The most unique feature of this modern industrial plant is that it is self-sufficient in its energy needs. The Mill installed a Steam Turbine that burn the waste products to produce more than 500kw of electricity. Thus, the mill not only runs its own operation on its own steam, it also supplies electricity to the Government Hospital, the water plant and for street lighting.


Femi Akomolafe Books, books by Femi Akomolafe, Femi Akomolafe, Articles by Femi Akomolafe, Yoruba names, yoruba, Yoruba culture, alaye.biz. femi akomolafe


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