Kobina Gyan, the African King Who Was Exiled for Refusing to Take an Oath of Allegiance to the British

Kobina Gyan was king of the Elmina people of Ghana who was exiled to sierra leone by the British colonial authorities for his refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the British throne.

Kobina Gyan was born in Elmina to Kobina Conduah, who became king in 1863. During his father’s reign, Kobina Gyan was sub-king and acted as a prominent spokesperson for the Elmina community.

In 1867, when the enforcement of the Anglo-Dutch Convention for an Interchange of Territory on the Gold Coast of Africa (Present day Ghana) resulted in a siege of Elmina by the Fante Confederacy, Kobina Gyan co-authored the August 1868 petition to king William III of the Netherlands, asking him for help and assistance while his father did nothing.

After his father was destooled in January 1869 for not opposing Dutch governor George Pieter Willem Boers’s way of dealing with the siege of Elmina strongly enough, Kobina Gyan was crowned the new king of Elmina on 15 July 1869.

During his rule, Kobina Gyan who openly disliked the British, heard about the Dutch’s plan to transfer all their possessions in the Gold Coast to the British and he did all he could to prevent the transfer from ever happening, but with the Gold Coast Treaty of 1871, the whole colony was eventually ceded to the British for 46,939.62 Dutch guilders to Konbina Gyan’s dismay.

After the sale of the Gold Coast to the British, the Dutch Lieutenant Governor Jan Helenus Ferguson who knew about Konbina’s dislike of the British arrived Elmina in November 1871 to effect the transfer of all Dutch possessions to the British, while he was at it, he also deposed Kobina Gyan because he feared that he was going to pose a problem to the British.

Elmina was turned over to the British on 6 April 1872, and on taking control, the first thing the British colonial authorities who wanted to win the heart of the people of Elmina did was to reinstate Kobina Gyan as king on 8 May 1872. They also gave him an English flag which he never flew throughout the period he was King. He also refused British payment of monthly wages.

Ten months after he was reinstated, the Gold Coast governor Robert William Harley decided to test Kobina Gyan’s loyalty by requesting him to take an oath of allegiance to the British. When Kobina Gyan refused, he was arrested and taken by boat to Cape Coast, before being exiled to Sierra Leone.

Statue of Kobina Gyan in Elmina

Kobina Gyan’s remained in exile for 21 years and was only granted mercy when Elmina’s new District Commissioner Hendrik Vroom pleaded on his behalf.

Kobina Gyan again set foot on Elminan soil on 17 May 1894 and was again proclaimed king. Less than two years later, on 12 March 1896, Kobina Gyan died. He was buried in the Dutch Cemetery of Elmina.

In May 2005, Elmina’s Trafalgar Square was renamed Kobina Gyan square, and a statue of Kobina Gyan was unveiled at the centre.

Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

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