It was like a typical day at Makola or Kajetia – too many people and utter  chaos. But this wasn’t Makola or Kajetia. This was the Independence Square and the occasion was the inauguration of the world’s newest president, John Atta Mills. The enthusiastic crowd, mostly supporters of the NDC, had come from far and near to catch a glimpse of the new president, cheer him on and, in some cases, just be part of history. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But there was everything wrong with the way the whole event was planned and staged. It appears that no arrangement was made for crowd control and as the surging crowd invaded the inner perimeter of the Independence Square – where the actual formalities were supposed to take place – police officers looked on unconcerned. They only decided to act when the situation got completely out of control.
Members of Parliament, before whom the new president and his vice were supposed to be swearing the oaths of office, had their views completely blocked. They couldn’t see a thing and as some of them set aside their honourable dignity to jostle with the surging crowd for space, others were compelled to jump on their seats to get a clear view of what was going on. Others were seen exchanging words with ‘kaklo’ and ice cream sellers who had invaded their space.
The chaos marred the beauty and dignity of the moment. The peaceful transfer of power from one president to another should make all Ghanaians proud. But the chaotic scenes that surrounded the event should fill us all with shame.
President Kufuor’s inauguration in 2001 was also very chaotic but Mills’ was worse. It’s such a shame to see security men on national television using brute force to beat back crowds of helpless men and women when a little bit of planning would have ensured more sanity. Ironically, for this presidential inauguration it seems more security officers were deployed for the march past than for crowd control.  
As a result, the ceremony was not as dignified as it ought to have been. All the VIPs who attended the event were ushered to the venue amidst some jostling. They all seemed very rushed. President Kufuor and the Nigerian leader, Umaru Yar’Adua, were stuck in traffic as they made their way to the venue. It took a contingent of AK47-wielding police officers to create a path for their vehicles to pass through. Almost every VIP who attended the event had to contend with the disorderly crowd to get to their seats and President Atta Mills and his vice had to literally force their way through the crowd to get on the dais. Just imagine the president-elect being hurried to his seat as security agents used brute force to create a path for him to pass through a sea of human bodies.
“The security arrangement was not satisfactory to me,” former MP for Lawra Nandom, Benjamin Kumbuor said. “I mean it was so problematic. Next time it should be done well.” 

The Rev. Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana is also troubled by what happened. “The security arrangement left much to be desired,” he says.
I wonder if these complaints will have any consequence, though.
People are so lost in the euphoria of the moment and you can be sure that they will forget so soon about the chaotic moments that greeted Mills’ first moments as President of the Republic. I won’t be surprised if no attempt is made to review how the programme was organised and so four or eight years from now, when a new president is being sworn in, the chaotic scenes we saw at Mills’ inauguration will most likely be repeated – or worse. I will be very glad if I’m proved wrong!
I think the chaos and the uncontrollable crowd can be partly attributed to the carnival atmosphere created at the event by NDC supporters. Most distressingly, they came proudly draped in party colours, eager to turn this all-important national event into a party rally. I don’t remember seeing any party colours eight years ago when Kufuor was taking his oath of office. The idea was that a presidential inauguration is a national event and it is not an appropriate occasion for anyone to demonstrate loyalty to any party. The NDC doesn’t seem to think so and therefore they didn’t make any attempt whatsoever to follow the good precedent set by the NPP. For example, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings came to the event wearing her usual ‘Talebanic’ turban in NDC party colours. There were jesters, fetish priests and even ‘atwimor’ sellers draped in party colours. However, I saw Alex Segbefia (one of President Mills’ closest aides) dressed in a white ‘agbada’ with a beautiful embroidery of the national colours. That was good. But overall, the preponderance of party colours at the inauguration sets us back about eight years – in terms of the convention that party colours should not be seen at national event. I hope the new government is not going to set us back in other areas as well.

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