Some time ago, I wrote a protocol piece of something of huge sentimental value to all Sierra Leoneans – ‘RESPECT FOR OUR NATIONAL FLAG’. In that article, I laid particular emphasis on why and how we should honour and treat our national flag as a mark of respect and reverence for our national identity.
Our flag- the green-white-blue trapdoor- is more than just a piece of cloth or material. It is the symbol of our nation. It is our national identity and pride. Not surprisingly, the first chapter of our 1991 constitution, in section 3, not only provides for but also indicates how it should be displayed. Our national flag consists of three horizontal stripes of equal width of green at the top, white in the middle and blue at the bottom.
In my previous piece, I highlighted the two significant features of a national flag, namely, 1) The descriptive aspect- the design, colour & shape 2) The symbolism- what it signifies or means.
Sadly, in Sierra Leone, the majority of people can only boast of knowledge of the symbolism of our flag colours. Most people do not know the correct colour codes. What it obtains is a mumble jumble of personal taste, colour blindness and a game of fifty shades of green and blue. When I questioned the variations in the colour shades at Lungi the other day, someone retorted ‘—-green na green, blue na blue’. Is there a problem?
Sure, there was a problem. The array of flags at Lungi on the day of the commissioning and indeed the thousand flags flying all around the country have incorrect colour shades. However, because I did not wish to get into fruitless arguments in the midst of such national excitement and euphoria- besides the fact that I was hungry and exhausted from the long wait – I decided to let it go and write this piece for everyone’s benefit.
Yes, I was at Lungi for the commissioning of the airport. The new Freetown International airport at Lungi. What a source of pride!! The beauty and splendour the new airport have added to our national image are better imagined than described. We commend the government, the office of the president’s infrastructure initiative (OPII) and all those who are involved in the project. But like Oliver Twist, I can only echo the wishes of fellow development-oriented Sierra Leoneans ‘We want more……’- May Allah hear our prayers and grant us our desires. The airport, as they say, is the showcase and gateway to our country. We must endeavour to display the best and most accurate attributes- culture, colours, designs, character- to put the country in good stead in the competitive world arena, as includes displaying accurate national flags.
The colour shades of our flag displayed at Lungi were not the correct shades, and so are the thousands of flags on display in the offices, at events, in schools, at parades, state structure uniforms etc. This breach of protocol continues to cause embarrassment and it is time we stop it once and for all. Hence this article.
At independence, the correct shades of blue and green identified and adapted are in accordance with British standard number# 2660 of 1995, are as follows; a) 6.072 leaf green b) 0.012 cobalt blue.
The normal size of the flag is in the proportion of nine across and six down. The colours have the following symbolism; a) GREEN- Agriculture, natural resources and mountain ranges. B) WHITE- Unity and Justice c) BLUE- Natural harbour & peace.
These are the specifications inherited at independence and they have not changed since. As long as the ordinance remains, we must and should abide by it. The most significant symbol of the sovereignty of every country in the world is its national flag. It is also the most recognizable feature of every country. The shape, colour combination and design patterns are unique to each state. Flags not only add beauty and pageantry to ceremonies – as in Lungi but also symbolizes national sentiments. Therefore, the colour shade must be exact. Yes ‘blue na blue, but don’t we have ‘madingo blue’- (fente or sky blue) and (fullah blue) – (navy blue and royal blue) in Sierra Leone? Indeed ‘green na green’ but boo……we have bottle green, leaf green, mint green etc. All these colours have specific colour codes or identity members. Heads of state, individuals as well as countries are known to have reacted (negatively) when the wrong flags were displayed to represent their respective countries. During the London Olympics, the Chinese team refused to mount the podium to receive their medal because the ‘wrong flag’ was displayed. One of the four smaller stars on the flag was inappropriately situated. In Sierra Leone, during the inauguration of the newly elected president in 2007, the president of a sister country refused to enter the stadium until his correct country flag was displayed. The organizing team had inadvertently displayed a similar-looking flag instead, the president in question only left his hotel suite when protocol informed him that the correct flag was now on display. Yes, we can also demonstrate our love and respect for our flag by displaying it in its correct colour shades.
In countries like South Africa, India, the United States and France, for example, there are strict flag rules and regulations provided by law to enhance flag etiquette. Nevertheless, though Sierra Leone does not have such a law, the least we can do is to ensure the use of accurate colour shades. Perhaps the ministry of foreign affairs, law officers’ departments and parliament can collaborate/cooperate on this matter to eradicate the continuous national embarrassment. So, when we, Sierra Leoneans and the rest of the world display our national flag, it will be in appropriate colours. Let us correct this mistake once-and-for-all. FOR THE LAND THAT WE LOVE- SIERRA LEONE.