Atibie is one of the towns that make up the Kwahu Traditional Area and the Akan Twi-speaking Kwahu ethnic group in the mountainous Eastern Region of Ghana. The town lies on the west of Mpraeso. River Asuboni flows between Atibie and Mpraeso and serves as the natural boundary (Opoku-Asiamah, 2020). The town’s appellation is Ɔtwerefo Tim nana adehye krɔnkrɔn, mona mo bentia su ‘wo yɛ dehyeɛ dedaw na mo tweneɛ bɔm Pese yere ko “The true and pure grandson of Otwerefo Tim, it is you whose short horn sounds, ‘you are royal already’ and your drum beats, “Wish we were fighting”. The State oath is Yawada (Thursday), which is an oath in commemoration of the demise of Nana Odame, chief of Atibie who died on a fateful Thursday of the Kwahu-Nkonya war.
Atibie people are of Ɔyɔkɔ (Oyoko) clan with original roots to Kuntanase in Asante. However, Ameyaw-Gyamfi (1964) contends that Atibie legend also has it that the chief of Atibie has an affinity with the people of Juaso in Asante-Akyem (Ashanti-Akim) as clan brothers. From etymological analysis, the name Atibie evolved from dɔte bire ‘Black Soil” or “Black Swish”. Dɔte bire ‘dark soil’ was later corrupted to Atibie.
Origin and Migration
In Kwahu Atibie oral tradition, their ancestors were said to have been inhabitants of Kuntanase in the Lake Bosomtwe area of the Ashanti Region. They migrated from the town during the tenure of Nana Okyere Firam, the then chief of Kuntanase and led by Nana Otwerefo Tim, the leader of a faction of Kuntanase royal house to settle at Bankame, near Obogu. They left their original habitat because of a chieftaincy problem that arose from the death of the Asantehene Ɔkatakyie Opoku Ware I. It is said that when the first Asante King, Ɔpimsoɔ Osei Tutu I died, several elder Oyoko clan successors including an unnamed old man in Kuntanase refused to ascend the Sikadwa Kofi (Golden Stool).
After Opoku Ware I had ascended the stool, the Kuntanase old man caught a fat river fish, apaterɛ (tilapia) from Lake Bosomtwe and sent it as a gift to his nephew, the Asantehene. The tilapia was prepared fufu for the King but after eating he had an unfortunate stomach upset. This made the King and the Kumasi elders accuse the Oyoko old man at Kuntanase of attempting to kill the Asantehene (King of the Asante). The old man was invited to Kumase and questioned. In registering his anger about the accusation of attempted regicide, the old man averred that he harbours no scheme to kill the King who is his kinsman and nephew; moreover, he had declined interest in ascending the stool when it became vacant. The long stay of the old man in Kumase caused the Kuntanase people to besiege Kumase, whereupon a Kuntanase sniper on seeing Opoku Ware I sitting in his palanquin and being moved about in Atwereboana (now the area of Kumase General Post Office), aimed a shot at him and killed him instantly. This brought massive raiding of the Kuntanase town.
It was this great invasion that caused Nana Otwerefo Tim to evacuate his people to Bankame to settle. Whilst here, Nana Kusi Obodom, who succeeded Opoku Ware I sent emissaries to Otwerefo Tim to return home, but he refused the request. From Bankame, he moved to Akowudan Scarp near Kade, which is on the boundary between Asante-Akyem and the Kwahu town of Nkwakaw. The area was soon found to be uninhabitable for there was terrible cold weather on the scarp. Ameyaw-Gyamfi (1964), Darfoo (1969) and Opoku-Asiamah (2020) averred that the coldness forced them to move further eastward to Onankyea ‘Crooked Leg’, now a ruined town east of Nkwakaw, after the then Kwahu King, Nana Okwahu Odiawuo had consented to their stay on the land. On their way, Otwerefo Tim had a short horn with epigram, wo yɛ dehyeɛ dedaw! “You are a royal already” or “You have always been a royal”, which is an inference to his clan hood status to Kuntanase where the Ɔkyere and Boaten akondwa ‘Okyere and Boateng Stool” is of Oyoko clan origins (Ameyaw-Gyamfi, 1964).
At Onankyea, Nana Twerefo Tim accompanied Okwahu Odiawuo in his war with the powerful aboriginal Guan King, Ataara Ofinam. The war which has Kumawu, Agogo, Kwamang and Kwahu as allies who fought against Ataara last some years, thus the people thought Nana Twerefo had died. His nephew, Asante Akroko (Sante Akuoku), son of his sister, Afoaanimaa and the first Queen-mother was enstooled as his successor (Ameyaw-Gyamfi, 1964). But not long after, Twerefo Tim returned from the war, but to avert conflict in his beloved people he moved on to land close to Afram River to found a new town called Dokuman. Hence, up till now, there exists a relationship between Dokuman and Kwahu-Atibie people.
Ameyaw-Gyamfi (1964), Darfoo (1969) and Opoku-Asiamah (2020) contend that Onankyea land was later found to be swampy, so Sante Akroko evacuated his people and led them to settle on the Kwahu Plateau, where the scarp was named Akroko Bepow “Akroko Hill.” Here, the political offices were created and shared amongst the leaders of various groups involved in the migration. Ameyaw-Gyamfi (1964) asserts that Nana Kru Brempong took the office of Akwamuhene, Kwame Otwere’s descendants took Adehyehene ‘Head of Royal family’; Kwakye who was the leader of the entourage of Kru Brempong and his off-springs took the position of Ɔsafohene ‘war captain’, Otwerefo Tim’s sister, Ɔbaapanin Afoaanimaa took the Queen-mother role, whilst Tie Fu who hails from Kanyaase in the group and his descendants took Kyidom office “Rear Wing.”
After living at Akroko Hill for many years, Sante Akroko found the place too small to accommodate his people. He moved further eastward to settle on the land which flows with River Asuboni but it was dɔte bire, i.e., the soil texture was very dark. As a result, the new settlement was named Dɔte bire ‘Dark Soil, Black Soil/Black Swish.’ Dɔte bire was later vulgarised to Atibie (Ameyaw-Gyamfi, 1964; Darfoo, 1969; Opoku-Asiamah, 2020). Atibie became the last migrants to have come to domicile on the Mountains to become part of the Kwahu ethnic group. At Atibie, various group leaders founded separate settlements not far from each other and paid allegiance to Nana Sante Akroko. Kru Brempong lived at Damang (formerly a mining area), Kwakye built Aboma/Aboma Kronkron (at where the Kwahu Central Hospital is), Tiefu settled at Abompram Hill on the bank of Abompram stream. In the centre of these three settlements lived Sante Akroko the ruler and his family. Thus the centre of the town or ahenkuro (the chief’s town) was named Atibie-Kɛse “Big Atibie” whilst the surrounding towns were named Atibie-Kuma “Small Atibie”. This was to distinguish between the ruler and his subordinates. Akroko ruled his people very well that after his death his stool was blackened or consecrated.
Sante Akroko was succeeded by his nephew and skilled farmer, Siaw Brako who married Nana Otemaa Senewa, a Bretuo clan woman of Kwahu-Twenedurase. He also married Brafoaa Katakyie, Asona clan woman and daughter of Nana Gyaben Gyema, Queen-mother of Mpraeso. After Brako’s death, his nephew Odame succeeded him. Odame was a skilled warrior known for his uncanny wits, thus he was nicknamed Ananse “The Spider”. It was he who led the powerful Atibie army in the company of Kwahu battalions in their tragic war with Nkonya-Buem which brought Kwahu’s appellation Asaase Aban yɛnt gyae “Mud Fence we do not know how to quit: or “Mud Wall, we do not know how to stop trying.”
Odame fought bravely in this war, lost many soldiers and died on the battlefield. His hereditary stool was seized by his sister, Afoaanimaa who was on the war field and declared his little son, Annor Kokoo the successor. But because Annor was very young, Queen-mother Afoaanimaa ruled Atibie as a Chief and the Queen-mother of Atibie until Annor reached the age of majority and took over the reins of governance. After Annor took over, Nana Afoaanimaa went on to marry Nana Koranteng Agyeman, Adontehene of Kwahu-Abetifi. Annor Brako introduced the shorthorn with epigram, wo wɔ mu na woyeɛ me “you are among and ill-treated me” in memory of disaster at Nkonya-Buem. He also instituted the state oath, Yawada “Thursday” to commemorate the fateful Thursday which Nana Odame died and Atibie’s population was reduced at war. Several chiefs came after Odame.
Ameyaw-Gyamfi, Kwabena. Kwahu: An Early Akan Forest State. (Accra: Institute
of African Studies, 1965).
Ameyaw-Gyamfi, Kwabena. “History of Atibie.” (Accra: Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, 1964).
Darfoor, G. O. “The Migration of Kwahus.” (BA Thesis, University of Ghana, 1969).
Interview with Mr P. K. Opoku Asiamah aka Professor Akasanoma, Kwahu
Community Historian and Retired Educationist at Afoanima Hotel at Kwahu-Atibie
on 18th January 2020.