The year 2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the first recorded enslaved Africans’ arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, USA in 1619. Ghana holds a special place in the dark history of the transatlantic slave trade as a key departure point in Africa.
It was against this backdrop that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo declared 2019 as ‘The Year of Return’ to welcome home African descendants in the diaspora. The campaign has generally been described as a success. It was a useful strategy as a marketing tool – which obviously increased people of African origin arrivals in the country.
The Ghana Tourism Authority estimated that about 900, 0000 diasporians trooped into Ghana – to among others commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first time Black captives touched American soil. The Minister of Tourism, Barbra Oteng Gyasi, said the Year of Return injected about US$1.9billion into the Ghanaian economy.
On the heels of The Year of Return’s success story, government has launched ‘Beyond the Return’. The follow-up project is a 10-year (2020-2030) initiative seeking to maximise dividends from Ghana’s relations with the diaspora in mutually beneficial cooperation to spur growth and development. The project is under the theme ‘A decade of African Renaissance – 2020-2030’.
In the quest to reposition Ghana on the global tourism map with this project, it is imperative to identify strategic tourism sites and give them a facelift to bolster the list of attractive tourism destinations. Beyond the slave departure points along the coast of the country, there are many other captivating transit points along the slave route. One of such areas in Kunsu, a village in the Kintampo North Municipality of the Bono East Region.
Kunsu Slave Market Centre
At the height of the dehumanising slave trade, Kunsu was a strategic market centre and depot for captives. Per its location in the transitional belt of the country, Kunsu served the purposes of slave masters within that enclave. The village is 14 kilometres away from the Kintampo town. All is not well with the management and preservation of vital footprints left in the farming community, centuries after the slave trade ended. With the launch of Beyond the Return, it would be useful for authorities to pay attention to a community like Kunsu to boost tourism.
Edward squatting by one of the pillars along the slave route at Kunsu
There used to be a huge baobab tree situated at the Kunsu slave market centre. According to history, the captives were tied to that tree. After the abolishment of slave trading in the 1800s, it appears the local didn’t realise the importance of preserving the market centre. At some point in time, the place was left deserted until they decided to plant trees at the slave market centre. However, bush-fires are among the greatest enemies of the forest cover at Kunsu and its environs. A visit to the site revealed that fire has burnt the slave baobab tree at the then-Kunsu slave market centre; it has left a short stump as the remains of an historic tree.
Baobab tree-stump remains at the Kunsu slave market centre
There is also a massive slave cave complex at Kunsu. The caves are located about a kilometre away from the village and served as a depot for the slave masters, where they kept captives before transporting them to Bonomanso for sorting en route to down-south castles along the coast. Very little is known by the public about the natural slave dungeon at Kunsu. In an effort to maximise tourism potential, the Tourism Authority, Kintampo Municipal Assembly and other relevant stakeholders must collaborate with the community to promote the beautiful site.
In the interim, the Chief Priest of Kunsu, Owusu Asaw who conducted a team of journalists around the caves, said the community has reserved the place as a sacred zone. He said the sacred caves have become an abode of wide animals, including monkeys and pythons. A spiritualist has to pour libation before you can visit the site. According to the Chief Priest, anybody who visits the caves without the knowledge of authorities will be attacked by bees of the land gods.
Entrance to the cave
End-view of the Bourgyema slave caves at Kunsu
Accessibility is a major hindrance to unearthing the tourism potential of Kunsu. The Ntankro-Kunsu stretch of the 14 kilometre road is terribly bad. Very few cars ply the route, but at exorbitant fare when they do. Whenever it rains, the community gets cut-off from the rest of the country. A newly-elected Assemblywoman in the Community, Rose Gyamera, made a passionate appeal for government to, at least, reshape the road to ease transportation. She also implored investors to help develop Kunsu as a preferred tourism destination.