The Dutch–Ahanta War was a conflict between the Netherlands and the Ahanta between 1837 and 1839. Beginning with a mere economic dispute between the Ahanta and the Dutch, who were based at the Dutch Gold Coast, the conflict ended with the hanging of Ahanta king Badu Bonsu II and the reorganization of the Ahanta state, establishing a Dutch protectorate over the Ahanta.
The conflict started with an ordinary economic dispute between the Ahanta and the Dutch. The Ahanta king Badu Bonsu II had seized a shipment of gunpowder that was to be delivered by an Amsterdam trader to the neighbouring kingdom of Wassa. Diplomatic efforts on the part of the Dutch did not resolve the situation, leading Governor Hendrik Tonneboeijer to send a mission to the Ahanta. When both his envoys were shot by the Ahanta, however, Tonneboeijer decided to assemble in Elmina an expeditionary force of 200 men to arrest Badu Bonsu. Despite having been warned that his force was too small to defeat the Ahanta, Tonneboeijer set out for the Kingdom of Ahanta soon. On 28 October 1837, his force was ambushed by the Ahanta, who killed 45 men, including Governor Tonneboeijer.
On receiving the news of the death of the Governor, the Dutch government decided to send an expeditionary force to "quell the insurrection". Under the command of General Jan Verveer, the force left Elmina for Ahanta in 1838. This time no fighting ensued, however, as the Ahanta themselves were eager to relinquish the unpopular Badu Bonsu to the Dutch.
Badu Bonsu was then trialed at an ad-hoc open-field court-martial, where he was given the death sentence on 26 July 1838. Badu Bonsu did not take the conviction too seriously, and tried to bribe the Dutch with a few calabashes of gold. He was, however, hanged the next day on the spot where Tonneboeijer's two envoys were shot. His accomplices were sent into exile to the Dutch East Indies without trial.
Badu Bonsu's head was cut off by the army physician and put in a jar of formaldehyde, officially for scientific purposes. A more likely explanation for this desecration is revenge, as the two envoys had been decapitated by Badu Bonsu as well, and subsequently attached to his throne as ornaments.
Citing provisions in the Treaty of Butre, the 1656 treaty which governed the relations between the Dutch and Ahanta, the Dutch reorganised the Ahanta state after the rebellion, appointing the Dutch resident at Fort Batenstein as regent, and keeping the country under close control with an enlarged military and civilian presence.
The head of king Badu Bonsu II was rediscovered in the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands by Dutch author Arthur Japin, who had read the account of the head during research for his 1997 novel De zwarte met het witte hart. Japin found the head in 2005, stored in formaldehyde at the LUMC. In March 2009, government officials announced that the head would be returned to its homeland for proper burial, a promise fulfilled on July 23, 2009, after a ceremony was held in The Hague.
- Treaty of Butre
- Dutch Gold Coast expedition of 1869–1870
- Van Kessel 2001.
- Doortmont & Smit 2007, p. 275.
- "Tonneboeijer, Hendrikus Jacobus". GoldCoastDataBase. 2010-01-05. http://gcdb.doortmontweb.org/getperson.php?personID=I3569&tree=Africa. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- "Dutch to return Ghana king's head". 20 March 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7955997.stm.
- Doortmont & Smit 2007, p. 279, 282–283.
- "Leiden geeft hoofd Badu Bonsu II terug". 21 March 2008. http://vorige.nrc.nl/binnenland/article2188739.ece/Leiden_geeft_hoofd_Badu_Bonsu_II_terug_.
- "Verhagen steunt terugkeer hoofd Ghanese koning". 22 December 2008. http://vorige.nrc.nl/article2101837.ece.
- Clements, Joan (20 March 2009). "Netherlands to return king's head to Ghana". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/gambia/5024840/Netherlands-to-return-kings-head-to-Ghana.html.
- "Dutch return head of Ghana king". 23 July 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8165497.stm.
- Doortmont, Michel R.; Smit, Jinna (2007). Sources for the mutual history of Ghana and the Netherlands. An annotated guide to the Dutch archives relating to Ghana and West Africa in the Nationaal Archief, 1593-1960s. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15850-4. http://books.google.nl/books?id=-SBwMhYAZw0C.
- Van Kessel, Ineke (2001). "Driehonderd jaar Nederlands-Ghanese handelsbetrekkingen". http://www.historischnieuwsblad.nl/nl/artikel/5677/driehonderd-jaar-nederlands-ghanese-handelsbetrekkingen.html.
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