THE HAGUE- A CITY WHERE THE MILITARY ARE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS!
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
|Tourists eager to pose with the military despite their frightening equipment|
WOAO! Is it by accident that The Hague City is known as the global centre of World Peace? The answer is capital NO! Even the military personnel in The Hague are tourist attractions. And despite their deadly machine guns in hands, civilians, especially foreign tourists including African students are eager to take photographs with them. It may sound like a miracle in some parts of the world!
Yesterday, Saturday, 29 March 2014, at the forth court of the ancient monumental Parliament building in the heart of The Hague city, The Netherlands, military personnel stole the show. They instantly became angels at first sight! And despite all their frightening military equipment ranging from parachutes, armour-cars, and submarine engines, their smiles alone attracted more crow like a magnet to their stands. And they readily and freely posed for civilians, children, the youth, adolescents, old ladies and old men who were prepared to queue and take souvenir pictures with the soldiers. It was unbelievable! And they humbly and gleefully posed with anybody who wanted to do so. It was fantastic!
Conversely, the military in some countries in Africa and other parts of the world have carved some terrible image for themselves. So much so that all military people are perceived as terrible creatures. In fact, the actions of some terrorists, rebel fighters, militia rapists, and suicide bombers have created a wrong psychological impression in the minds of many ordinary mortals that all soldiers are brutal, deadly, and fearsome human beings. Is it not unfortunate?
With ever trigger-happy fingers of some of these soldiers in some regions of the world, no ordinary civilians will dare approach near the place where their shadows of will pass. But military people in The Hague look so friendly and harmless that their auras attracted tourists who were willing to queue and take pictures with them! It is amazing! After all, are military men and women not civilians in uniforms?
This author will like to make some suggestion for the consideration of the Mayor. The Honourable Mayor of The Hague City Municipality must consider the establishment of a training programme for military-civilian relations for the rest of the world. The training centre could be called “The Hague International Institute of Military – Civilian Relations.” And must run only short courses. The three-month short course can be run within or around the Peace Palace where all the library and documentary facilities there could become the teaching and learning materials for participants. Honourable Mayor, please think about this programme in addition to the World Class The Hague progamme! The City can generate some revenue from this programme and use the proceeds to improve on the history festival. For instance, during the History Festival, there could be a place where children and the aged could go for refreshment and take some souvenirs gratis!
Honestly speaking, the history festival which is officially known as Constitution Festival in The Hague or ‘Grondwet Festival’ is magnificent to say the least. This year’s event marked the 200-year anniversary of the Dutch Constitution. According to the organizers, the Dutch Constitution is ‘the oldest in the world after the United States Constitution.’
Several historical and monumental edifices were open to the general public. These included but not limited to the King’s Office, Hall of Knights, House of Representatives, Senate, Peace Palace, Council of State, Supreme Court, Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood, National Archives, Netherlands Court of Audit, Council for the Judiciary, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
The others were Ministry of Security and Justice; The Hague City Hall, Historical Museum of The Hague; Social and Economic Council, Association of Netherlands Municipalities, Prison Gate Museum, Education Council, Koninklijke Schouwburg, National Ombudsman (in the ‘Ombudsbus’) and ProDemos and many more...
By 10: 00 hrs, most of these places were jammed to the brim. And there were long winding queues here and there. As if the whole universe had descended on The Hague City! One wonders where all these people were trooping in from. The amazing thing was that the aged people who defied all physical challenges went to queue to witness the events as they unfolded with nostalgia.!
In terms of performances, the entire city centre was converted into one mega open-theatre. Over 60 organisations were expected to take part in this mind-boggling Constitution Festival. Some volunteers known as “Ambassadors” were smartly attired and were offering guided tours. With leaflet city maps in hands, they interpreted and explained debates, theatrical performances and workshops to curious visitors to the City.
One of such “Ambassadors” - a lady quickly started conversing with this writer in French when she heard him say “voila!” She asked, “Do speak French?” When my response was in affirmative, she changed the ‘meter band’ at once. And she was very proud of speaking the French langue. She told me she had studied in France for one year. Then as we were talking in French another colleague of hers came to join us. Then when he realized that her volunteer friend was speaking French with me, he, too, wanted to say something in French to impress me. Then I asked him a question in French and the lady told me in French: “Don’t mind him, he has never been to France before!” Then when the lady and I were laughing at him, he too started laughing. It was fun galore!
The Dutch History Festival is an eye opener. My own country has several magnificent heritage festivals but The Hague event is exclusive. I hope to recommend it to relevant authorities when I go back to my country – Ghana!
The author is an MA Student at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam, here in the Hague firstname.lastname@example.org
(See photographs of some of the scenes)
|The 200-year-old Dutch Constitution|
|A brave young boy trying parachuting exercise under the eagle eyes of the|
'angel soldiers!' When they started the exercise, it was a young girl who jumped first!
|How the military stole the show at the Constitution Festal 2014.|
Group photo of some ISS students and their Christian hosts
who invited them for guided tour of the event
|The military became tourist attractions in the true sense of the word!|
Children had their fair share of the Constitution Festival
|All manner of persons patiently waited in meandering queues to see what |
were in those ancient monumental edifices
|One of the magnificent ancient buildings at the seat of the Dutch Government|