There has been a lot of comparison of a local celebrity with Yaa Asantewaa. This Female celebrity took a stand on the dumsor crisis in the country and staged a temporary intervention which saw more people speaking their mind on the issue. The court of public opinion has likened her to Yaa Asantewaa. Who was Yaa Asantewaa? Responding with a direct answer, she was and still is a Ghanaian heroin. She represents bravery, courage and patriotism.
During her brother’s reign- Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante Confederacy go through series of events that threatened its future, including a civil war from 1883 to 1888. When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa leveraged her position as Queen Mother to nominate her own grandson as Ejisuhene. When the British exiled him to Seychelles in 1896, along with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other members of the Asante government, Yaa Asantewaa became the regent of the Ejisu-Juaben District. After the deportation of Prempeh I, the British Governor-General of Gold Coast – Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool, the symbol of the Asante nation. This request led to a secret meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government at Kumasi, to discuss how to secure the return of their king and to safeguard the golden stool which is an embodiment of the Ashanti Kingdom. There was a disagreement among those present as to how to handle the situation before them. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these now-famous words:
“Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it was in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware I, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields”.
With this, she took on leadership of the Asante Uprising of 1900 with an army of about 5000, gaining the support of some of the other Asante nobility.
Beginning in March 1900, the rebellion laid siege to the fort at Kumasi where the British had sought refuge. The fort still stands today as the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. After several months, the Gold Coast governor eventually sent a force of 1,400 to quell the rebellion. During the course of this, Queen Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of her closest advisers were captured, and they too were sent into exile to the Seychelles. The rebellion represented the final war in the Anglo-Asante series of wars that lasted throughout the 19th century. On 1 January 1902, the British were finally able to accomplish what the Asante army had denied them for almost a century, and the Asante Empire was made a protectorate of the British crown.
Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles on 17 October 1921. Three years after her death, on 27 December 1924, Prempeh I and the other remaining members of the exiled Asante court were allowed to return to Asante. Prempeh I made sure that the remains of Yaa Asantewaa and the other exiled Asantes were returned for a proper royal burial. Yaa Asantewaa’s dream for an Asante free of British rule was realized on 6 March 1957, w hen the Asante protectorate gained independence as part of Ghana, the first African nation in Subsaharan Africa to achieve this feat.
It is fitting to pronounce her as an important part of achieving the independence of Ghana. The nation and its people should not forget her but draw inspiration from her to stand up for what is right even in the face of adversities. Change is possible regardless of one’s gender.