Okomfo Anokye was an Ashanti fetish priest, statesman, and lawgiver who lived in the late 17th century. He helped create the Ashanti Kingdom's constitution, rules, and customs as a cofounder in West Africa.
Okomfo Anokye was given the name Kwame Frimpon Anokye when he was born (Okomfo means "priest"). His descendants claim he was born of an Ashanti mother and an Adansi father, and was related to the military leader Osei Tutu (the other cofounder of the Ashanti Kingdom) through a maternal uncle. Some traditions claim he came from Akwapim in the Akwamu Kingdom southeast of Ashanti, but his descendants claim he was born of an Ashanti mother and an Adansi father. Anokye served as Osei Tutu's advisor and chief priest when he ascended to the leadership of a small group of Akan forest states around Kumasi, which had already formed a loose military alliance.
Tutu and Anokye, who must be regarded together, continued their predecessors' expansionist policies, crushing two formidable foes, the Akan Doma to the northwest and the Denkyera kingdom to the south. To overthrow the Denkyera yoke, a powerful unity that transcended the Ashanti segments' particularism was required, and Anokye used not only his priesthood's political clout but also spiritual ties to turn the loose Ashanti alliance into a "national" union in 1695.
To counterbalance the influence of local traditions, Anokye and Tutu founded Ashanti state rituals and customs. The Ashanti capital was called Kumasi. They formed a state council made up of the chiefs of the pre-existing states that had been admitted to the union, and they suppressed all conflicting origin customs. The Ashanti army was eventually reorganized.
The war with Denkyera, which lasted from 1699 to 1701, began badly, but when the Denkyera army arrived at Kumasi's gates, Anokye's "incantations" allegedly triggered defections among their generals. The Ashanti overthrew the Denkyera hegemony and took possession of Elmina Castle's Dutch deed of rent. This provided the Ashanti with access to the African coast, allowing them to participate in the coastal slave trade's commerce and politics. Anokye is said to have returned to Akwapim after Tutu's death in 1717 and died there.
The permanency of the nation Anokye the lawgiver and Tutu the warrior formed, with its symbolism and rituals still alive in the greater state of Ghana, is a measure of their greatness. Anokye was credited with helping the Ashanti to "succeed where Hellas had struggled," that is, to preserve their national unity after their liberation war.
The Ashanti people honored him by naming "Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital" in Kumasi after him.
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