The Ankobra River rises in Sefwi, to the north east of Wiawso, and stretches 190 km through the forest region of south-west Ghana. It enters the Atlantic Ocean a short distance to the west of Axim.  Archaeological and historical data relate the commercial, demographic, and political development of the Ankobra river basin to the increased exploitation of gold mineral deposits. The economic and political regional centrality of Axim in the southern section of the Ankobra region was already an established fact by the sixteenth century. Axim was tightly connected to the centres located along the Ankobra River. This system of relations was part of a much wider network stretching east and north-east to include the Prah and Ofin River regions and, by the mid-seventeenth century, the areas along the Tano River, to the west and north-west.

Africans and Europeans were in different ways inextricably involved in the events that from the late fifteenth century led this region to play its role in the theatre of commercial, military, and political relations relating to the origins of the great Atlantic system.

The Portuguese came to the Gold Coast in 1471, and in 1482 they started building Saint George’s Castle in Elmina. In 1503 they set up a trading station a little to the east of the Ankobra, in a place called Achombene. But in 1515 they were driven out by the inhabitants and moved east to nearby Axim. Here, seemingly in 1552, they commenced work on the current fortress, Fort Saint Anthony. Axim was the most westerly of the three Portuguese strongholds (the third one was Shama). Between 1623 and 1629, the Portuguese established a small commercial outpost some 20 km inland from Axim, on the left bank of the Ankobra close to its confluence with the River Duma. However, by 1600 the Dutch had become the main competitors of the Portuguese in this part of Africa. In 1637 the Dutch succeeded in ousting the Portuguese from Elmina. Shama followed, and on February 9, 1642 Fort Saint Anthony in Axim fell into the hands of the Dutch, who enjoyed the support of a section of the local population. The Portuguese were thus definitively displaced from the Gold Coast. On 17th February 1642 General J. Ruychaver and the two chiefs Attij Ausi and Peter Agoeij, signed a treaty governing the relationship between the Dutch West India Company and the people of Axim.  Similar agreements were signed with other polities in western Gold Coast, like the Ahanta-Dutch Agreement signed in Butre on 27th August 1656.

The Dutch and their African allies and commercial partners devised strategies by rival commercial interests, African and European, often concealing them under European flags (Sweden, Denmark, France, England, Brandenburg/Prussia). A famous case was the ‘Swedish’ company, led by H. Caerlof, a former Dutch commander of Axim who broke with the Dutch West India Company and set up his own commercial network under Swedish flag in 1649, recruiting disaffected dependants of the Dutch West India Company and allying himself with mighty African traders and political leaders, like Antonio Koloko of Axim, and Menla, a powerful warlord from the interior.
Besides trying to consolidate the control of the coastline around Axim, the Dutch West India Company, in full accord with the people of Axim, followed the same strategy pursued by the Portuguese, of trying to acquire direct access to markets in the interior, namely in the Ankobra region. The main result of this strategy was the short lived establishment of Fort Ruychaver (1654-1659), a joint Dutch-Axim enterprise near the town of Abaqua, by the confluence of the Bonsa River into the Ankobra. The second half of the seventeenth century saw the rapid growth of slave trade. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the phenomenal rise of Asante power deeply influenced the political and commercial balance of the western Gold Coast.

In the first part of the eighteenth century, the main threat to Dutch interest was the power of John Conny, the famous Merchant-Prince of Poqueso/Princes Town, an ally of the Asante. In the 1760s, serious conflict broke out between J. P. T. Huydecoper, Dutch commander of Axim, and Amihyia Kpanyinli and Boa Kpanyinli, who were consolidating a new political and commercial power in the area of Appolonia, in the Nzema region, in competition with the Dutch West India Company. In 1765 Amihyia invited the British to build a Fort in Beyin, curtailing Dutch ambitions to exercise some form of control over the coastline west of Axim.
In the nineteenth century, Axim Fort kept its position as the second most important Dutch establishment on the Gold Coast. The Dutch presence and its immediate neighborhoods. Sporadic Dutch ambitions to extend their control over neighbouring regions and markets capitalized on a strong relationship with the communities inhabiting Axim and its immediate neighbourhoods.  Attempts to enforce Dutch jurisdiction outside this territory had limited results. An exception was the control the Dutch were able to establish over part of Ahanta, after their victory in the Dutch-Ahanta war of 1837-8.

Axim and its Dutch garrison enjoyed good relations with the Asante. The last attempts to enforce and extend some form of Dutch power took place in the 1860s. In 1867 the Dutch and the English negotiated an exchange of forts in order to consolidate the tracts of coastline over which they claimed jurisdiction: the Netherlands gave up its forts located to the west of Elmina; Britain handed over its bases in the western Gold Coast. However, the Dutch met serious problems in taking over former British competencies in Ahanta and Nzema, due to fierce opposition in many of the newly acquired communities. In 1869 the Dutch applied for help from the Asante, who undertook a virtual occupation of the territories claimed by the Dutch. The situation became hardly sustainable for the Netherlands after war broke out between the Asante and the British section of the Gold Coast.

In 1871 the Dutch concluded an agreement with Britain for the sale of all Dutch possessions on the Gold Coast, which were formally handed over on 6th April 1872. However, the conclusion of formal Dutch presence in the Gold Coast did not put an end to the legacies and lasting effects of a centuries-old interaction between the Dutch and Africans.








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