Death! Yes, death has robbed us, in fact, it has since the times of Adam. But more painful this time it took away from us of an illustrious son of the land, a global gem, a true statesman, an exact human reflection of diplomacy, and a proud son of Asanteman, for that matter.
But ‘agyabi wua agyabi te ase,’ to wit ‘if a father dies, another lives.’ We take solace not in the fact that the son of the land after his sudden demise is being profoundly remembered globally, but in the fact that the path he carved and the deeds he lived is deeply imprinted in the pandemonium of sorrow, which greeted the announcement last weekend. A life which earned him the enviable privilege of sharing the highest title of Asanteman, Busumuru.
On Friday, August 16, 2002, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, accorded the former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, with Asanteman’s highest honour, ‘Busumuru.’ This was in recognition of the late Kofi Annan’s service to humanity, and the recognition and respect he had brought his motherland, Ghana.
Otumfuo Asantehene normally confers honours to deserving citizens at Odwira, and whenever necessary. It’s been the case since 1701, according to Sankofa Asante, a historian of Asante, Dankyira traditions, among other cultures and folklore.
However, the late Kofi Annan’s recognition was unique. He was the first person to be accorded ‘Busumuru,’ an appellation which only belongs to Otumfuo Asantehene, alone.
The ‘Busumuru’ appellation comes from the ‘Busumuru Afena’ or Sword, which is a unique regalia of Otumfuo Asantehene. In fact, according to tradition, only two people can handle the ‘Busumuru Afena,’ Otumfuo Asantehene and Otumfuo’s Busumuruhene.
Busumuru has a short but rich history. Asanteman was built with bylaws; norms; customs; traditions, all fused together in the unwritten Asante Constitution. During the process of building the Asanteman, a spiritual component was needed.
Sankofa Asante wrote, “after all, as the elders advise whenever you embark upon a project, and you leave out the name of Onynakopon, God, in the plans, you do not succeed. God was with Asanteman every step of the way, and since.”
The spiritual intercessor of Asanteman’s well-being was, being the great fetish priest, Okomfo Anokye is said to have told Osei Tutu Kofi that he needed a special sword to underpin his symbol of authority; the Stool.
It just turned out that a chief in the Kwaabre neighborhood by the name of Onoo Adu Gyamfi had such a sword. A cause for war was contrived, and in quick order, Onoo Adu Gyamfi who ruled a big state centered at Gyamase was defeated. His sword was confiscated by the victorious Osei Tutu.
Okomfo Anokye is said to have prayed and poured libation or ‘Apae’ over the sword; fortified it spiritually, and consecrated the Busumuru as the premier most important sword in its class. Other powerful symbols such as the wreath ‘adwera’ that Okomfo Anokye made for Osei Tutu, and placed it on his head, for the trip to Kwaeman from Akwamu were added to the Gyemirekutukyɛ that the custodian of Busumuru, the Busumuruhene now wears on his head, cap.
What is significant is that, for the Ɔyoko Abohyɛn of Kumase, Busumuru became integral to their traditional Stool regalia or symbol of power and authority.
So, when Sikadwa became the ultimate symbol of power and authority, the Ɔyoko who became the inheritors of Sikadwa, incorporated the Busumuru, aided by Okomfo Anokye, into the customary/ religious/spiritual rituals that authenticate the Kumasemanhene, as Asantehene.
History has it that a ritual is performed in secret at Pampaso, after which the Kumasemanhene having previously sworn on Mponponsuo Afena becomes truly speaking Otumfuo Asantehene.
In the event of a stalemate in a discussion of Asante national interest, Amanhene and Abrempon defer to Otumfuo Asantehene by proclaiming “Busumuru fa wo bem.” Meaning that the Asanteman Nhyiamu is utterly convinced that whatever decision Otumfuo decides will be to the benefit of Asanteman. And indeed, it has; since 1701. Busumuru has never made an error or been in error.
Busumuru Afena is, therefore, a spiritual entity, as enunciated by Okomfo Anokye. It leads the swords grouped together as ‘Abosomfena’ or Swords of the Spirit / Deity empowering, and also overseeing the spiritual needs of Asantehene and Asanteman at all times.
Whenever Otumfuo Asantehene sits in state, at a durbar or ‘dwabo,’ Busumuruhene sits to the left of Otumfuo and also when he rides in Palanquin or ‘Apakan,’ when he’s asleep among others.
If the Busumuruhene has to take a leave at a gathering, temporarily, he places Busumuru at the feet of Baafuɔ Otumfuo Ankobiahene. However, only two royals can ever touch Busumuru; the Otumfuo Asantehene; and Otumfuo Bosomuruhene.
Busumuru is deemed holy. It cannot be defiled. It cannot touch dirt. And it is hurriedly covered in ‘Nnwera’ at the approach of a woman, as happens frequently at durbars. It is rarely if ever taken to war.
Busumuru is also deemed to be peaceful and peace-loving. It is humanized in its ascription. So, when Otumfuo Santehene conferred the title of Busumuru on the late Kofi Annan, he was recognizing the man in the most respectful, and personal manner.
As Otumfuo remarked on that fateful Friday full of pomp and pageantry, symbolized by the pure gold chain he placed on Kofi Annan, Bosomuru belongs to him, Otumfuo Asantehene. However, he was assigning a little portion to him for all the pride he brought to Ghana, and the good deeds he had done around the globe.
“I and the entire Asante state have decided to add your name to the Busumuru title because of your selflessness and contributions to humanity, and (promotion) of peace throughout the world,” Otumfuo said as he placed a gold necklace around Kofi Annan’s neck to the sound of traditional drumming.
Kofi Annan responded: “I share this honor with all good people of the world through whose contributions we are able to get somewhere.”
The late Busumuru Kofi Annan was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations (UN) staff to serve as the Secretary-General of the UN.
He served as the seventh UN Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006. The UN and Annan were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2001 “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”
While he was the Secretary-General, he prioritized the establishment of a comprehensive reforms programme aimed at revitalizing the UN. UN had traditionally been working in the areas of development and he worked for further strengthening this work.
A passionate advocate of human rights, and a strong believer in the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity, Annan wanted to bring the UN closer to the people by reaching out to new partners and thereby restore public confidence in the organization.
He had a major part to play in the establishment of two new intergovernmental bodies: The Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council in 2005.
He also played a pivotal role in the creation of the Global Funds to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
He strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Iran’s nuclear programme. After his retirement from the UN in 2006, he returned to Ghana where he became actively involved with a number of organizations like the Global Humanitarian Forum, The Elders, United Nations Foundation, One Young World, among others.
In February 2012, Annan was appointed as the joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria in an attempt to deal with the ongoing conflicts there. He resigned in August 2012 owing to lack of any progress due to intransigence on the part of all the concerned parties.
The late Mr. Annan married a Nigerian woman Titi Alakija in 1965, but they later separated in the 1970s and divorced in 1983. They have two children, Ama and Kojo, together. He later got married to Nane Lagergren, a Swedish lawyer. She has a daughter from a previous marriage.
Kofi Annan died on August 18, 2018, in Bern, Switzerland. He was 80.
As tradition demands, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has to be formally informed by the family of the late Busumuru Kofi Annan, led by the ‘Abusuyapayin’ Nana Birewuo II (head of the family), of his demise.
It is after this formal notification that the Asantehene, it is believed, Otumfuo Osei Tutu will advise the family on the preparations towards the final funeral rites and burial of the late Busumuru Kofi Annan.
Busumuru Kofi Annan is gone! Busumuru lives. Asanteman nkwa so. Nananom nkwa so. Obi nyaa saa bi a, anka obeye bi.
NB: There were contributions from Sankofa Asante (on Facebook) and www.thefamouspeople.com to this article.