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Valsecchi, Pierluigi & Viti, Fabio (dir.). – Mondes Akan/Akan Worlds. Identité et pouvoir en Afrique occidentale/Identity and Power in West Africa. Paris-Montréal, L’Harmattan, 1999, 361 p., bibl.

Andreas Massing

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1The contributions to Akan Worlds center around the rise to power and its manifestations at various levels, from micro-level (local spirit cult, village, lineage) to macro-level (chiefdom or state). While the contributions deal with specific polities such as Nzima (2), Efutu (2), Bono (1), Baoule (2) and Ashanti (2), few deal with “integration by conquest” which was the dominant model of Akan expansion in the past. Chouin argues that cross-ethnic region-wide associations are neglected by research on ruling groups, and that change from matrilinear to patrilinear succession in Eguafo, NW of Elmina, occurred through such groups. The 17th century wars led kings to give their sons the leadership and appoint them, rather than their sister’s sons, as successors, under the influence of rival brothers and French missionaries as princely educators. This century saw the takeover of the Nsona from the Anona clan and transmission of the stool to their sons. Valsecchi presents a similar case of patrilinear succession in Appolonia. After unifying older polities around the Beyin and Adobo settlements it allied with the British to counter Asante conquests of Wassa and Akim Abuakwa. An agnatic group rose as British intermediaries and established Fort Appolonia in 1763. One of them succeded his father after paying his fines instead of his matriclan, and thus united paternal Appolonian ako and maternal Aowin oman (residence unit). In 1848 the British installed two subordinates, who created new royal lineages. Deffontaine documents a similar rise of intermediaries in Efutu since the 17th c.  Efutu, defeated by Fanti, disappears from the chronicles when Brempong Codjo from Adanse (Ekumfi) emerges as first omanhene of Oguaa (1729-1770). He was messenger of the Royal African Company, then translator, slave negotiator and finally chief caboceer who joined an Asemu/Akan coalition against the Efutuhene in 1694 until a pro-British Efutuhene was installed. With him wealth and political power shifted from inland to coast and was transmitted in the male line. Like elsewhere in Africa, commercial wealth here created city states independent of the surrounding territorial rulers. Pavanello analyses a land case in Beyin, Nzima, as a model for stool rights. Community-owned stool land includes wild resources and fallow lands. Ultimately titles to stool land are given by a superior stool to authorize settlement. Non-stool-owning families may have rights on stool land to cultivate virgin forest. Spirits must be pacified for them to enjoy titles without harm, but spirits only enjoy dwelling but no ownership rights–held by the superior stool of Beyin. Spirits may, in Nzima and among other Akan, interfere with human land occupation and impose certain ritual obligations on owners but cannot reduce property benefits. The powers of bozonle, the “genius loci” of land, rivers, hills or trees, are the theme of Duchesne. By making mutual protective alliances during land clearing the first settlers accepted restrictions by spirits on hunting, farming and even farming. But modernity brought outside planning of village infrastructure like roads, dams, schools and has profoundly changed the respect for local spirits and rituals. Specific bozonle power, that of an abusua (matriclan) is Schippiro’s subject. The spirit entered the owner’s son’s daughter after her death. She became healer and took the spirit’s paraphernalia, but the matriclan refused her permission to use the spirit and reclaimed it. Thus, spirits may “choose” their owner freely, but do not abrogate the abusua’s property rights. With non-clan members the transmission rules of spirit ownership specify also the division of benefits between the spirit-owning lineage and the beneficiary. As multi-dimensional phenomena spirit cults should not be reduced to therapeutic and naturalistic dimensions like Lewis and Lanternari do, but take into account the local socio-economic relations and knowledge. Perrot discusses lineage claims related to chieftaincy in Eotile, a lineage society which lost its language and chiefdom status after defeat by the Anyi of Sanwi. Eotile’s last chief was an outsider from Bonoua, who sought protection with a local spirit which “gave” him the chieftaincy. Local lineages tried to retake it, but could not undermine his legitimacy until after his death. Here like elsewhere in Africa competing legitimizations of power are relegated to the background by official power myths. Arhin traces the precolonial political and social integration of Akan groups into the Ashanti ruling estate (oman) which consisted of a bureaucracy, service-bearers (gyasefo) of the royal household, and a military organization (asafo), as instruments of the Asantehene’s supreme will rather than guarantees of common welfare. The gyasefo held appointments with fixed service conditions thereby differing from mere servants, and the royal household was almost synonymous with government. Gyasefo also received appointments to other Akan groups with territorial expansion. Akan government therefore was not democratic but exercised through a hierarchy of unequal status groups : stool-owning lineages, gyase (court personnel), younger lineages, co-opted foreigners and slaves. On the other hand the Abron state originated on the basis of “contracts among unequals” and “violence” according to Terray. Gyaman’s royal ancestors obtained land from Kwaku Busumbra, Fumasa chief from Juaben, and gave him control of certain villages. The dynasty made contracts with other strangers to reinforce its power. Different contracts govern the Nafana, the original owners and ritual guardians of the land, and the Dioula, holders of a trade monopoly. Client contracts bind his “men of confidence”, the royal princes and free servants, to the king and assure him of their exclusive loyalty and preserve him from pressures by other lineages. Violence was used on the native Kulango to eliminate their chiefs, incorporate their men into the army, or the royal household or trade caravans. In a disguised form it is used towards the village communities, where state festivals legitimize the early conquest with “protection” from war. The Abron warrior-aristocracy is not governed by either contracts or violence but by a “logic of honour”. It demonstrates the king’s splendor in war campaigns and state festivals through treasures, servants and war trophies. This logic lies between the protection-motive and the profit-motive of the Diula, and underlies the current Ivorian national elite. H. Memel Foté investigates the theoretical justification of takeover or consolidation of power as opposed to construction during the exercise of power. He claims that Côte d’Ivoire’s doctrine of “the sense of state” is informal and based on the assumption of a common identity for the coastal (lagunaire) and inland Akan, and on the colonizer’s construct of hierarchical race relations (dioula, abron, baoulé, etc.) which was erroneously transposed from the historic to the biological domain, and formed the basis of the postcolonial myth of Akan political superiority. The Baoulé were promoted to state-forming race based on the former military dominance of the Warebo clan, whilst other ethnic groups were disqualified as non-state-forming and progressively excluded from power. Viti’s paper deals with Baule political “multicentricity” and absence of central power. The French explained it as decadence from an earlier dominance of the Warebo clan from Sakassou, whose descendant Kuaku Anuble they named “chef suprême Baule”. Research into the Baule shows no overall authority but did neglect the historical territorial lineages (nvle). Nvle heads (fa-mien) govern through dignitaries of their lineage, while their “sisters” (mi-bra) control ancestral treasures and rituals. In areas of low population and economic exchange, the institutionalisation of power is necessarily weaker than in eastern Akan. Outside pressures like wars, conquerors, long-distance trade and slavery were also absent ; land occupation occurred late, divisions between “ruled and ruling” were weak and spirito-religious symbols of supremacy like stools, drums, state festivals inexistant. Still the new political leaders of Ivory Coast used the myth of Warebo supremacy to legitimize Baoulé hegemony despite the reality of equal lineages. The history of opposing concepts of “unity” (nkabomu) and “progress” (nkosoo) in Ashanti, synonyms for the pro-war and the peace party, is traced by Wilks. Ashanti Councils preserved an “old constitution” and debated issues often in opposition to royal absolutism. After the 1874 war “activists” (akwankwaa or kwasafo) from the Gold Coast forced “progress” and Kofi Kakari’s abdication. In 1883, the “youngmen” who called for Mensa Bonsu’s resignation wanted “open road” policies. But again later Asantehenes supported “unity”. Agyeman Prempeh was elected in view of peace, unity and economic progress through trade, but was exiled in 1896 and replaced by “progress” proponents in the councils. The youngmen agitated against these substitute chiefs, and in 1924 Prempeh was permitted to return as Kumasihene. When the Kotoko Society called on Osei Agyeman Prempeh for “unity” he abolished the subjects’ chiefs. The Ashanti Youth Association founded by Krobo Edusei demanded more representation, and the NLM challenged Nkrumah’s CPP, but even then the Asantehene sided with the “unity” party. Novati looks into the causes of Ashanti’s 1896 defeat and Menelik’s contrasting 1896 victory at Adoua. He shows how Britain’s new colonial minister Chamberlain and growing competition from France and Germany changed anti-colonial policy into a colonial one and favored military intervention over negotiation. Prempeh’s unsuccesful attempts to obtain arms from France, which supplied Menelik, his fruitless military-political alliance with Samori, Ethiopia’s cultural integration and its loyal provinces in contrast to Ashanti’s recently conquered provinces which concluded treaties with Britain in 1892-1894 to gain autonomy are also discussed as internal causes of victory and defeat. For Kea conflicting modern role models are exemplified by De Graft and P. Halm. Both were educated at Cape Coast but relegated from British service–De Graft, son of an Efutu linguist, for his open bible interpretation, Halm for theft from the local militia. While De Graft became founder of the Society for Bible Interpretation and the Ghana Methodist Mission, preaching salvation through adoption of Christianity, Halm formed a gang of renegades extorting money from ignorant interior chiefs until caught and imprisoned. Their behavior served as contrasting role models for modernity and anti-colonial resistance, one through spiritual revival, the other through rebellion. Ghana governments are another factor of modernity by ist attempts at undermining the institution of chieftaincy, according to Annor. In precolonial times, the chief was identical with government, uniting executive, judicial, and religious functions. Colonial governments created parallel local government institutions to diminish chiefs’ political roles. While British indirect rule left limited functions like customary law, local taxation, and road maintenance with “Native Authorities”–though governors had to confirm appointments and destooled chiefs–Nkrumah even abolished post-war Local Authority legislation and the 1951 Native Authority Law, the 1959 Chiefs’ Recognition and 1961 Chieftaincy Acts further reduced chiefly authority. But no government dared nationalize stool lands, confiscate royalties, or abolish chiefs’ judicial role even though all tried to dismember the institution.

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Andreas Massing, « Valsecchi, Pierluigi & Viti, Fabio (dir.). – Mondes Akan/Akan Worlds. Identité et pouvoir en Afrique occidentale/Identity and Power in West Africa. Paris-Montréal, L’Harmattan, 1999, 361 p., bibl. », Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 166 | 2002, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2005, consulté le 27 avril 2017. URL : http://etudesafricaines.revues.org/1494

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