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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK

World: Africa

Ashanti King takes the throne

The coronation in Kumasi brought the city to a standstill

By West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle in Kumasi

Hundreds of thousands of people have attendedn the festivities to mark the coronation of the new king of the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana.

The new king, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, inherits powers which extend beyond the borders of the modern Ghanaian republic, as well as wealth based on Ghana's gold mines.

In the central Ghanaian town of Kumasi there was a carnival atmosphere in the main sports stadium when the new King was carried shoulder-high to meet his people for the first time.

The stadium was packed to capacity with hundreds of chiefs and thousands of their attendants who came to pay homage to the King.

Most people were dressed in elegant black robes, but the atmosphere was far from sombre.

Dancing and drumming filled the football field as the Ashantis celebrated their culture.

Symbolism reflects history

The stocky, 48-year-old accountant who is assuming the throne was wearing a traditional warrior's smock.

Protected from the sun by a huge red parasol, the King fired a gun to demonstrate his ability to lead his people in battle.

These days the guns are symbolic, but the Ashantis have a long history of resisting British colonial rule and imposing their own African colonialism on neighbouring tribes.

The Ashanti King's influence exists alongside the modern democracy which Ghana has evolved into after a turbulent political past.

But it is quite clear that some of Ghana's members of parliament have less power than certain Ashanti chiefs.

Many of Ghana's most successful politicians combine traditional roles with membership of conventional political parties.

But unlike some African countries, the competition between tribes here has not led to modern-day armed conflict. Ghana is seeking a middle way between tribal power and democracy.

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