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Osei Tutu
(d. 1717)

'Ritual and politics', here as elsewhere, marched hand in hand. Whether as the Golden Stool, the sacred spears of Central African kings, or the crown and scepter of the monarchs of Europe, possession of the royal regalia provide the ultimate justification for political action.
—Basil Davidson

Osei Tutu was the fourth ruler in Asante royal history, succeeding his uncle Obiri Yeoba. The Asante comprise the largest contingent of the Akan or Twi-speaking peoples. Akan societies are matrilineal, with a person belonging to the clan of his mother. Inheritance, succession and status are lineally determined. Osei Tutu belonged to the Oyoko Clan.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, previous migrations of clan groups resulted in the development of a number of Akan states within a thirty mile radius of modern-day Kumasi, Ghana. The dense concentration of states in this limited area was primarily due to the region being a known source of gold and kola; two important trade routes—one from Jenne and Timbuktu in the western Sudan and the other from Hausaland—entered the area. These states were all dominated by the Denkyira. In the middle of the seventeenth century the last of the clan groups, the Oyoko clan, arrived.

Exploiting the clans' mutual hatred for their oppressor, Osei Tutu and his priest-counselor Okomfo Anokye succeeded in merging these states into the Asante Union. This was a carefully orchestrated political and cultural process, which was implemented in successive stages.

First, the union was spiritually brought into being through the Golden Stool, invoked by Okomfo Anokye, and explained as the embodiment of the soul of the Asante Union. The ruler—in essence the religious and political leader—and the occupant of the stool was to be known as the Asantehene and to be subsequently selected from the lineage of Osei Tutu and Obiri Yeoba.

Second, Kumasi was chosen as the capital of the Asante Union, and Osei Tutu was now both the Kumasihene and the Asantehene. The Odwira Festival was inaugurated. Established as an annual and common celebration, and attended by all member states, this served as a unifying force for the nation.

Third, Osei Tutu, assisted by Okomfo Anokye, developed a new constitution for the Union. The Asantahene, who was also the Kumasihene, was at its head, with the kings of the states of the union forming the Confederacy or Union Council.

Fourth, as one of the key objectives for forming the Asante Union was to overthrow the Denkyira, Osei Tutu placed strong emphasis on the military organization of the Union. Supposedly borrowing the military organization from the Akwamu, Osei Tutu honed the Union army into an effective and efficient fighting unit.

With the Asante Union firmly established and its military organization in place, Osei Tutu embraced on wars of expansion and revenge.

After avenging his uncle's death at the hands of the Dormaa and bringing some recalcitrant states into line, Osei Tutu focused on the Denkyira. In 1701, the absolute defeat of the Denkyira and their abettors, the people of Akyem, brought the Asante to the attention of the Europeans on the coast for the first time. The victory broke the Denkyira hold on the trade path to the coast and cleared the way for the Asante to increase trade with the Europeans.

In 1717, Osei Tutu was killed in a war against the Akyem.

Osei Tutu and his adviser, Okomfo Anokye, forged the Asante Union from a number of different clan groups who submerged their old rivalries and hatred for the common good—the overthrow of their common oppressor, the Denkyira. Skillfully utilizing a combination of spiritual dogma and political skill, and ably supported by military prowess, Osei Tutu tripled the size of the small kingdom of Kumasi which he had inherited from his uncle Obiri Yeoba and laid the foundation for the Asante Empire in the process.
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Search for 'Osei Tutu' on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
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