Dormaa – Man : state – district

by Nana Gyamfi-Kumanini

Nana Gyamfi-Kumanini of Wamfie, Ghana. “Nana” is a title to address or refer to a Chief, King, Queen, His/Her Royal Highness … and is used in that context throughout the book (but in other instances could mean grandmother or grandfather).  Nana Gyamfi-Kumanini has dedicated this book to his mother, Nana Abenaa Afima, the Queen of the Mansin State, (who recounted the great contribution of the women in the society), and her brother, his uncle, Nana Kwasi Ansu-Gyeabour, the chief of Wamfie alias Mansinhene (who narrated the history). The sole purpose of the book is to provide a chronologically recorded document on Dormaa-Man, its history, culture and the 20 years crisis. The author immigrated to Canada in 1971 and completed the book in 1989 during his studentship at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo. The book Dormaa-Man will appear in a sequel in Cross Cultures; by permission from the author


Dormaa-Man is geographically situated in the western part of the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. Being the second largest in the region after Nkoranza, Dormaa-Man is separated from Berekum by the Amoma river. Similarly, the Ntaabene river forms the boundary between Drobo and Dormaa-Man. The estuary of the Atroni river, the Nyinakonton and Twiwaa rivers, Ntotoroso and Tadieso all bar Dormaa-Man from Sunyani. The rivers Mintimini and Bia also separate Ahafo from Dormaa-Man. The word “Dormaa” is the coded form of the main sentence ‘Do wo man’ : love thy state or be patriotic. Dormaa-Man comprises the people who migrated from Dankyira, now known as the Mansins (Mansinfo) and those from Akwamu now called Dormaafo. Even though the two groups met and became one, forming the present day Dormaa state (Dormaa-Man) they still exhibit equal autonomy. Wamfie and Wam Pamu became the traditional capitals of the Mansins and the Dormaas, respectively. However, Wam Pamu was renamed Dormaa Ahenkwo after it was accorded the status of district capital.

When the two groups met, it was realized that it would be in their mutual interest to form an alliance. The leader of the Akwamus was a man, while the Mansins had a woman as their leader. Also the Akwamus outnumbered the Dankyiras (the Mansins). Because there was an urgent need to unite to contest with the surrounding warring states, the Akwamus were allowed to lead the new alliance. The female leader of the Dankyiras was to help in administering the state. From Ashanti, the new state (of Dormaa-Man) moved to Bomaa and Maaban. From there the people pushed westward to Chiraa and finally in the ‘Wam area’ the present day Dormaa-Man.

For the following decade and a half the new state was blessed with prosperity and peace. This period was also characterized by inter-marriage between the Dankyiras and the Akwamus. With this stable base, the Dormaas became very powerful and were able to defeat the Ashantis, killing the then Ashantehene Obiri Yeboa during a war and keeping his skull in the traditional capital of the Dormaa-Man. However, the Ashantis had their revenge in a later war during which they were led by Osei Tutu, a nephew and successor of Obiri Yeboa.

The victory was largely attributed to the efforts of Okomfo Anokye, Osei Tutu’s aide-de-camp, who, it was alleged, cast a spell on the Dormaas. (It is known that it was not magic but a shortage of gunpowder which caused the defeat).

Thus the Dormaas became the subjects of the Ashantis and had to pay homage and tributes to the Ashanti stool. This, then, was the situation until the Borong Ahafo Region was created in 1959. As a result of the creation of this regional autonomy, the Dormaas were discharged of their obligation to the Ashantehene.

Tension arose between Wamfie and the Dormaa Traditional Council around the time a branch of the Convention Peoples Party was formed in the area in 1950. In order to develop the area, the Traditional Council decided to levy a charge on the sale of each load of cocoa. Unfortunately, this noble intention was defeated as the money was misappropriated and the few projects undertaken were situated at places favourable to the Dormaas as well as to uneconomic areas. All the complaints lodged by the chief and the elders of Wamfie went unheeded. This situation forced the people of Wamfie to join the National Liberation Movement, founded by Baffour Akoto, which was later incorporated in the United Party with the Northern Peoples Party. This developed into a crisis with the brewing of political tension between the two main political parties in the country at that time. The people of Wamfie were not spared the political divisions which characterized politics in the pre-Independence years. In 1952 the Dormaa people attacked Wamfie. The chief of Wamfie, Nana Kwasi Ansu, and some of his elders were arrested and sent to Sunyani. The trial and the subsequent trials found the Dormaas guilty, but the C.P.P. government felt that there would be peace in the area only if Nana Ansu and some of his elders were exiled, and so they were in 1958.

In 1961 the exiled elders of Wamfie were allowed to return home, except for Nana Ansu and the late Nana Kofi Agyei-Mumifie, then the Benkumhene of Wamfie, and Mr. J.M. Yeboa. They tarried in Kumasi and Takoradi until November 6,1966 when the N.L.C. lifted the ban and Nana Ansu returned home to a grand and colourful durbar organized by his people to welcome him. His return, however, did not reduce the tension between the people of Wamfie and Dormaa.

The irony of the situation is that the Wamfiehene and the Dormaahene are cross-cousins. It was Nana Ansu who insisted on Nana Agyeman Badu’s enstoolment as the Dormaahene in 1950.

On October 7th, 1970, Dr. K.A. Busia, then Prime Minister of Ghana, finally reconciled the two chiefs, after all previous attempts had failed. I personally appreciated this deed by Dr. Busia and endorsed it. The Dormaas were found to be at fault by Busia’s arbitration tribunal and Nana Agyeman Badu was asked to compensate Nana Ansu, who used the money to settle state debts.

On April 7th, 1971, a grand durbar at Dormaa Akenduro took place marking the people’s thanks to the Prime Minister and their first formal gathering after the settlement. This day was also the official inauguration of the Government transport system to the area.

I took no mean role in these activities and the reconciliation processes as a whole. Peace having been restored, there was an accelerated development in Dormaa-Man and Wamfie in particular.

Nana Kwasi Ansu-Gyeabour died of old age on the 23rd of April , 1980.

A Brief History of the State:

In times past there were greater distinctions between classes of men. The lords ruled and the common people obeyed despite hardships. The old static traditional rules were followed period after period in history because there was something similar to a dynasty of rulers who were known beforehand and no matter who they were, they ruled according to laws already laid down. In traditional Dankyira, as was the olden days and it is today, ascendance to either the stool of chieftaincy or to be a Queen, one had and has to go according to the set laws. These laws involve the knowledge of which female royal gave birth to which male or female royal, as well as who therefore is the legitimate royal to be selected as chief or queen to the traditional stool. Retrospect chronologically the maternal royal lineage of the 17th Century Dankyira royal generation, the first Queen of Dankyira, Nana Yaa Dakwa, had a daughter Nana Abenaa Bansua, who also gave birth to Nana Akomadoma, the mother of Nananom Afra Aso Kani Ntiroakoma Akua and Basua.

After her death, Nana Akomadoma was to be succeeded by her eldest daughter, Nana Afra Aso Kani but because of the ever present fractionalism and corruption, Ntirakoma Akua, the youngest daughter was given the place as the Queen, due to the influence of her (Ntirakoma Akua’s) husband, who as the ‘Korontihene’ of Dankyira. The people of Dankyira became polarized, one group on the side of each contestant for the stool. Afra Aso Kani and her supporters sought asylum in a new land away from Dankyira. The pleas of Ntirakoma Akua’s people could not change their minds.

How could they prevent them from leaving Dankyira? The pleas merely made Afra Aso Kani retort, “leave me alone”, insisting on her separation. They made for the forest area close to Ashanti, prepared to dedicate themselves to any other king they would encounter who would accept their company. They went as far as the present day Asumja where they found people and learned of the presence of the king of the area (the Asantehene) at Kokofu. They went there and paid homage to the Asantehene who permitted them to camp on the banks of a nearby asua bi agya river. They called the camp Asuogya, which has become the present day Asumja.

After camping for a month at Asuogya, Nana Afra Aso Kani and her group were approached by another group which was led by a man. The very reason which compelled Nana Afra Aso Kani and her people to leave Dankyira had also brought this group out of Akwamu. The leader of the group, Atta Panin, the elder of the twin nephews of the chief Nana Ansa Sasraku of Akwamu, was, according to tradition, to be the heir after his father’s death, but Nana Ansa Sasraku, judging Atta Panin to be clumsy and stupid, asked that Atta Kuma, who was regarded as witty and intelligent, inherit the stool. The elders of Akwamu were alarmed at this wish of Ahinsaku (short for Ohene Ansa Sasraku), and favoured Atta Pain; but the youth leader Nkwankwaahene
and the youth supported Atta Kuma and made him chief of Akwamu. This rivalry resulted in a situation very much like the one in Dankyira, a conflict which brought Atta Panin and his followers to Asuogya. They came along with the Queen Mpobi Yaa, Atta Panin’s mother, and some members of maternal royal family.1 The Akwamus camped at present Suntreso near Kumasi.

They met the Dankyiras who had migrated, and who were not willing to return to Dankyira and could bear no other name but the remark “Ma me nsen” (leave me alone).

Friendship developed between the two groups and Nana Aso Kani suggested to the Akwamus that they move furtherto the forest away from the Ashantis, but the Akwamus refused. Nana Afra Aso therefore said “I am leaving you here if you fear to move ahead” se mo suro a mo mma me nsen, thus the group became known as ma mensin or MANSIN as posterity came to know it.

Subsequently, the Mansins moved to Aburaso but maintained their association with the Akwamus. the Akwamus outnumbered the Mansins; besides, they had a male leader who could mobilize them in case of war. It was therefore negotiated that the leader of the Akwamus should lead the two groups, assisted by the female leader of the Mansins. Trouble arose between the Akwamus (Atta Panin’s followers) and the Ashantis, and with the support of the Mansins they defeated the Ashantis and kept the skull of the Asantehene Obiri Yeboa, which is still at Dormaa Ahenkura. Osei Tutu, who succeeded Obiri Yeboa sought revenge for the earlier defeat and even though the Ashantis were driven back seven times, they finally won the battle because their enemies (Akwamus-Mansins) ran out of gun-powder. As the Ashantis controlled the road to Cape Coast, Nana Adikowam,, the then chief of the Mansins, had been sent to the present day Ivory coast to buy some gun-powder, but before he could return the Ashantis had won the battle.

Legend also suggests that the two groups were unable to combat the Ashantis because a woman revealed the antidote of their war juju to Okomfo Anokye, who succeeded in weakening the power. The Ashantis captured Nana Kyereme Sikafo then chief of the Akwamus group and sent him to the palace of the Asantehene and made him the bearer of Busumuru and thus became the Okradwareni (the soul purifier of the Asantehene).

The Akwamu group scattered as a result of this defeat. Some of them fled to the Huans, but others stayed behind to watch the graves of their ancestors. It was the timid ones who fled and came to be called “Gya wo man fo” as that was the first time any of the Akwamus had retreated in a battle. Thus it was referred to as “the first flight” Gya wo man (Gyama) Kan. When the war ceased, the Asantehene promised not to harass the people again and even encouraged the scattered ones to come back.

One of the first tasks of Nana Kyereme Sikafo, the captive Busumuru bearer for the Ashantis, was to go to Bahore to cast a spell on the people so as to weaken them for easy conquest. It was rumoured that the Queen of Bahore was very rich and so the Asantehene wanted to conquer her and thus gain her wealth. Abenaa Poko, the Queen, being clever, discovered the Asantehene’s tricks, and in order to prevent a war sent loads of gold dust through Nana Kyereme Sikafo and his company to the Asantehene. When Nana Sikafo was returning to Kumasi, a couple of his scattered band saw him. He convinced them to go back to his people and ask them to meet at their former place. A group of them went with him to a place where his own son, Kyereme Gyana, and some of the remaining Akwamus were camping. As more people followed them, the place was called Boa wo man ano “gather or mobilize your people”, which became Bomaa.

Those who came to Bomaa were said to have had love for their clan, for they responded to ‘love your clan and come back’, the message Nana Kyereme Sikafo sent to them; and were then Dormaafo “those who love their clan” after they returned.

Nana Kyereme Sikafo sent Kyereme Gyana and Oheneba Darebo, the then chief of Tepa to Asantehene with the gold and with a message: he was trying to bring his people back home , but they were afraid to stay near the Ashantis.

The Asantehene swore that nobody from those groups (Dormaafo and Mansinfo) would be tortured in Kumasi and pledged that even if anyone from the two groups cut himself in Kumasi or anywhere in Ashanti, any Ashanti being near should dress the wound, for no blood of a member of the two groups should be shed on Ashanti land. However, they were to promise to be his people forever.

Meanwhile the leader, Nana Adikowam and his Ma mensen people at this time were at Neonsome where a message was sent to him by Nana Kyereme Sikafo. His reply was that they would come after their corn was harvested.

But before the harvest was over, Nana Adikowam passed away and Nana Daako took charge of the Ma mensen people.

He also joined his ancestors after a short reign and was succeeded by Nana Tutu Baffour who led the Mansin people from Nsonsome to join the Dowoman people at Bomaa. The Dowoman people at Bomaa had by this time established another settlement called Mmaaban (women’s own settlement), now called Maban.

At Bomaa a two-storeyed house was built for the chief which was called Aban – a mansion. The chief had a drum called ‘Aprede’ which was played every night and people went to enjoy it. So the people of the time would say they were going to enjoy the ‘aprede’ at the mansion: ye reko aban aprede ase; which nearly became the town’s name.

Thus originated Abanprede ase, the present name of the Dormaahene’s 40,000 palace.