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A Grave Precedent: War and Exploitation in the Evolving International Trade of Komenda

Sam Leslie

In 1688, the French challenged Dutch dominance at Little Komenda by constructing a trading post. The Eguafo Kingdom gladly received French interest as it capitalized off of competing trade partners. In pursuit of complete dominance, the Dutch malevolently turned their hostilities against the Eguafo Kingdom.

The Dutch partnered with the neighboring African Adom state to attack the Eguafo; however, in early 1688, the Eguafo used French gold to bribe the Adom towards a neutral position. This tactic displayed the power of mutually beneficial international exchanges, the power of cooperation. Still, the Dutch refused to accept the plausibility of international communion; they allied instead with the Twifos, powerful local traders who were being “hindered to trade.” The ingrained power of the Dutch and Twifo usurped Eguafo control, and this led to Dutch victory and a beheaded king. Thereafter, the Dutch and the Twifo held influence over Little Komenda while French and English companies abandoned their factories. Clearly, there was a conflict between which pathways should pave the future of international relations: a pathway of exploitation or one of cooperation. In this battle the Dutch’s decision to choose exploitation over cooperation set a grim precedent.

The English attempted to resettle at Komenda three years later; however, Twifo along with Caboceers traders had unfavorable opinions of the English because their influence relied upon exclusive trading rights of their ally, the Dutch West India Trading Company (WIC). Meanwhile, the Eguafo Kingdom’s King Takyi Panin or Great Taggee, who had a history of fighting against the Dutch, invited the English Royal African Company (RAC) to reoccupy their Komenda factory in hopes of returning to power at Little Komenda. John Cabees, who had defected to become a “creature of the Dutch,” rejected this possibility. In 1694, the English once again offered “a trade by a peace”; however, a war between the Akan and Cabees Terra (African states) disrupted trade and Twifo traders were robbed of their goods, risking another war between the Eguafo and Twifos.

After many years of consistent Dutch influence, demands between parties and subsequent conflicts led to a breakdown in Dutch-Eguafo relations. The premier disagreement that escalated hostilities in Komenda was a “palaver” between the WIC and John Cabees. A simple disagreement devolved into attacks upon Cabees’ village and an Eguafo gold mine, reopening alliance-building. The English allied with the Fante, Asebu, and Eguafo, while the Dutch sought partnerships with the Twifos and Cabees Terra. The WIC and RAC each accused the other of exploiting a “preexisting breach” between African rivals (i.e. the Twifo versus the Eguafo). One Dutch account noted, “by your Honours to the natives…no war would have occurred, because the natives are only merchants who want to have a free access for trade.” Both European companies dislodged and exploited native populations towards larger wars for exclusive access to the Komenda trade.

On February 14, 1695, the RAC found out that Aban, the uncle of John Cabees, had been panyarred by the Dutch because of his nephew’s RAC settlement. Unfortunately for the Dutch, Aban retained his freedom and persuaded the Denkirya king to stop the Twifos from warring with Eguafo. On February 25, 1695, John Cabees and his men resisted a desperate Dutch attack with assistance from the Eguafo alliance. In a separate counter-attack, the forces at Little Komenda attacked and subdued a Dutch fort, devastating the Dutch’s hopes to change authority in Little and Great Komenda. Over the next year, the English exerted primary control over Komenda with the African states of Fante, Asebu, and Felu remaining loyal to the Eguafo. With loyalty to nearby states and a sense of stability established, Takyi Panin wrote, “I hope now and upon good grounds we need not any longer stand in fear of our neighbours’ endeavours.” Little did he know that conflict would return.

  • Please refer to the previous Komenda Wars article on, reading that article is essential to understanding this article.

  • Robin Law, "The Komenda Wars, 1694-1700: A Revised Narrative," History in Africa 34 (2007): 138,

  • Law, "The Komenda," 141.

  • Law, "The Komenda," 145.

  • Ibid

  • The act of seizing a person until there is a repayment of debt

  • Law, "The Komenda," 149.


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