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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Eastern Region, Central Region, Ashanti Region and Accra in Ghana
Akan Spirituality, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups

The Akyem are an Akan people. The term Akyem (Akim) is used to describe a group of three traditional "nations": Akyem Abuakwa, Akyem Kotoku and Akyem Bosome. These nations are located primarily in the eastern regions of modern-day Ghana. The term is also used to describe the general area where the Akyem ethnic group clusters. The Akyem ethnic group make up only 3-4 percent of Ghana's population but are very prominent in all aspects of Ghanaian life. The Akyem are a matrilineal people. The history of this ethnic group is that of brave warriors who managed to create a thriving influential independent civilization within modern-day Ghana. When one talks of Ghanaian history, there is often mention of the big 6 (The Big Six (Ghana)). These were six individuals who played a big role in the independence of Ghana. Of the big six, people of Akyem descent made up three.


Okyeman is a traditional area in the eastern region of Ghana. Historically, it has been attested that the Akyem people were one of the first Akan people to migrate south after the fall of the ancient Songhai Empire.

The Akyems, according to history, were a part of the then all-powerful Adansi Kingdom. The Adansis were known for their ability to build illustrious structures in their kingdom; hence the name "ADANSI" (Builders). The powerful Ashanti Kingdom flourished under the leadership of Nana Osei Tutu, and during the ascendancy of their empire fought and defeated the Adansis in about the 14th Century and absorbed the Adansi Kingdom into the growing Ashanti Kingdom. The Akyem nations which were then part of the warrior and royal class of the Adansi Kingdom, broke away and crossed the River Pra to settle on its banks to avoid being absorbed into the Ashanti empire who they considered enemies.

Nana Osei Tutu chose to pursue the Akyem across the River Pra to teach them a lesson and, to attempt to further build the Ashanti and expand its influence. That was a big mistake by an otherwise illustrious king of the all powerful Ashanti who were known for their mastery of the art of war and, cerebral style of fighting. The Ashanti during that period used a methodology which involved overwhelming the opposing nation with sheer numbers and, demanding that they surrender. While crossing the river with his massive army, he was killed by elite forces from the Akyems who were camping out on the other side of the river. He fell dead into the river and, those who he was leading, out of demoralization, grabbed his body and surrendered/retreated. This was on a Thursday; this brought forth, the great oath of the Ashantis, ("Meka Yawada"- I swear by Thursday). For this, the Akyems who carried out this defeat became known as "Abuakwanfo" or "Abuakwafo", (Guerrilla Fighters). The Ashantis in a rare loss retreated and this tragedy made it a taboo for any Ashanti King up to the time of Nana Prempeh I (circa 1900) to cross the River Pra to the south except their armies.

After the battle the Akyem moved southeastwards. As a result of this movement, some of the Akyems, especially the Kotokus, settled in the present day Ashanti-Akyem area. The majority of the Akyems, however, continued to move southeastwards and settled in several areas along the way until they came into contact with the Akwamu, who were one of the most powerful nations in the sub region with influences spanning modern day Ghana, Togo and Benin.

The Akyems, especially the elite forces known as the Abuakwas, fought the Akwamus and emerged victorious. In defeating the Akwamu, the Akyem helped the Ga, a powerful Nation that lived in modern day Accra regain their land that had been lost during their war with the Akwamu. For this favor the king of the Abuakwa was later honored with a place in Accra where the Ga reside.

After the War the Akyem Abuakwas made their temporary capitals in several areas, including Praso, until they finally settled at Pameng. However, it was during the reign of NANA OFORI PANIN that the capital of Akyem Abuakwa was finally moved to "Kyebirie" (named after a black hat used by a hunter using the area as his hunting grounds). It is now known as KYEBI , where the Aduana clan had already settled.

Meanwhile, the Akyem Kotoku settled at Nsutam-Bososo area with their capital at Gyadam. During the reign of the great warrior king of the Akyems, Nana Owusu Akyem Tenten, who was also known as the "KWAE-BIBIRIMHENE" (King of the Dense Forest), the Guan ethnic group and the Dawu ethnic group appealed to him for help to drive the Akwamus out of their area for them to enjoy peace.

The Akyems, were mercenaries during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and, were known for helping neighboring ethnic groups fight off the middle men of the slave trade. Nana Owusu Akyem Tenten(King of the Dense Forest) agreed to send his nephew a respected soldier, Odehyee Safori, with an army made up mostly of the people of Akyem Akropong (the Twafo section of the Adonten Division) to go to the aid of the Dawus, the Guans and others. Odehyee Safori succeeded in driving the Akwamus out of what is today known as Akwapim, with its capital called Akropong, named after Akyem Akropong. Safori pursued the Akwamus across the River Volta, where they settled up to this day, with their capital at Akwamufie.

On the return to Akwapim by the victorious Akyem Abuakwa army from the banks of the Volta river, Odehyee Safori and his army, with the consent of the Okyehene, Nana Owusu Akyem Tenten, his uncle, agreed to stay in Akwapim to protect the Akwapims from any further attacks by the Akwamus which could have resulted in the Akwapims being sent into slavery. To signify this agreement, a stone was "buried" and a "verbal" contract was made which stated that the Akyems were to return to Akyem Abuakwa only when that stone had "grown". Since a stone cannot grow it indicated that the Akyem, in line with their heritage as mercenaries, were willing to stay and protect the Akuapim until the end of time. Odehyee Safori became the Paramount Chief (Akuapimhene) with Akropong–Akuapem as his capital of the newly founded Akwapim State. His nephew also became the Amanokromhene and the Gyasehene of the Akwapim state.

History has it that during the reign of the famous Nana Dokua (Abirie) as both Okyehene (King) and Ohemaa (Queenmother), a quarrel arose between her and the Kotokuhene at that time. As a result, she ordered part of the Amantomiensa (soldiers of the Paramount stool), the Asiakwahene and the Begorohene, to remove the Kotokus from Gyadam. This war, known as the "Gyadam War", forced the Kotoku to leave Gyadam. The Kwabenghene allowed them a safe passage and not a shot was fired when they passed through Kwabeng. The Kotokuhene was given land by the then chief of Wankyi, Barimah Awire (the Oseawuohene of Akyem Abuakwa) to settle at what is now known as Oda, the capital of Akyem Kotoku state. Akyem Bosome was also part of the Akyem family from the Adansi kingdom after its fall and moved southeastwards. Land for the setting up of their capital, Akyem Swedru, was provided to them by the Akyease stool (Tarkwahene), which is part of Akyem Abuakwa.

During the reign of Nana Dokua, a section of the Juabens of Ashanti revolted against the Golden Stool of Ashanti. The rebels, led by their chief, Nana Kwaku Boateng, were forced to leave Juaben in Ashanti for the south. They found settlement at Kyebi, Kwabeng, Tafo, Asamankese and other parts of Akyem Abuakwa. Later, when the trouble in Juaben subsided, some of them returned to Ashanti but came back again. On the third occasion, the British Colonial Government in Accra negotiated on their behalf, and with the consent of both the Kukurantumihene (the Adontenhene of Akyem Abuakwa), Nana Kwaku Abrante and Okyehene Nana Dokua, the government bought the land for the Juabens. They settled on it under the leadership and rule of their chief, Nana Kwaku Boateng, calling the area New Juaben, with Koforidua as its capital. An annual fee of one shilling (10cents) was agreed to be paid to the owners by the Government on behalf of the New Juabens. This changed in later years to one pound ($1) per one farm land per family, which the New Juabens had to pay to the Okyehene, until the Government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah abolished it after independence in 1957.

List of rulers of the Akan state of Akyem Abuakwa

(Dates in italics indicate de facto continuation of office)

Tenure Incumbent Notes
c.1500 Foundation of Akyem Abuakwa state (also called Okyeman)
Okyenhene (Rulers)
Asona Dynasty
???? to ???? Ba Kwante, Okyenhene
1704 to April 1727 Ofori Panyin I, Okyenhene
1727 to 1742 Owusu Akyem Tenten, Okyenhene
1742 to 1765 Pobi Asomaning II, Okyenhene
1765 to 1772 Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene 1st Term
1772 to 1783 Obirikorang Aboree, Okyenhene 1st Term
1783 Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene 2nd Term
1783 to 1790 Obirikorang Aboree, Okyenhene 2nd Term
1790 to 1801 Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene 3rd Term
1801 to 1807 Nana Saforo Apraku, Okyenhene
1807 to September 1811 Nana Atta Wusu Yiakosan, Okyenhene
1811 Nana Asare Bediako Kwadwo Kuma, Okyenhene
1811 to 1816 Nana Kofi Asante Bayinyiye, Okyenhene
1816 to 1817 Nana Twum Ampofo II, Okyenhene
1817 to 1835 Nana Afia Dokuaa, Regent
1835 to March 1859 Nana Ofori Atta Panyin, Okyenhene
May 1859 to May 1866 Nana Atta Obuom, Okyenhene
July 1866 to 2 February 1887 Nana Amoako Atta I, Okyenhene In exile at Lagos 14 May 1880 to 8 January 1885
1887 to February 1911 Nana Amoako Atta II, Okyenhene
April 1911 to 26 November 1912 Nana Amoako Atta III, Okyenhene
30 November 1912 to 1927 to 21 August 1943 Nana Ofori Atta I, Okyenhene
1927 to 21 August 1943 Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, Okyenhene
25/27 September 1943 to 13 June 1958 Nana Ofori Atta II, Okyenhene 1st Term
13 June 1958 to 14 April 1959 Nana Kwabena Kena II, Regent
14 April 1959 to 5 December 1966 Nana Amoako Atta IV, Okyenhene
5 December 1966 to 13 September 1973 Nana Ofori Atta II, Okyenhene 2nd Term
1973 to 1 May 1976 Nana Ofori Atta III, Okyenhene
2 August 1976 to 17 March 1999 Nana Kuntunkununku II, Okyenhene
17 March 1999 to 4 October 1999 Osabarima Kena Ampaw II, Regent
4 October 1999 to present Nana Amoatia Ofori Panin II, Okyenhene

This is a list of rulers of the Akan state of Akyem Kotoku.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
ante1400 Foundation of Akyem Kotoku state
Kotokuhene (Rulers) 1400 to ???? Nana Yaraware, Kotokuhene
???? to ???? Nana Boadi Nanim, Kotokuhene
???? to ???? Nana Danso Brempon -Alias Akrofi BREMPONG, Kotokuhene
???? to 1717 Nana Ofosu Aprenten, Kotokuhene
ante/c.1733 to post/c.1733 Nana Frempong Manso I, Kotokuhene
???? to 1814 Nana Kwakye Adeyefe, Kotokuhene
1824 to 1825 Nana Afrifa Akwada, Kotokuhene
1825 to 1867 Nana Agyeman, Kotokuhene
1867 to September 1927 Nana Attafua, Kotokuhene
1948 to post/c.1960 Nana Frempong Manso III, Kotokuhene
19?? to June 1998 Okofrobour Agyeman Attafua, Kotokuhene
June 1999 to present Oseadeeyo Frempong Manso IV, Kotokuhene

Ohum Festival

The traditional area of the Akyem is sometimes known as KWAEBIBIRIM because of its abundance in rich natural resources. This area is in the tropical rain forest with fertile river valleys, deep loamy soil, and fresh fauna. The land is watered by the famous river BIRIM. The river Birim is the source of Ghana's Diamond. The spiritual, physical and philosophical sustenance of the AKYEM people are derived from river Birim. The Akyem do not worship the river per se, they revere it as their source of inspiration, giving them life and strength.

During the Ohum festival Akyems thank the creator for blessing their land with such a magnificent river (BIRIM). The products from the Akyems land and river are symbols which are used to remember ancestors who struggled and persevered to keep the society intact. During the festival the descendants pledge to continue the tradition, to keep OKYEMAN strong and free with peace and prosperity. They then pledge allegiance to the King (OKYEHENE) and his sub-chiefs and elders for their leadership and guidance. This ceremony of thanksgiving to the creator is the great festival of the Akyem people known as . The Ohum festival is celebrated in Akyem Abuakwa in two parts; the Ohumkan and the Ohumkyire.



Akyems practice traditional African religion, Christianity, and Islam to a lesser extent.

Akyem people of today

Pre and post colonially, the Akyem were very involved in the intellectual and pan-African ideology which made Ghana unique among its peers. Several of the political and educated elite, were of Akyem descent. This influence continues today in modern Ghana. The Akyem have been assimilated under the common Ghanaian identity were ethnicity does not play a role as it does in other countries. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

See also


  • Giving Akyem History Its Due. Robert Addo-Fening The Journal of African History, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2002), pp. 324–326. Published by Cambridge University Press

External links