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The day Rawlings ordered arrest of a lawyer for not standing for National Anthem



The moment, which happened during the launch of the 2023 Green Ghana Day, at the University of Ghana, has raised a lot of discussions, prompting an expert article to explain why there was such a big fuss about the president’s anger.

A senior military officer within the Ghana Armed Forces, who preferred to remain anonymous, told GhanaWeb that the basis for the president’s reaction was principally because the National Anthem reflects the pride of the country.

He stressed that just like the Coat of Arms of the country, the National Anthem carries equal weight and like conventions all over the world, they require the utmost respect and treatment.

“Anthems are the national pride, just like the flags, the Coat of Arms, and those things, you don’t joke with them. That is the heart and soul of the whole nation and you to respect it. There is no ambiguity about this; you must respect it.

“In other countries, when they play or sing the national anthem, everybody stands at attention, no matter where you are. So, I am sure it is in that same understanding of the pride of Ghana although I am not sure there is any law to back this,” he explained.

But this is not the first time a sitting president has expressed fury, openly, about someone’s refusal to stand during the national anthem.

In 1991, under the rule of the late Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, he had cause to call for the arrest of a lawyer who refused to stand during the national anthem.

According to details from, in December 1991 – before Ghana became a democracy, JJ Rawlings ordered that then Secretary General of the Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ), John Ndebugre, be arrested for allegedly failing to stand when the national anthem was played.

Corroborating this story, the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, upon the death of Ndebugre in 2022, recounted his first encounter with the late lawyer.

According to Mahama Ayariga, while he was a child in Bawku, he heard the story about how Rawlings had visited the region for a festival.

He explained that when everybody got up to recite the national anthem, John Ndebugre remained seated in protest against something.

He said when they were done singing the anthem, the late Jerry John Rawlings called his security to whisk him away to the police station, where he was locked up.

“… It was in the 80s in Bawku at the community center where the former president Jerry John Rawlings had attended an annual festival and it got to singing of the national anthem or something like that (we were children at the time so I don’t remember the details) but it was the national anthem and everybody stood, but John Ndebugre, in protest against something against late Rawlings, refused to stand up and remained seated. At the end of the anthem, Rawlings signalled his security and there and then he was dragged to the police station,” he explained. reports that according to some reports, John Ndebugre was subsequently charged at Bawku Magistrate’s Court with “failing to show respect for the national flag” and acquitted for lack of evidence.

Other reports suggest that he was also brought before the Magistrate’s Court in Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region, which ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case and discharged him. He was apparently re-detained on the orders of the PNDC and is believed to have become seriously ill in Bolgatanga prison as a result of the harsh conditions.

Other claims have been made that while in court, John Ndebugre argued that he did not flout any constitutional provision because what is required of citizens is that wherever they are, when they hear the national anthem, they should keep still.

His argument is said to have been upheld by the court and the case brought against him thrown out of court.


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