Reasons For The Collapse & Decline Of Asante Kingdom
The Asante kingdom was once of the few West African Forest states which survived throughout the 19th century. Its strength and survival in the 19th century depended upon its efficient professional army, its Sound economy and a reformed system of imperial administration which tried to tighten Asante control over the provincial states by stationing regional and district commissioners in them. But in spite of these elements of strength, the empire declined rapidly in the second half of the 19th century and after 1901, it was no more.
What Factors Were Responsible For The Collapse & Decline And Collapse?
First, the decline of the Asante empire was the result of its inherent internal weakness: The empire contained the seeds of its own weakness. One source of this weakness was the constitution of the empire. The Asante Union was a loose federation of autonomous states that were brought together by military and economic exigency, namely, mutual defense against common enemies and gaining access to the coastal trade with Europeans.
To the chiefs of the member states, the Asantehene at Kumasi was just a first among equals. Each state maintained its own army which was sent to become part of the Union’s army in times of war.
The constitution worked well so long as the Union was made up of people of Asante origin. But as the empire expanded by conquest and non-Asante nations such as the Denkyira, Akim, Banda, Gyaman and others were brought into the Union, the flaws of the constitution became apparent.
These conquered nations with their own traditions and cultures could not be persuaded to accept membership of the Union. So, they often revolted and were only kept as members by the military might of Asante. Another source of weakness lay in the administration of the empire.
Asante made no attempt to suppress the local nationalism of the conquered non-Asante state either by a strong system of provincial administration of the Dahomey type or by garrisoning their territories.
It is true an attempt was made in the 19th century to improve the provincial administration by creating a class of imperial officials who carried out the Asantehene’s will in the conquered states. But this did not suppress their urge to regain independence. Thus, rebellions were rife and cost Asante dearly in men and resources.
A third and very important source of weakness was Asante’s geographical position. It was an inland power that depended on the coastal trade with Europeans for its supply of arms for its Wars. This meant that a regular supply of arms depended upon direct access to the coastal trade which in turn depended upon the goodwill of the Fante coastal states.
But since the Fante were not prepared to compromise with their middlemen position in the coastal trade, Asante had no alternative but to fight her way To the coast by conquering the Fante states and keeping them under permanent subjection.
It was the struggle to overcome this difficulty that turned Asaante into a military state always fighting For her Survival. But frequent wars were detrimental to the growth and stability of the state and led to wastage of resources and eventually to decline. But it was not these weaknesses alone that finally brought about the fall of the Asante empire.
In fact, the empire continued to survive in spite of them, and could have survived as a strong state into the 20th century but for the Anglo-Asante conflict in the 19th century. British policy in the Gold Coast in the 19th century was to support the Fante coastal states against the military might of Asante.
The resulting conflict eventually led to the defeat of Asante and the destruction of Kumasi in 1874. This defeat had disastrous consequences for the empire and marked the beginning of its collapse.
It was a great blow to Asante military prestige and a signal for many of the subject states – Juaben, Kwahu, Mampong, Agona, Nsuta, Bekwai and others to break away. It also caused chaos, civil war and political instability in Kumasi. Kofi Karikari the reigning Asantehene was deposed in favor of his younger brother Mensa Bonsu who in turn was deposed in 1883.
Civil wars followed until 1888 when Prempeh was installed as Asantehene. Thus Military weakened by the 1874 defeat and politically by the resulting confusion in Kumasi and the empire, Asante was now only a shadow of her former greatness.
Perhaps Asante could have revived under the leadership of the fearless and redoubtable Prempeh I, for after the sack of Kumasi in 1874, the British withdrew and left Asante alone as before. Even some progress had been made in restoring political stability and in the reconquest of some of the breakaway states, for example, Nkoranza.
But Asante was destined not to survive the European scramble for territories in West Africa. It was to forestall French and German advance in The Gold coast hinterland that Kumasi was occupied by the British in 1896.
The Asante were forced to accept British protection, the Asantehene and his chief aides were exiled, and a British Resident was stationed in Kumasi. Asante’s constituent states were made to sign separate treaties accepting Britishprotection which meant that the empire had been dissolved.
The final chapter in the story of the collapse of the great Asante empire was therefore written in 1896. With the annexation of Asante as a British Colony in 1901, that chapter was closed and West Africa’s last great forest empire ceased to exist.