Kwahu is an Akan group and area, dubbed Asaase Aban or the natural fortress, in view of its national position as the highest habitable elevation. Kwahu lies in the Eastern Region of Ghana, on the west shore of Lake Volta. They share the region with their fellow Akans the Akyems, the Adangbe-Krobos and a small sect of migrant Ewes in the Afram Plains area who double as fishing experts and caretakers in the waterfront zone. There are two common spellings of the name, Kwawu and Kwahu. The "w" spelling is the official spelling from the African Studies Centre, University of Ghana, and more resembles the pronunciation. The "h" was put in by Swiss missionaries from Basel, who added the "h" to ensure that Kwa, the first syllable, was not pronounced as "eh." The "h" is not separately pronounced in the name. For Anglo-Germanic speakers, Ku-A-U may be an easier pronunciation help whilst Franco-Roman natives would say KoU-AoU with ease.
The term Kwahu also refers to the variant of Akan language spoken in this region and to the Kwahu people who come from the region, there are about 1,000,000 Kwahus. Except for a few variations in stress, pronunciation and syntax, there are no markers in the dialect spoken by the Kwahus, who are originally of Ashanti stock, having separated and then migrated from the Sekyere-Efiduase-Mampong area to their present settlement, joining a few others from Akyem and other ancestral Ashanti heartland.
The Mamponghene, who is next to the Ashanti King in hierarchy, and the Kwahuhene, are historically cousins, hence both occupy Silver Stools with the salutation of Daasebre.
The name derives from its myths of origin, "The slave (akoa) died (wu)," which was based on an ancient prophecy that a slave would die so the wandering tribe of Akan would know where to settle. The myth was part of the historical stories of the Agona matriclan, the first paramount lineage of Kwawu, and was later adopted by the Bretuao-Tena matriclan (Twidan) who later replaced them.
The paramount king and the royal matrilineage of the Kwawu reside at Abene, north of Abetifi on the banks of the highlands. The strategic location of Abene and a dreaded militia that guarded the route was led by Akwamu warriors who fiercely repelled attempts by colonial forces to capture the Omanhene. Even today, the road from Abetifi to the small enclave housing the king is plied with some unease, given the stories recounted .
Until their leaders seized upon the opportunities presented with the Bond of 1844, Kwahu was thus an integral part of Ashanti Kingdom and attested by available maps of the period. It is also worthy of note: Ashanti waged punitive and protracted wars against fellow Akans including Denkyira, Akwamu, Akyem, Fanti, Assin but never fought Kwahu. Abetifi (Tena matriclan) is the head of the Adonten (vanguard). Obo (Aduana, Ada, Amoakade) is the head of the Nifa (Right Division) Aduamoa (Dwumena, Asona) is the head of the Benkum (Left Division). Pepease is the head of the Kyidom or rear guard division.
As part of the Asante Empire, Kwawu had an Asante emissary, governor or ambassador at Atibie, next to Mpraeso, of the Ekuona matriclan). To indicate its independence from Asante in 1888 the Kwawu assassinated the Asante emissary in Atibe, about the time of the arrival of the Basel missionaries from Switzerland. Fritz Ramseyer, enroute to Kumasi with his captors, had been granted a few days of rest during a stop at Kwahu and recovered quickly from a bout of fever in the mountains. Upon gaining his freedom later from the Asantehene, he sought permission to build a Christian Mission in Abetifi, thereby placing the town on the world map and opening the area to vocational and evangelical opportunities. Obo, traditionally pro-Ashanti, led the opposition to the Swiss. It is orally told that the Kwahus chose Obo as their financial center.
In recent years, Kwahu has become the best place to celebrate Easter. Many from far away places within the borders of the country and even beyond go there to enjoy themselves. The Kwahu mountains offer an ideal spot for Paragliders to showcase their skills to the public and to share the thrills of gliding. Such events also serve as Tourist Attractions sites and generates income for the Ghanaian Economy. Characteristics of Kwahu natives are centred on economics, self-sufficiency and an incredible ability to forego short-term or immediate wants in planning for longer-term goals; they are natural-born entrepreneurs.
Trivia: Experts in thrift, the Kwahus surprise with relative success where others fail in any manner of business, from cocoa farming to house front trading and modern service sector or manufacturing industries.
As a result, they are often thought to be wealth-creating magicians.
Until recently, they shunned political activism and are arguably under-represented in government appointments, compared with other Akan groups such as Ashanti, Fanti, Brong or Akyem.
Kwahus often wish to spend the retirement years in their mountainous home region and are more likely to marry from their tribal group and invest in a magnificent home. Choice of spouse outside the group often will depend on strategic business calculations and a willingness of the partner to relocate at old age.
Kwahus get along relatively well with others but may have special relations with the Ga of Accra who initially welcomed and supported their businesses in the post independence era. A considerable population of Northern migrants and Ewes permanently reside in Kwahu, exercising caretaker functions on lands and farms as their hosts move into the metropolitan areas to engage in micro Start-ups.