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The color and meaning of Ethiopian flag

6,878 Comments · Politics


The colours of African unity – red, green, yellow – are seen on one of the oldest African flags.

These colours were used for the national flag of Ethiopia in 1897; a year after Ethiopia determinedly defended itself from colonial Italy at the Battle of Adwa.

The flag’s tri-colour scheme was there since the early 19th c. and was formerly the official banner of the Ethiopian Empire’s Solomonic dynasty.


The royal flag often featured the symbol of a Lion of Judah, a crowned lion carrying a cross centred in the banner’s yellow mid-section.

 The flag is understood to be a link between:
• the Ethiopian church
• the peoples, and
• the nation were united in the one flag

Whilst red is currently featured at the bottom of the horizontal tricolour this was reversed in the mid 19th century and the emblem was added in 1996.

What the colours symbolise varies depending on point of view. Generally speaking:

• red represents power or African blood spilled in defence of the land
• yellow for peace and harmony between Ethiopia’s various ethnic and religious groups
• green is almost always said to symbolize the land and its fertility

Other African nations, upon their independence from their colonial rulers so often adopted these three colours that they are known as the Pan-African colours.

Earlier to 1996, and to some extent even today, the ‘plain’ flag was commonly seen across the nation and the world.

Formerly, especially during the Derg regime, a number of different emblems were experimented with.

Nevertheless, the basic colour schematic has remained constant. Even the oppressive Derg did not dare to tamper with the colours’ layout. However simply it detached and changed the imperial emblem after Haile Selassie’s overthrow.

An alternative coat of arms featuring a five pointed star and rays over a cogwheel bounded by a wreath of leaves is now the featured emblem.

The star, which is a pentagram, is yellow on a blue disc, which lays on top of the green and red stripes.

The star confirms to Ethiopia’s bright future and possibly echoes the connection with the House of King Solomon, while the yellow rays which it emits are equidistant and are said to represent the equality of all Ethiopians regardless of race, creed, or gender.

Keywords: Ethiopia, flag, Battle of Adwa, Solomonic dynasty,


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