Chapter II



          In the middle of the eighteenth century, Johannes Rask observed that Ga women were often to be seen attempting to sift gold from the river with wooden bowls. The maximum amount they collected was twelve shillings worth for a whole day work, but more often than not the obtained nothing.[1] This gold collected by the Ga women was obviously not the whole amount traded in Accra during the seventeenth century: since Accra had no gold mines, the commercial quantities of gold traded in the kingdom during the seventeenth century came from the gold producing hinterland. It was predominantly this which caused friction between the Ga and their neighbours. In essence, the role of the Ga was that of middleman, and consequently the prosperity of the kingdom of Accra lay in its ability to channel the flow of trade from the primary areas of production to the European trading forts on the Accra coast.

          At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Ga acted as oarsmen and interpreters for the inland gold producers who came to trade with the Europeans on the coast.Brun has left a detailed description of the relationship that existed the Ga and the inland traders. In 1614, he observed: “when the Ga go out to sea, they have canoes, skillfully constructed from a hollowed tree, in which twenty or more men are able to sit. They wear no clothing other than a small Quaquahy, with which they cover their loins and genitals, the rest of the body being quite naked. But the Akan traders, who may bring to this place out of Acania say 60 or 70 lbs weight of the best gold, have also an outer garment a cloth worn over the shoulders, and they arrive in a stately manner, wuth say 150 or more slaves. For the Akan have no horses, but the goods for which they sell their gold are very heavy, iron, copper, brass basins, beads, mattocks and other large knives. These things, the slaves have to carry home on their backs like donkeys. They know no other language than Akan and so they use an Accra as interpreter, who may thus cleverly deceive the visitors. They use weight of two kinds; when they are purchasing they use the heavier weights; and sell with the lesser. When, however, they come on board ship, they generally become sick for they are not strong by nature and are not used to seas storms. For this reason, they have to go back to dry land quickly, and the Accras are entrusted with the transaction which they carry out as required from them. When they bring the trade goods to land, the Akan are not so content with them, so they go back to the ship and fetch a little spirits, which is gratefully and copiously drunk, so that they fall silent and rest content.”[2]

          The policy of allowing the Akan access to the coast to trade directly with the Europeans was abandoned as a result of the rise of the Accra kingdom. In 1647, the Dutch Director-General, Van der Wel, complained that the people of Greater Accra would not agree to their request to allow the Accanists and other inland traders to travel through the beach to trade.[3] Dapper also remarked: “the King of Accra suffers none out of Aquemboe (Akwamu) and Aquimmera to come through his country to trade with our people, but reserves that freedom to his own subjects only, who carry the wares brought from our people to Abonce and exchange them there with great profit.[4]

          The King of Accra realized that his people would gain greater profit from the European presence if they had the monopoly of the trade on the coast and in its immediate hinterland. Through the monopolistic policy Accra exploited its position as both a coastal and an inland state. The kingdom of Accra stretched about twenty miles inland with its capital Ayawaso centrally situated eleven miles into the interior.

          Accra’s external trade was so organized that traders from the neighbouring states were not even allowed to carry on commerce in the capital Ayawaso. A barrier of at least twenty miles was set between the producers of the gold and the ultimate purchasers on the coast. A special market was established northwest of Accra: a Dutch map of 1629 refers to it as the A.B.C. market of Accra.[5] The market was situated about 21 miles from the coast and was doubtless the same one referred to by Dapper as Abonse, which he located as being two hours journey from Greater Accra.[6]

          Abonse was the market where the European goods such as cloth, basins, knives, gun and rum were exchanged for gold and slaves. In addition to the imported commodities, produce such as salt, fish and cattle were sold by the Ga in exchange for crops from the fertile inland regions. Dapper made a special reference to the cattle trade which was the principal occupation of the people of Labadi. According to his account, the trade of the inhabitants “consists chiefly in cows, whereof they breed some up themselves and others they fetch overland from Ley, a place eight or ten miles lower, which they sometimes sell again to the Akraman blacks and those of the upper most places.”[7]

          Abonse was a well organized market with its own minister assigned to regulate prices and levy taxes on transactions. It had specific market days, which according to Dapper were held three times a week, “with great resort of people out of all the neighbouring territories.”[8]

          Special market days must have been in existence in Accra even before the arrival of the Europeans on the coast. Towrson observed in 1657 that at Accra they would have no traffic with the Negroes, but three or four days in the week and all the rest of the week they would not come at us.”[9] Pieter De Marees, who visited the coast in 1601, remarked that the Ga “come not often to buy wares, but observe certain days in the week to that purpose and then they come with great store of money, bringing the gold as it is found in the hills.”[10] It is more than likely the Abonse market of the seventeenth century existed in the sixteenth century or at least was the successor to an earlier one which had existed on the northern frontiers of Accra.

          Among the neighbouring states who traded at the Abonse market were the Akyem on the north-western frontier, known by the Europeans as the Great Akany. Dapper remarked that the Akyem “rarely come to the coast to trade to trade with the whites but conduct their trade in gold, cloth and other wares with their neighbours to the north. The mainly go the Abonse near Akora (Sic) because they exchange most of their gold for European goods.”[11]

          On the northern frontier was Aboera, which can be identified with modern Aburi. Dapper claimed that “very much gold is found here which the inhabitants bring to the market at Abonse.”[12]

Further north was Tafoe, whose territory was excessively rich in gold and most of this gold is brought to Abonse. Some is occasionally brought to the sea side village of Moure.”[13] On the north-eastern frontier was Akaradi, which was said to possess “very much gold which the Akanier brought to the markets. The inhabitants take it to the market at Abonse.”[14] Further north-east was Kwahu, where “gold is also dug and taken to the market of Greater Accra for sale.

          Accra’s policy to prevent these inland traders from negotiating directly with the Europeans on the coast contrasts with the policy of the state on the Western part of the Gold Coast during the seventeenth century (Axim, Sbu, Fetu, Commenda and Fante). There, the Akan traders from the interior were allowed by the kings to come and trade with Europeans on the coast so long as they paid their tolls. These inland traders went so far as to establish pockets of trading colonies in the coastal states. In Cape Coast in 1680, a man referred to as “Captain of the Akanists” was one of the most influential people in the kingdom of Fetu.[15] Dapper also remarked that the Akanists “bring two-third of the gold which the whites buy on the Gold Coast each year. Normally, they come to little Kommando, Kormantin and especially to Moure to trade. Many of them live with their wives and children at Mouree and help new traders who come to the coast and have to pay customs duties on their goods. They are deceitful and cunning in trade. Their slaves carry the goods which they buy to various markets in the interior. They are able to travel anywhere with great freedom, though, Ati, Sabu and other surrounding territories, enjoy great freedom and are welcomed by everyone.”[16]

          The success of Accra’s monopolistic policy depended on the effective protection of her frontiers. Whilst there is no direct evidence to suggest that Accra had a special force to protect its people from intrusion and smuggling, there is evidence indicating that Accra had toll collectors on the major trade routes.[17] One can therefore surmise that these toll collectors would have been backed by some sort coercive power so as to avoid the possibility of being overpowered by larg groups of foreign traders.

          The success of Accra’s trading policy also depended, to some extent, on the absence of alternative markets and trade routes within the immediate vicinity of the kingdom. The eastern frontier created no problems, because the kingdom stretched right Adanme land to the Vlta.[18] However, the western and northern frontiers did present difficulties and brought Accra into conflict with Agona, Latebi and Akwamu.

          West of Accra was the kingdom of Agona, a stretch of coast which had likewise attracted European traders in the second half of the sixteenth century. For example, in 1557, the English merchant Towrson traded for gold in Bireku and Winneba.[19] Agona’s trade with the Europeans suffered a lapse at the beginning of the seventeenth century, for example, in 1601, De Marees remarked that the Frenchmen ‘used to’ anchor at Bireku and the Breku used to buy great store of iron but since the ships had stopped trading there, the inhabitants travelled to Accra to trade.[20] Although Agona may have ceased to attract the Europeans traders, she certainly carried on trade with her neighbours. De Marees observed that at Winneba the inhabitants use great traffique along the coast by selling their cattle; and because that there are many proper women; drivers of Negroes come from other places of the county thither to buy women and to fetch slaves to serve their turnes

Withal.”[21] Dapper also remarked that the Agona had “but small trade for European wares and is therefore, little frequented. The best dealing is for slaves of Breku with the akerache (Accra) merchants which come thither, who exchange them for serges, viz a piece of serge for a slave or else two ounces of gold.”[22]

          To remedy to this paucity of European trade in Agona, the king allowed the English to build a trading lodge at Winneba. In 1656, the Dutch also claimed they had been invited by the King of Agona to build at Winneba.[23] It is clear that by the mid-seventeeth century, Agona started to attract the European traders. Barbot observed in the second half of the seventeeth century that Accra and Agona “are well seated for trade, when they are not at war with their neighbours, for when they are, there is little gold and few slaves to be had.” He further commented: “the Accra blacks come down to this coast to trade, when they hear the ships riding , that had a well sorted cargo, of such goods as they have occasion for, viz.: says, old sheets, cosvelt linen, bugles, iron and brandy.”[24]

          It appears that the kingdom of Accra became jealous of this revival of European trade in Agona. Accra’s policy towards Agona was hostile but the latter seemed to tolerate this hostility, probably, for fear of being completely subjugated. By 1634, Accra had already incorporated the Agona town of little Bereku, Which was famous for the manufacture of arms, into the kingdom of Accra.[25] In 1655 however, war finally broke between the Ga and the Agona as a result of Accra’s aggression. It was reported by the Dutch upper factor Isaac Shutt that “through some crss  (accras) there,great disturbances had arisen, who going about Obu (Obutu?) came and plundered the corn of the agunas, about which being many times warned, they would not, however, cease so that the Agunas have massacred twelve of them and wounded three.”[26]

          Ga raids on Agona had another underlying factor, which was more immediately important than commercial jealousy. Accra suffered from intermittent shortage of food. Dapper remarked that provision in Accra was very “scarce, especially fruits and bread-corn, so that whatever whites put into this place to trade must of necessity provide themselves well with all necessary provisions.”[27]  In 1640, the Dutch Director-General, Arent Jacobsen Van Amersfort, noted: “there is a bad harvest again at Accra from which it is feared much would perish. The port of Accra had produced nothing for months. It appears that the traders are so impoverished through the famine and not six marks gold a month has been received.”[28] Oral tradition likewise talks of a great famine which the Ga so severely that when it finally ended it became an occasion for a national celebration, Homowo, during which the ghosts of the ancestors were invited to share in the feast.”[29]

          In contrast to the scarcity to food in Accra, Agona was endowed with abundant supplies. De Marees observed that “the country people (Agona) thereabout are good husband men, and sow much millie, presse good store of palm wine and bring great number of young cattle up.[30]” the Ga therefore capitalized on this abundance by raiding Agona corn whenever there was food shortage in Accra.

          In 1655, Agona used these on their corns as a justification for finally settling the Ga menace on its eastern frontiers. They were probably incited to open war by a promise to help the Ga’s traditional enemies, the Akwamu, and indeed evidence records that the Akwamu did become allies of the Agona in this war. In 1637, it was reported by the Dutch Director-General, Valckenburgh, that trade had been especially bad at Accra “though the war of the Agunase (Agonas) who has laid waste the whole country of Accra and laid it in ashes.”[31]

          Valckenburgh’s report somewhat exaggerated the state of affairs that existed in Accra in 1657. It is more than likely that the Agona only succeeded in burning some of the Ga towns, rather than laying waste to the whole of Accra. If the Agona’s defeat of Accra had been so decisive, the war would doubtless have ended at this stage and peace would have been established. Valckenburgh mistakenly interpreted the long duration of the war as due to the fact that “the blacks have a custom that they must win or lose twice in succession ere they make peace.”[32] Evidently, Valckenburgh misunderstood the local custom, whereby it was only when the warring parties were equally matched and the battle was indecisive, that they needed to secure to consecutive victories to be acknowledged undisputed victors.

          In essence, the long duration of the Ga-Agona war can be attributed to the fact that other states were invited to join as allies. For example, in response to the Agona-Akwamu alliance the Ga won the support of the Akyem. In the course of the war valckenburgh reported: “The King of Agona in alliance with Akwamu a district situated behind Accra, is waging war against Accra, against whom the Acrase who have those of Akyem or Great Acanis to their assistance were stirring in the interior in the hindrance of the trade at the aforenamed place, which has indeed fallen badly to our (Dutch) share that we have given them over to God to pacify the war of which there is little probability. However, our diary can testify to the trouble we have already for a long time taken therein in the hopes that the king of Agona being of Minse descent would let himself be persuaded by means of the aforesaid Minse. Accra shows itself disposed but it is idle and beyond our power to place obstacles in the way of the war, for furtherance of peace….it is best that the contending partiesshow themselves to be tired and they will then arrange themselves.”[33]

          By February 1659, Agona had expressed her willingness for a peace settlement. On 4th February in this same year, Valckenburgh recorded in his diary that he called up the Caboceers of Elmina and informed them that the King of Agona “would now be glad to accept their mediation, rejected by him to pacify him with Aquim and Accra”[34] and that the peace settlement should take place before Valckenburgh’s departure from the Gold Coast. The Caboceers in turn informed Valckenburgh that a similar request had been put to them on behalf of the King of Agona, and “as he was descended from among them they would therefore also gladly concern themselves in the matter but not without being paid for their trouble because of that and they would likewise send a message to the Agona king about this.” The Caboceers, therefore, requested Valckenburgh, “to have the Accra King sounded about it” by the Dutch factor in Accra.[35] It appears that this peace between Accra and Agona was short-lived, for in 1677 the latter once more allied with Akwamu against Accra.

          The problem of Accra’s northern frontiers is further highlighted in her relationship with both Latebi and Akwamu. Latebi, which appears on 1629 map as situated northeast Accra, is now modern Late in Akuapem. An oral tradition recorded by Meyerowitz relates that the Late people were immigrants from Binin who founded the early settlements of La Doku Labadi. As a result of a quarrel between the La, the Nungua and the Ga Mashi, a chief of the La known as Fianko Adeyite led a majority of his people and settled some thirty or forty miles inland.[36]Kwamena Poh also relates that the Late Kubease people claim to have emigrated from Benin whilst the Late Ahenease people trace the migration of their ancestors from the coast between Tema and Labadi.[37]

          The author’s collection of oral tradition from Labadi indicates that the Late people originally formed part of Labadi. Whilst in Labadi, their leader Late was unusually fond of cuasing the death of pregnant women. The Lakpa priest was so enraged at this obstruction to the population growth of the Las that he exiled Late together with his followers into the hills to join the Guan. This incident is commemorated in the Kple song:


          “Otwi be in bo le.”[38]


The exiled Late and his followers were called Labadi by the Ga, i.e. Late’s children. From these records of oral tradition it is probable that the Late are a mixture of Ga but with Guan as the predominant element.

          The position of Latebi or Late on the 1629 map coincides with the old settlement of the Late Ahenease. According to Late Ahenease tradition, (recorded by Kwamena-Poh), they settled “at the eastern foot of the Akuapem hills, a place they called Mantim, in a number of small settlements in the area where Ayikuma and other nearby Shai towns are today. These were thirty in all.”

          The strategic position of Latebi on the eastern foot of the Akuapem hills made it an ideal place for market centre. According to Dapper, Latebi had “a great fair or market wither all sorts of wares are brought; much exceeded by that of Abonse.”[39]  In essence, Latebi provided the inland traders with an alternative market to Abonse. More importantly, it also meant that prices in Abonse market could be modified by prices in Latebi.

          The kingdom of Accra was determined to control or destroy the Latebi market, so as to ensure that their monopoly over the inland trade was absolute. On 27th October 1646, the Dutch Director-General Van de Wel received a report from the fiscal Hendrick Caarloff detailing how the of Small and Greater Accra had marched together to make war on the people of Latebi. There had been a severe battle on the 22nd October which had resulted in the defeat of Latebi. One thousand heads were brought in by the Ga, and they promised that their victory would be very favourable for trade.[40]  Although the Latebi were defeated in this war, it seems that the Ga were not able to gain the complete control over trade which they had desired. Moreover, the issue of Latebi became a question of some contention between Accra and her northern neighbour Akwamu.[41]

          The history of the Akwamu prior to their settlement in the Ga hinterland has not documented. However, Ivor Wilks, basing his evidence on the Akwamu oral tradition, suggests: “the Akwamu royal clan, Abrade, claims to have originated from Twifo. Earliest documentary sources for Akwamu history, however, belong to the seventeenth century, when the Akwamu state was already constituted in something like its present form, though at that time, it was alternatively known as Oquie, i.e. Okwi.[42]

          The Akwamu are remembered in Ga oral tradition as strangers who were given land, Nyansoase, on which to settle.[43]  Romer wrote in the middle of the eighteenth century that the Akwamu “came to the King of Accra, asking for his friendship, which they got, and were allowed to settle a little inland four miles from the sea. Within half a century, they became a great people.”[44]

The story suggesting that the Akwamu were offered land by the Ga, differs from that which Rask recorded at the beginning of the eighteenth century. According to him, it was the Akanists (Akyem) who “out of kindness” granted a part of their country to the Akwamu for settlement.[45]

          Regardless of whoever granted Akwamu the land on which they settled, there is no doubt that a close relationship existed between the Akwamu at Nyansoase and the Ga. The relationship was at first that of vassal and suzerain, and indeed Tilleman remarked at the end of the seventeenth century that the Akwamu had had to pay tribute to the King of Accra until at least 1677.[46] Likewise, Reindorf, basing his account on oral tradition remarked that, “in every yearly grand feast of the Accra king, the chiefs of Obutu and Akwamu were his hammock carriers, or, at any rate, the chiefs over these carriers.”[47]

          Romer records the story of the Akwamu prince being sent to the King of Accra to ‘learn something’ but does not give any date for the presence of this Akwamu prince in the King of Accra’a court.[48] He does, however, state that whilst the prince, later nicknamed Akotia, was in the court of the Accra King that the Portuguese arrived in Accra.[49] Akwamu oral tradition credits Akotia with the founding of Nyansoase,[50] which means that Nyanaoase must have been founded in the second half of the sixteenth century. This idea is supported by archaeological evidence, for, according to Ozanne’s report on excavations in Nyanaoase, the site was settled at the end of the sixteenth century.[51]Ivor Wilks postulates that the Akwamus were encouraged by the Ga to settle on their northern frontier in order to exchange and consolidate trade in the Accra kingdom. He suggests: “to Akotia, aware of the vaue of the Accra gold trade, and with a firsthand acquaintance with the pattern of the Akan-Portuguese commerce in the Accra area, resettlement at Nyanaoase under Accra patronage was obvious way of insinuating the Akwamu into the venture. To the Accras, permitting the Akwamu to settle at Nyanaoase as tribute paying clients, not only was there an immediate gain in revenue, but also the chance to utilize the newcomers in strengthening the northern frontier.”[52]

          If strengthening of her northern frontiers was Accra’s motive for encouraging the Akwamu immigrants to settle in Nyanaoase, then the Ga must have been disappointed. By 1646, the Akwamu no longer behaved as tribute paying vassals of Accra. Conversely, they had managed to establish control over a substantial part of the northern frontier of Accra. Describing the Akwamu (Oquy) in 1656, the Dutch fiscal Caarloff stated: “the kingdom lies three or four miles north of Greater Accra, is bounded in the west by the Fantyn (Fante) district and running further to the East of Accra as far as Aquimena, and includes Latebi which this king of Oquy claims to be his, and extends northwards up to the district of Acany; and although this Oquy king has received some gold from the Accras (Ga) in order that the Latebes might freely pass to the Cras without his opposition…there is no great love between the Oqys and the Accras…”[53]

          It is significant that it was the Ga who had to pay gold to the King of Akwamu in order that the Latebi should have unhindered passage to Accra.this is surprising when one considers that it was Accra which had defeated Latebi.[54]

          The payment of gold by Accra to Akwamu does not necessarily mean, as suggested by Ivor Wilks,[55] that by 1646 Latebi had been drawn into the Akwamu power complex. Kwamena-Poh, basing his argument on Romer, Reindorf, Biiorn and further archaeological evidence, has established that it was only after the Ga had been defeated in 1681 that the Akwamu started ruling the Latebi.[56] Kwamena-Poh’s hypothesis means that either the Ga were able to re-establish control over Latebi after a temporary lapse in 1646 or else the Akwamu threat from 1646 onwards was limited to a desire to control the trade route from Latebi to Accra rather than a complete ownership of Latebi. In fact Kwamena-Poh describes the Akwamu menace in 1646 as “a mere economic blockade of Accra.”[57]

          The Accra-Akwamu conflict shows that by 1646, the Akwamu had begun to move away from the position of vassals towards that of being a major threat to Accra on her northern frontier. Further Akwamu-Ga hostility was displayed in 1656-9, when the former allied with Agona in war against the latter.[58] However, the hostility between the kingdom of Accra and Akwamu only erupted into open warfare in 1677

          Reindorf suggests an earlier date for this war. According to his sources, Okai Kwei committed suicide in the war against Akwamu on 20th June 1660, when he realized the treachery of the generals in the field of battle.[59] This date, however, is untenable. It was the same Okai Kwei who signed an agreement with the Danish African Company in 1661,[60] and he was certainly still alive the Danish representative Cornellisson left Acrra in 1667. Moreover, thirteen years after cornellisson’ departure from Accra he sent a letter and presents to Okai Kwei.[61] The period is long enough for Cornellisson to have heard of Okai Kwei’s death if he had died immediately after the Danish representative’s departure from Accra in 1667.

          Conversely, Barbot, a French trader who in February 1679 visited his friend “King Fouri” at Little Accra, dates the defeat of the kingdom of Accra to 1680-1681.[62] Finally, Eric Tilleman, a Danish trader who was in Accra in the 1690s and was sent on a mission to the Akwamu capital in 1698, dates the Ga-Akwamu war to the year 1677.[63] From these sources one can deduce that the Ga-Akwamu war must have started in 1677 and ended in 1680.

          Accorsing to Reindorf, the Ga-Akwamu war was caused by Okai Kwei’s error in following the advice of his councilors and circumcising the Akwamu prince Odei whilst he was staying at his court in Great Accra. The circumcision was performed so as to enable prince Odei to participate in the ceremonies associated with the king’s court and with the worship of the Ga gods. The councilors who advised Okai Kwei on the circumcision obviously wanted to incite trouble between Okai Kwei and the Akwamu, because they would have been aware that circumcised people were not allowed on the throne of Akwamu. As soon as Pince Odei had been circumcised, the Ga chiefs, led by the warlord Nikoilai, informed the Akwamu of the circumcision and pledged to help them to get rid of the ‘perfidious’ Okai Kwei. Prince Odei was consequently recalled to Akwamu, where his people noticed the circumcision and bypassed him in the succession to the throne and instead made Ansa Sasraku King of Akwamu. Both Odei and Ansa Sasraku persisted in demanding from Okai Kwei the restoration of his foreskin, which obviously proved to be an impossible feat. As a result of his failure, Okai Kwei convened a meeting of his generals and chiefs, who advised him to send a general “to plunder the Akwamu.” Hence, war inevitably started the Ga and Akwamu.[64]

          Reindorf’s account was partly based upon Romer’s 18th century rendition of the same incident.[65] Romer states that due to the loss of his foreskin, the circumcised Prince was nicknamed Akotia (the midget, the short) by his subjects. He also states that the Akwamu Prince was sent to the Accra King’s court when the Akwamu were given the land on which they settled. He further more makes it quite clear that the Ga King who circumcised the Aakwamu Prince was not the one who later fought against the Akwamu.

          It has already been stated that Nyanaoase was settled by the Akwamu at the close of the sixteenth century.[66] Romer’s account therefore, makes the circumcision of the Akwamu Prince a late sixteenth century or early seventeenth century episode. Romer’s narration also implies that OkaiKwei, who succeeded to the Ga throne after his father had been murdered in 1642, was not responsible of Akotia’s circumcision, as stated by Reindorf.

          The dating of this circumcision episode based upon Romer’s narration is marginally more acceptable than that of Reindorf’s. The plausibility of Romer’s account is based on the notion that certain conditions must be necessary before any state will send its heir apparent to another state to learn their customs. Either the host state is suzerain over the kingdom of the heir-apparent and therefore can perhaps demand him as security against rebellion in the vassal state, or else there must be cordiality and trust between the two states.

          However, it has already been stated that by 1646 the Akwamu had moved from being vassal of Ga to being threat to the kingdom of Accra on its northern frontier. The Ga even had to pay gold to the Akwamu to allow the Late traders access to Accra.[67] In this same year, it was stated categorically by Hendrick Caarloff that “there is no great love between the Oqis (Akwamu) and the Accras because some years ago, the Accras had killed this king’s father.[68] If this truly was the case, why would the Akwamu send their heir-apparent to the court of such a king to study? One should also bear in mind the fact that the Akwamu allied with the Agona to fight the Ga from 1655-59.[69] In short, Akwamu-Ga relations from the 1640s onwards were anything but cordial. Ti is very doubtfull whether the Ga would have tolerated the presence of an Akwamu heir-apparent in their court in the second half of the seventeenth century, as it would have been tantamount to the Ga exposing their weaknesses and the intricacies of government to their enemy. Moreover, it is possible that it was the very circumcision of Prince Odei that the Akwamu referred to as an act murder in 1646. It was stated that Akotia was never able to gain complete control over his subjects due to the loss of his foreskin. He was even compelled to promise at an assembly that he would regain his foreskin from the King of Accra. He consequently sent messages to the King of Accra to bring his foreskin together with a fetish priest to restore it to its original place.[70] This loss would have tormented Akotia to his grave. Both the Ga and Akan have a belief that sorrow can cause death.

                   Dele gbeE Me.

                   Grief kills.

                   Awerehow kum sumsum.

                   Grief kills the soul.

          Although Akotia was unable to settle this problem with the Ga before his death, his successors must have continued to nurse his grievance. This antagonism towards the Ga would have been compounded by Accra’s rigorous economic policy, which forbade the Akwamu access to the coast. In short, the circumcision, if it did occur all, was a remote rather than an immediate cause of the Ga-Akwamu war of 1677-80.

          The chronological confusion in the presentation of Reindorf’s account is probably due to the fact that he collected his oral tradition more than a hundred years after Romer, and so the information he received had undergone the modifications and omissions typical of such evidence. In Reindorf’s time, Okai Kwei had probably become so unpopular that any inauspicious events in Ga history would be attributed to him even if the events had occurred long before his reign. The existence of this kind of false accusation among the local people is summed up in the Akan proverb:

                   “Ade se prako”

                   Evil befits the pig.

          In reality, the pretext for the Ga-Akwamu war of 1677-80 was provided by the Ga generals. According to oral tradition, Okai Kwei’s son murdered the son of Nikoilai, the great Ga general. Instead of Okai Kwei apologizing for the murder, he treated Nikoilai as if the deed were triviality.[71] Nikoilai in revenge plotted with the other Ga generals to get rid of Okai Kwei. He managed to amass this support because of Okai Kwei’s wickedness. He is remembered in Ga tradition as a cruel king, son of cruel mother Dede Akaibi,[72] i.e. “kaa fEE loofiE”, “the crab does not beget a bird.” He encouraged his son to perform hostile and barbarous acts on his subjects. For example, they were said to have murdered the sons of the Ga chiefs and seduced other men’s wives.

          Nokoilai and his fellow conspirators sought the aid of Akwamu in order to get rid of the tyrant Okai Kwei. They promised that if Akwamu declared war against the Accra king, they would not fire their guns against the Akwamu army. However, the Akwamu saw this offer in a very different light, regarding it as an opportunity for a complete defeat of the kingdom of Accra. Thus, whilst the Ga saw the conspiracy on 1677 as a coup d’état with Akwamu aid against a despotic king, the Akwamu saw it as an open war to be waged against the kingdom of Accra. The Akwamu therefore begun to look for allies in case the Ga generals should change their minds during the battle. The hired the Agona and the Acron for this purpose. More importantly, they also purchased the neutrality of the Akyem, supposed allies of the Ga.

          Okai Kwei, although aware of the Akwamu preparations for war, did not take any effective counter-measures. Instead, he treated the Akwamu threat with contempt, firstly because his soldiers were well armed and secondly, more importantly, his army outnumbered the Akwamu and their allies by ten to one.[73] Okai Kwei was obviously not aware of the conspiracy of his generals, he is said to have cursed the Ga and committed suicide.[74] With his death, the Ga naively thought that the war would be over. It was only when they realized that the Akwamu were bent upon their complete annihilation that they started to take the war seriously. However, instead of uniting together to face the Akwamu onslaught, they broke into disputing parties over who should succeed Okai Kwei.

          According to Romer, there were a number of pretenders to the throne, each of which was backed by armed supporters.[75] This disputed succession was probably the reason why Ofori, whom Barbot referred to as King of Accra in 1679, chose to have his residence in Small Accra under the Dutch fort Crevecoeur, instead of at the capital Ayawaso.[76] At least on the coast he would have felt secured from his warring rivals and the endemic menace posed by the Akwamu.

          The three European companies residing in Accra inevitably became involved in the war. The very fact that King Ofori chose to live under the Dutch fort shows that he had considerable faith in their support. In 1679 the English ship ‘Isabella’ was sent from Cape Coast to help in the “realizing of Ofori, king of Accra.”[77] The Danes likewise thwarted an Akwamu attempt to capture Osu.[78] The English and the Dutch either changed sides during the war or diplomatically supported both Akwamu and the Ga. Tilleman commented that the English and Dutch, unlike the Danes, complied with every whim and fancy of the Akwamu.[79] In July 1680, the English sent fusees to Ansa Sasraku, King of Akwamu, as presents. Furthermore in September they lent him one hundred muskets and four barrels of gun powder for his final attack upon the Ga.[80]

          The Akwamu finally succeeded in taking possession of the kingdom of Accra in 1680. According to Romer, the took advantage of the disputes among the Ga and fought three battles in one year which ended in the total defeat of the Ga.[81] The king’s sister along with her two children and a few slaves escaped and fled eastwards to Little Popo.[82] In Barbot’s account, King Ofori fled to Fetu, because he was a near relation of the Fetu King Ahen Penin Asirifi.[83] It is likely that Ofori later left Fetu to join his subjects and kinsmen in their new settlement across the Volta.

          In 1698 Tilleman made reference to a King Ofori of Little Popo, one of the new settlements founded by the fugitive Ga.[84] Bosman likewise made reference to ‘Aforri’, a deceased King of Little Popo who he described as being very warlike in contrast to his brother who was a man of peaceful disposition and who was ruling at the time when Bosman visited Little Popo.[85] Bosman’s description of the late King Ofori’s character corresponds with Barbot’s description of King Ofori of Accra in 1679. According to Barbot, Ofori was “a man of good mien, a great friend of Europeans but of too restless a spirit which at last occasioned his ruin.”[86]

          Oral tradition collected from Fio Agbano II, paramount ruler and descendent of the Ga who left Accra to found the new settlement in the present day Republique du Togo, suggests that, in the wake of the defeat of the Ga, two Princes, Foli Bebe and Foli Hemazro, took two thrones from Accra to their new settlements, one made of ivory and the other of “ebene incrute d’or.” The two princes were men of opposite temperament. One was calm and peace-loving and the other irascible. Foli Bebe and his followers founded Glidzi, whilst Foli Hemzro took the thrones and hid them at Zewla, six kilometers from Glidzi. The two brothers visited the king of Tado, who received them kindly and gave them permission to settle. After Foli Bebe and his brother founded their settlements, other Ga refugees came to join them. The leaders of these different groups of Ga refugees founded a number of straggling settlements amongst the Ewe inhabitants.[87] Among the settlements founded by the Ga refugees were Glidzi, the capital and present abode of the paramount ruler, situated about three miles inland Zewla, where the stools brought in by the Ga were kept and still in hiding, and Aneho, the sea side settlement and port also known since the seventeenth century as Little Popo.

          The Ga refugees did not live peacefully in their new settlements. According to Bosman, their main enemies were the Cotosians, who occupied the eastern bank of the Volta. Both Popo and Coto were hired by the Akwamu to help them in their wars against each other, and in some cases the Akwamu forces inevitably found themselves fighting on opposite side. This was particu;arly true during the period when Akwamu was ruled by two kingd, Basua and Ado, the former bacing Popo, the latter Coto. In 1700, the Popo touted the Coto and forced them to leave the country. However, the Coto were reinstated on their land when Akonor became King of Akwamu in 1702.[88]

          Popo, under the leadership of warlike King Ofori, became involved in the wars of the Dahomean coast. According to Bosman, in response to a call for help from the King of Ardra (Allada), Ofori led a punitive expedition against the “Fidalgo, or Viceroy of Offra”, vassalof Adra. Another call for aid from the Adra King involved an expedition against the Whydah. However, due to the fact that a convoy of reinforcements sent to King Ofori was attacked by the enemy, this campaign was ultimatively unsuccessful. Consequently, Ofori had to make a fast retreat from Whydah back to Popo. On his return to Popo he decided to punish his old enemies of Coto, who were said to have attacked his kingdom during his absence. It was during this war with Coto that Ofori met his death. His brother and successor duly avenged this death on the Coto.[89]

          According to the traditional sources, Foli Babe’s younger son of Assiongbon Dadje, who was also warlike and restless, left Popo and became a general in the Dahomean army.[90] However, he became the object of jealousy in the Dahomean capital because of the many successful expeditions he had led against the enemies of Dahomey. He finally escaped a plot to assassinate him and fled back to Popo with a section of the Dahomean army. An ensuing expedition sent by the King of Dahomey to capture Assiongbon was completely routed.

          The oral tradition describing these events is supported by wider documentary evidence. In 1737, the Danes reported that the kingdom of Ardra and Whydah were at war with the Popo and had pursued them as far as Keta, where the Dutch had a fort. The Dutch later reported that the Dahomean army had ruined their fort at Keta. This army was in pursuit of Ashanmo (Asjembo), a Caboceer of Little Popo who had affronted them and subsequently fled to an island in the Volta River. Ashanmo joined forces with his cousin, described as “a certain Accra man named Ofori Caboceer of the Crom Ocoy”, and together with the Crepe, they surrounded the Dahomean army and totally defeated them. On this incident the Dutch Director-General De Bordes commented: “the only consolation that we have, however, in this lamentable occurance (i.e. the destruction of the Dutch fort at Keta) is that the United Accras have fallen upon these plunders and defeated them, yes indeed of the 13,000 Dahomean men, not a single one was able to escape.”[91] After the defeat of the Dahomean forces, ashanmo was able to gain control of the area from Little Popo to Keta and beyond, possibly to the mouth of River Volta.[92] The Popo were said to live on the proceeds from slave-raiding expeditions against neighbouring states. They established a notorious reputation amongst the European companies for cruelty and dishonesty in their trade transactions. Bosman went so far as to describe tham as “fraudulent and thievish.”[93]

          The fugitive Ga maintained a strong relationship with those who remained in Accra after 1680. Popo and the neighbouring towns became an Asylum for the Ga whenever trouble arose with the Akwamu (especially in 1708 and 1724, when Accra was invaded by the Akwamu forces).[94] The exiled Ga also gave active help in punishing those who offended their kinsmen in Accra. For example, in 1725 the Danish lodge at Keta was attacked, because It was believed that the Danish Governor Hern had invited the Akwamu to invade Accra.[95] More fundamentally, the fugitive Ga also showed their willingness to subsidise the rebellion, which resulted in the collapse of Akwamu power in 1730.[96] In return for such generosity in spirit, the Ga exiles expected reciprocal aid from Accra when necessary. For example in 1758, King Ashanmo sent an embassy to Tete, King of Accra and his Caboceer Okaidza, to ask for help against Dahomean threat.[97]

          Such were the fortunes of the Ga people who fled from Accra after the Akwamu war of 1680. Those however, who chose to remain in Accra had to adapt themselves to a very different environment. In 1680 the Ga capital Greater Accra had been destroyed, and consequently the inhabitants were obliged to go and live under the protection of the European forts, or to move to other Ga coastal towns. According to Barbot, it was only the presence of European forts that saved the Ga from complete annihilation at the hands of the Akwamu: “had they wanted for that secure retreat, few or none of them had been left alive or at best in any condition to drive the trade they now have.”[98]

          Of all the coastal towns, it was Aprag[99] or Little Accra, which suffered the worst Akwamu devastation. Aprag, which lay under the protection of the Dutch fort, was the town where King Ofori used to have his residence. However, during the attack most of the houses were burnt down and lost. Bloome, an English factor at Accra, remarks in his memoirs of 1693 that the Ga town Soko[100] (which lay under the protection of the English fort) was “one of the finest and largest of the Gold Coast”. This was because Soko had been enlarged by a number of families who had fled to the town from Aprag.[101] By 1697, however, the other towns Aprag and Osu must have improved, for Tilleman observed that Aprag could produce 500 armed men and Osu 300, as compared to only 60 which could be produced by Soko.[102]

          In the aftermath of the Ga defeat in 1680, came far-reaching changes in the social and political structure of the kingdom of Accra. A certain Nii Ayi (son of Okai Kwei’s sister by a man of the royal house) emerged as king of the remnant Ga. To allay people’s fears as to his eligibility to rule he composed the kple song:

                             “AtseE mi Tunma Ayi Ablade

                             Nhie Ablade, nsee Ablade”

                             “I am Tunma Ayi of royal birth,

                             I am Royal on both sides.”[103]


          Nii Ayi, who had his residence in Aprag (Usshertown), was unable to wield any lasting influence over the Ga towns. Instead, each individual town, under the leadership of its petty ruler, acknowledged the supremacy of the Akwamu king. The former kingdom of Accra had become an agglomeration of separate units, which although still bound[104] together by kinship, language and customary ties, had to acknowledge the King of Akwamu as its suzerain.


[1] Johannes Rask: En Sandferdig Reise Beskrivelse till og fra Guinea. (Tronhjem 1754) pg. 83

[2] Brun, op.cit. pg.28.

[3] Furley Collection N4 1646-47, Director-General Van der Wel to the Assembly of XIX, 18th March 1647

[4] O. Dapper, in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.435

[5] See map.

[6] O. Dapper, in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.435

[7] Ibid. pg, 436

[8] Ibid. pg, 435

[9] Astley, op.cit. pg. 173

Hakluyt, 155

[10] Pieter De Marees in Purchas, op.cit. pg.304

[11] A. Van Dantzig and K.Y. DAARKU, A provisional translation of the extract from O. Dapper (German edition, Amsterdam 1670) G.N.Q. Vol. 9, pg. 17

[12] Ibid. pg. 17

[13] Ibid. pg. 17

[14]Ibid. pg. 17

[15] V.G.K. 77 Breve og documenter og Udgaede 1624, 1659-80. Presenterne til Kongerne og deriss ministries pa Guldkysten; I Guinea. Indkomme April 1680

[16] Dapper in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.440

[17] Supra pg.

[18]Supra pg.

[19]Supra pg.

[20]De Marees, op.cit. pg.303-440

[21] Ibid. pg. 303

[22]  Dapper in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.434

[23] Furlay Collection. Dutch records 1610-57. Reply to Valckenburgh’s letter from Lanclot Staveley, English principal, 30th November 1657.

[24] Barbot, op.cit. pg. 181

[25] Supra pg.

[26] Furley Collection, N6, 1653-55: Journal of Louys Daraert, 3rd February, 1655

[27] Dapper in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.434

[28] Furley Collection, N3, 1639-45, Direcror-General Arent Jacobsen Van Amersfot, Elmina to count Marits of Nassau and the Council, Brazil, 20th November 1640

[29] From the author’s collection of oral tradition.

[30] De Marees in purchas, op.cit. pg.303

[31] Furley Collection, N7, 1656-57. Direcotr-General Valckenburgh, Elmina to the Assembly of XIX, 13th July 1657.

[32] Inid. Same to Same, 13th July 1657.

[33] Ibid. N6 1658-59, report of Director-General Valckenburgh, September 1659.

[34] Ibid. Valckenburgh’s diary entry, 4th February 1659

[35] Ibid. Same entry

[36] E. Meyerowitz: the Akan Traditions of Origin (London 1952) pg. 77-78

[37] M. A. Kwamena-Poh: Government and Politics in the Akuapem state 1730-78 (unpublished M. A. Thesis (London 1968) pg. 274

[38] Interview and songs by Lomo Aku, priestessof Labadi. It is difficult to translate this kple line because the language seems to be archaic. The author was given the story of Late’s wicked deeds when she asked the meaning of the kple line.

[39] M. A. Kwamena-Poh: Government and Politics in the Akuapem state 1730-78 (unpublished M. A. Thesis (London 1968) pg. 274


[40] Dapper in Ogilby, op.cit. pg.434

[41] Furley Collection, N4 1646-47, Journal sent by the ship ‘Haerlem’  to the Assembly of XIX, entry 27th October 1646

[42] See pg.

[43] Ivor Wilks. Akwanu 1650-1750. A Study in the Rise and Fall of a West African Empire, Appendix II, pg. 202

[44] Authors collection of oral tradition.

[45] Romer, 117

[46] Eric Tilleman? En liden enfolding berretning om det landskab Guinea (Copenhagen 1697) pg. 103

[47] Reindorf, op, cit. pg 59

[48] Romer , op, cit. pg 59

[49] Inbid. Pg. 117-118

[50] Ivor Wilks: Akotia and the settlement at Nyanaose  (unpublished paper)

[51] P. Ozanne: The Early Historic Archaeology of Accra, THSG, Vol. VI, 1962, PG.69

[52] Ivor Wilks: Abrade clients, Accra patrons (unpublished paper)

[53] Furley Collection, N4, 1646-47, Journal sent by the ship ‘Haerlem’  to the Assembly of XIX, entry 16th November 1646

[54] Supra pg.

[55] Ivor Wilks, Akwamu 1650-1750 op.cit, ph 101

[56] Kwamena-Poh, op.cit. pg. 48-53

[57] Ibid.

[58] Supra pg.

[59] Reindorf, op, cit. pg 22

[60] Supra pg.

[61] Supra pg.

[62] Barbot, op.cit. pg.182

[63] Tilleman, op.cit. pg.103

[64] Reindorf, op, cit. pg 20-21

[65] Romer,

[66] Supra pg.

[67] Supra pg

[68] Furley Collection, N4, 1646-47, Journal sent by the ship ‘Haerlem’  to the Assembly of XIX, entry 16th November 1646

[69] Supra pg


[70] Romer,

[71] Reindorf, op, cit. pg

[72] Supra pg

[73] Supra pg

[74] Romer,

[75] Romer,

[76] Barbot, op.cit. pg. 182

[77] PRO T 70/635/12, Bradley to R.A.C. 1679

[78] Tilleman, op.cit. pg. 104

[79] Ibid. pg.104

[80] PRO T 70/635/51/3, March, July, September 1680

T 70/16/76, Greenhill and Council to R.A.C. 27th October 1683

[81] Romer,

[82] Ibid. pg.120

[83] Barbot, op.cit. pg.182

[84] V.G.K. 120, Breve og documenter fra Guinea 1683-84, 1689, 1698-1705. Letter from Eric Tilleman after his trip to Little Popo, 15 December, 1698.

[85] William Bosman: A new and accurate description of the coast of Guinea (London, 1705) pg. 309-310

[86] Barbot, op.cit. pg.182

[87] Interview with Fio Agbano II; Alsowritten by the same mane in ‘Memoire sur l’histoire de petit Popo et du people ‘Ge’ et etude rapide sur les mœurs et coutumes du peuple Ga ou Mina (Lome 1934) Kue Agbota Gaba : The History of Anecho (1942 unpublished)

[88] Bosman, op.cit. pg. 306-307

Reindorf, op.cit. pg. 26. Reindorf identified the Coto with the Angula of Keta

[89] Bosman, op,cit. pg 332-3

[90] Fio Agbano II, Kue Agbota Gaba. Akinjobin: Dahomey and its neighbours (Cambridge 1967) pg. 105

Fio Agbano gives the name of Agadja Dossou as the reigning king of Dahomey during the presence of Assiongbon in Dahomey whilst Gaba gives the name of King Akpo. Both authors however maintain that the reigning king of Dahomey married Ayefoa, Assiiongbon’s sister. Akinjobin describes Ashanmo (Asjembo) as one of the ablest generals of Agaja.

[91] Furley Collection, N44 1731-39. Director-General De Bordes to Assembly of XIX entry Quita 4th October 1737. Declaration of the soldier Johan Joost Steirmark, entry Quita 4th December 1737.

V.G.K. 123: Breve of documenter fra Guinea 1732-45. Council Christianborg to Copenhagen, 13th july 1737.

[92] There is no clear-cut indication as to the western boundary of Ashanmo’s territory. It definitely stretched beyond Keta westwards to include a town called Angona.

V.G.K. 123: Breve of documenter fra Guinea 1732-45. Council Christianborg to Copenhagen, 30th March, 1744.

V.G.K. Diarie boger fort paa Christianborg 1744-54. Entries 2oth April, 9th and 17th July 1744.

[93] Bosman, 311

[94] See page

[95] See page

[96] Furley Collection, Dutch records 1757-62, from Blydenburg, Accra to Elmina, entry 11th November 1758.

[97] Barbot, op.cit.182

[98] Aprag is the old name given to present-day Ussher Town. Ussher Town was named after the English Governor Ussher, who was responsible for repairing and renovating Fort Crevecoeur after the Dutch possessions had been handed over to the English in 1872.

[100] Soko is probably a corruption of Tsoko, the present day fishing village situated about three miles from the English James Fort Castle. Soko was used to describe modern James Town.

[101] Bloome’s memoirs, supplement to Barbot, op.cit. pg 448

[102] Tilleman, op.cit. pg. 89, 90 and 97.

[103] Author’s collection of kple songs from the Olila Priestess