Kobena Gyan, King Of Elmina Returns From Exile In Sierra Leone After 21 Years (May 17, 1894)

On March 12, 1873, at dawn, the whole Elmina government was summoned to the Palaver Hall of the castle.  Only five chiefs accompanied Kobena Gyan.  They were all asked to take an oath of allegiance to the English. Three acquiesced; but Kobena Gyan and two others, Tando Mensa and Kwamina Ekum, resolutely refused.  Hendrik Vroom, an Elmina mulatto now in the British service, reported the king’s statement as follows:

“The castle belonged to the Dutch government, before, and the people of Elmina were freemen; they are no slaves to compel them to do anything.  When Governor Pope Hennessy came to take this castle he did not consult me before the English flag was hoisted; if he had considered me as the king he would have done so.  On account of the hoisting of the English flag of the castle of Elmina the people have brought me great trouble.  They have disgraced me.  They themselves told me not to accept the flag.  I also refused to accept the flag. Some of the people then changed their minds, and, as I would not do so, went to Gov. Ferguson and begged for ammunition to fight against me.  Gov. Ferguson gave the ammunition.  Gov. Ferguson then sent his colonial secretary and three other officers with a paper for me to sign.  The governor offered me as a bribe a large sum of money to let that transfer go on smoothly end peaceably.  I refused the bribe because had I taken it, chiefs would have turned round on me afterwards and said I sold the country for money”

The king was then asked to take the oath of allegiance and sign a paper before him; he got very vexed and excited, struck the table with his fist and said, “I am not afraid of your power.  You may hang me if you like.  I will not sign any paper. I and some of the people of Elmina have taken fetish oath to oppose the English government from coming to Elmina and we have not broken that oath yet.”  With that show of defiance, Kobena Gyan’s fate was sealed.  Along with the other two dissident chiefs, he was arrested, bundled onto the awaiting Seagull, and transported to Cape Coast where he was locked in debtors’ jail.  They were sent into exile in Sierra Leone without any charges or a trial.  He arrived there on April 30, 1873, a dispirited, broken, and disappointed man.  He was deeply worried about his relatives, wives, and children.  He remained true to his conviction that Elmina was not to be taken and swapped between European powers at will.  In 1877, four years after his deportation, his people, missing their king, petitioned the British for his return.  This was granted with the proviso that he returns to Elmina as a private citizen.  He reasoned that he was exiled as king and rejected the terms.  He thus prolonged his exile, returning to Elmina on May 17, 1894, to die only 2 years later. His exile lasted twenty-one years.

 

Source: Edward A. ULZEN Memorial Foundation 

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