In 1837, Badu Bonsu II rebelled against the Dutch government, and killed several officers, including acting governor Hendrik Tonneboeijer. The Dutch government used the Treaty of Butre as the basis for military action against Badu Bonsu and an expeditionary force was sent to Ahanta. In the war that followed, the king was captured, sentenced for murder, and hanged. The Dutch disorganised the Ahanta state, appointing the chief of Butre as regent, keeping the country under close control with an enlarged military and civilian presence. Following the execution of king Badu Bonsu, his body was desecrated as a Dutch surgeon removed his head. The head was taken to the Netherlands, where it was soon lost for more than a century.
Dutch Return Severed Head Of King Badu Bonsu II To His Descendants In Ghana 171 Years Later – THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The descendants of an African chief who was hanged and decapitated by a Dutch general 171 years ago reluctantly accepted the return of his severed head Thursday, still angry even as the Dutch tried to right a historic wrong.
The head of King Badu Bonsu II was discovered last year in a jar of formaldehyde gathering dust in the anatomical collection of the Leiden University Medical Center. The Dutch government agreed to Ghanaian demands that the relic be returned.
On Thursday, members of the king’s Ahanta tribe, dressed in dark robes and wearing red sashes, took part in the hand-over ceremony, honoring his spirit by toasting with Dutch gin and then sprinkling the drink over the floor at the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
But descendants of the chief said they were not consoled.
“I am hurt, angry. My grandfather has been killed,” said Joseph Jones Amoah, the great, great grandson of the chief.
The chief’s head was stored elsewhere at the ministry and was not displayed during the ceremony. It is expected to be flown with the tribe members back to Ghana on Friday.
Dutch–Ahanta War – The conflict started with an ordinary economic dispute between the Ahanta and the Dutch. The Ahanta king Badu Bonsu II had seized a shipment of gunpowder that was to be delivered by an Amsterdam trader to the neighbouring kingdom of Wassa. Diplomatic efforts on the part of the Dutch did not resolve the situation, leading Governor Hendrik Tonneboeijer to send a mission to the Ahanta. When both his envoys were shot by the Ahanta, however, Tonneboeijer decided to assemble in Elmina an expeditionary force of 200 men to arrest Badu Bonsu. Despite having been warned that his force was too small to defeat the Ahanta, Tonneboeijer set out for the Kingdom of Ahanta soon. On 28 October 1837, his force was ambushed by the Ahanta, who killed 45 men, including Governor Tonneboeijer.
On receiving the news of the death of the Governor, the Dutch government decided to send an expeditionary force to “quell the insurrection”. Under the command of General Jan Verveer, the force left Elmina for Ahanta in 1838. This time no fighting ensued, however, as the Ahanta themselves were eager to relinquish the unpopular Badu Bonsu to the Dutch.
Badu Bonsu was then trialed at an ad-hoc open-field court-martial, where he was given the death sentence on 26 July 1838. Badu Bonsu did not take the conviction too seriously, and tried to bribe the Dutch with a few calabashes of gold. He was, however, hanged the next day on the spot where Tonneboeijer’s two envoys were shot. His accomplices were sent into exile to the Dutch East Indies without trial.
Badu Bonsu’s head was cut off by the army physician and put in a jar of formaldehyde, officially for scientific purposes. A more likely explanation for this desecration is revenge, as the two envoys had been decapitated by Badu Bonsu as well, and subsequently attached to his throne as ornaments.