Flag displays: Why is State Protocol sleeping on the job?

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Not too long ago I posed a question in this column, about whether there’s anybody responsible for the care of the flags on the Accra ceremonial routes.

The current flags situation on a number of some of the most prominent streets in the capital requires a repetition of the question I asked in March:

“So who is in charge of the flags on the capital’s streets? The State Protocol Department? Who mounts them and who should see to it that when they need changing the job is done so that none of our national flags becomes a flying rag on a flagpole?” (‘On the missing music of police sirens, and flag matters’, issue of March 9, 2018).

Last week, media reports stated that the Mayor of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, has launched a project to beautify the city, designated the ‘Sustainable Greening and Beautification of Accra’. Among other objectives, the first phase will see to the greening and manicuring of all open spaces.

Great news for those of us who have been campaigning for ages for the city to be rid of filth, as well as turned into a city of cultivated greenery and flowers; minus the weeds now sprouting all over.

Two other factors excite me about the initiative: that the Mayor intends to work with the Department of Parks and Gardens which, in my opinion, has been neglected for far too long, as well as through building partnerships with communities and institutions. The way I see it, that means everybody in Accra needs to be made to feel a part of the beautification project.

If everybody were to ‘brighten’ the corner where they are’, the total would be the kind of city President Akufo-Addo doubtlessly had in mind when he expressed the determination to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa.

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It seems to me that if the city authorities are really serious about beautifying Accra, the things to be tackled include ensuring that the unsightly, messy look of most of the capital’s streets sees a change immediately, including the appearance of the flags on the flagpoles.

It’s not just a matter of planting flowers or shrubs and waiting to see them grow to improve the city’s environment. It’s a matter of maintaining what exists, making sure that the comparatively minor tasks are taken care of before bigger projects are undertaken.

Earlier this week, I went on yet another survey of some of Accra’s ceremonial routes, hoping that I would see an improved picture. I didn’t.

What I saw led me to ask myself again: why do the authorities go to the trouble of mounting the national flag along the ceremonial routes if nobody is going to bother about their appearance after that? This is why I want to draw the attention of Mayor Sowah to the condition of the street flags because departments need to collaborate for the collective good.

Needless to say, a flag is a very important national symbol. As one source sums up: “A national flag is a flag that represents and symbolizes a country.” That is why some people burn the flag of a country as the ultimate protest against that country; and that is also why in some places disrespecting a national flag is almost a hanging offence.

From the Obetsebi Lamptey Circle, through the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange (popularly known as ‘Circle Dubai’) to the Ako Adjei Interchange, what I saw was that the Ghana flags mounted there, on the flagpoles, were few and far between.

But what was worse was that they were, shockingly, mostly dirty, discoloured and torn. They were not the national symbol of patriotism and pride, but offensive, tattered pieces of cloth.

Even if that stretch is not formally characterized as a ceremonial route, significantly it passes in front of the President’s residence thus it is not an ordinary street.

So does it mean that none of the city authorities drive along that route? No Ministers pass through that area?

The practice of displaying the Ghana flag on the ceremonial routes should stop if taking care of them is not considered important.

For a long time the disgraceful state of the flags there has been that way, including the period when practically the whole world was in Ghana for the funeral of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – and, despite the fact that Ghana flags were flying at half mast as a sign of national mourning for Mr Annan.

And, inexplicably, from the ’37 Military Hospital to the Ako Adjei Interchange I saw no flags, although that road passes directly in front of Jubilee House, the seat of the Presidency. The only flags there were those mounted on the Jubilee House gates.

Why are the flags mounted along streets if nobody is assigned to monitor them, check when they need changing? What image of the capital, and of the country, does it present to tourists and other visitors if a country can’t maintain even an important national emblem such as the flag?

I have two other questions: Firstly, why has the middle colour in our national flag, which was deliberately chosen by the flag designer, Mrs Theodosia Okoh, as a GOLD colour, to represent the gold in our country, in recent times has been changed to a sickly, uninspiring lemony yellow hue?

Official sources describe the national flag thus: “Red, gold and green horizontal stripes with a five-pointed black star in the centre of the gold stripe. The colour red represents the blood of those who died in the country's struggle for independence: gold stands for the mineral wealth (emphasis added), while green symbolizes the rich forest.”

Secondly, in connection with the change of the gold colour, as well as the seemingly inferior fabric of the flags seen on sale and on display, who is ensuring the quality of the Ghana flag being manufactured now?

How we view the red, gold and green flag, as a treasured national symbol should be seen in the way every single print of the Ghana flag looks.

And have I been wrong to assume that the State Protocol Department is in charge of national flag displays in the capital city? If that is still their duty, why are they sleeping on the job?

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