In 1896, Asantehene (King) Prempeh I of the Asanteman federation was captured and exiled to the Seychelles islands by the British who had come to call the area the British “Gold Coast.” Yaa Asantewaa’s brother was said to be among the men exiled with Prempeh I, deported because of his opposition to British rule in West Africa.
In 1900, British colonial governor, Frederick Hodgson, called a meeting in the city of Kumasi of the Asantehene local rulers. At the meeting, Hodgson stated that King Prempeh I would continue to suffer an exile from his native land and that the Ashanti people were to surrender to the British their historical, ancestral Golden Stool – a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire.
The colonial governor demanded that it be surrendered to allow Hodgson to sit on the Sika ‘dwa as a symbol of British power. At this time, Yaa Asantewaa, who was the Gatekeeper of the Golden Stool heard how some of the Ashanti Kings were entertaining surrender to the British demands. Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa rose and is said to have uttered the following:
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.
“Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
The Ashanti-British “War of the Golden Stool” was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5,000. While Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British and deported, her bravery stirred a kingdom-wide movement for the return of Prempeh I and for independence.
Today, Presspeep.com brings you history on one notable female African warrior by name Queen Amina – whose legendary story, is akin to Ghana’s Yaa Asantewaa:
Queen Amina (also known as Queen Aminatu), was the elder daughter of Queen Bakwa Turunku, the founder of the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536. Some scholars date Queen Amina’s reign to about 1549, as heir apparent after the death of her mother.
Queen Amina was a legend among the Hausa people for her military exploits. She controlled the trade routes in the region, erecting a network of commerce within the great earthen walls that surrounded Hausa cities within her dominion.
Known as a great military strategist, the cavalry-trained Queen Amina fought many wars that expanded this southern-most Hausa kingdom. Amina was 16 years old when her mother became queen and she was given the traditional title of magajiya.
She honed her military skills and became famous for her bravery and military exploits, as she is celebrated in song as “Amina daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.” Amina is credited as the architect who created the strong earthen walls around the city, which was the prototype for the fortifications used in all Hausa states.
She built many of these fortifications, which became known as ganuwar Amina or Amina’s walls, around various conquered cities. The objectives of her conquests were twofold: extension of Zazzau beyond its primary borders and reducing the conquered cities to vassal status.
Sultan Muhammad Bello of Sokoto stated that, “She made war upon these countries and overcame them entirely so that the people of Katsina paid tribute to her and the men of Kano [and]… also made war on cities of Bauchi till her kingdom reached to the sea in the south and the west.”
Likewise, she led her armies as far as Nupe and, according to the Kano Chronicle, “The Sarkin Nupe sent her [the princess] 40 eunuchs and 10,000 kola nuts. She was the first in Hausa land to own eunuchs and kola nuts.” Amina was a preeminent gimbiya (princess).
Over a 34-year period, her many conquests and subsequent annexation of the territories extended the borders of Zaria, which also grew in importance and became the center of the North-South Saharan trade and the East-West Sudan trade.
The Sankore Institute of Islamic – African Studies International, a non-profit, non-political educational institution, gave a nice report on Amina:
“These seven regions witnessed many unusual and strange events. The first to establish government among them, as it has been claimed, was Amina, the daughter of the Amir of Zakzak. She made military assaults upon these lands until she proclaimed herself over them by force.
“The lands of Katsina and Kano were forced to hand over levy to her. She also made incursions into the lands of Bauchi until she reached the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. She died in a place called Attaagar. It was for this reason that the kingdom of Zakzak was the most extensive among the kingdoms of Hausa, since Bauchi included many regions.”