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Democratic Republic of Congo - On Flag Construction Details

Last modified: 2002-06-14 by jarig bakker
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[Flag of Congo] by Jaume Ollé, 20 February 2001 See also:


Blue is Pantone 286 C, yellow 109 C.
The space between upper point of the first upper star and edge of the flag is 1/2 of the size of one small star. Same for the space betwen left point of a small star to the hoist. Space between right part of a smal star to the fly flag is 9 times size of a small star. Great star is three times the size of a small star.
It seems that the flag must be divided in 10,5 horizontal parts: first one (0,5) is blue, second (1) is the star colum; following (3) blue, following (3) central star; and last one (3) blue.
And horizontally 19 parts: 1 for upper blue, 2 for each star star, and 1 for each space between stars.
This is according to the sheet construction made by Pierre Palac for the Congo government and published in Flag Report 6.
Jaume Ollé, 20 February 2001

Construction sheet

[Flag of Congo Construction Sheet] by Jaume Ollé, 22 February 2001

Above is construction sheet from Palac, translated from French to Spanish. Pierre Palac is a graphic designer (and vex fan) working for a international organization in Paris. He was asked by the CDR embassy in Paris for draw the sheet for manufacturers. If I don't remember wrong a lot of flags were made and sent to Congo according his drawing. Unafortunately sheet was drawn according the Palac work system. When sheet was published in Flag Report #6 was under the following notes:

"Image based on the official construction table accomplished by Pierre Palac by assignment of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through the Embassy in Paris, politely transmitted by the own author 16 December 1997. Phrases translated from french to spanish. Accordant accomplished image to the graphic and with the established Pantone tones (blue 286 C, yellow 109 C)"
Jaume Ollé, 22 February 2001

My informations on Congo DR flags:
the dark shade of blue had been fixed by a South African (if I remember correctly) manufacturer in lack of official shades. So there are (or were) no official colour specifications. [BTW: Another South African manufacturer even made the (later CDR) flags with diagonal stripe (in sky blue).] AP reported in May 1997 that "more than 100 flags have been send to Congo". The photograph shot in that firm showed the blue-yellow-red flag of Congo-Kinshasa, the blue being about Pantone 292.
All photos we know show different colourshades, where the later photos have a quite similar lighter blue.
Flag report's construction sheet may have been done for the government, but I doubt that it was adopted, as too many difficulties are produced in that specification.
The AFF would give for the blue pantone 292 or 299 or 300. Someone mentioned that shade of blue in Congo's flag is skyblue. Pantone 286 is no sky blue at all, you may agree. But 285 comes closer to a sky blue ;-). An official internet site of Congo DR showed the flag light blue at but slightly darker than on FOTW Congo-historic, the big star is in the center of the flag.
Ralf Stelter, AFF, 22 February 2001

I have to add that the flags are taken from (site is closed, ed.)
Sadly here an official website is decorated with unconfirmed illustrations. But I think Mark's interpretation of the new cd flag is quite good.
Ralf Stelter, AFF, 22 February 2001

Regarding the above "spec sheet": The flag of Congo DR is one flag made of one cloth and is one single piece. The six small stars are part of the field as is the large star, not a separate part of the flag, as for example the hoist stripes of Belarus or Khakassia. So the large star has to be in the center of the flag! At least optically. Stars are usually desribed by circles, not by squares. The sheet took squares, so the large star is not only off-centered to the fly, but also to the bottom (looks like the small stars want to get rid of it ;-) ). The diameter of the large star is half the width of the flag says the specification data we have, and the small stars are 1/3 of the large star. If you follow these informations a very different design than this "spec sheet" will result - and I guess there is nothing more than we have.
Ralf Stelter, 27 February 2001

Flag reconstruction sheet

[Flag of Congo Construction Sheet] by Ralf Stelter, 27 Feb 2001, after dubious official material

Here I add for the first Congo DR flag, drawn after "specifications" which I made from the infos about Congo DR the AFF has.
It is not official, but only my work. Older photographs show the flag quite similar to these specifications, newer photographs do not. So here are some facts about the flag we collected to construct a specification sheet which is not official but is quite reliable in heraldic, vexillological and aesthetical opinions. The result is a flag that even the government of Congo DR might accept:
Ralf Stelter, 27 February 2001

The flag reconstructed

[Flag of Congo] by Ralf Stelter, 27 Feb 2001, after dubious official material

1) the colour is defined as blue for the sky
2) the large star is 1/2 of the flag's height
3) the small stars are 1/3 of the large one
The result is a quite strange arrangement of the small stars as they are too close together.
4) Someone defined the blue as Pantone 286. One source even gives Reflex Blue.

A) Early photographs show a flag with a dark blue cloth and small stars close together.
B) The Congo DR website shows a light blue flag from the very beginning.
C) Later photographs show a lighter shade of blue and the small stars a bit smaller than before.
0) So the first specifications published about the flag might either have been official or were made after photographs.
00) The design of the flag might have been changed some day.
000) A vexillologist who has to "reconstruct" a flag should remember aesthetical, optical and heraldic rules to come close to the original but unknown design. Regarding every source he can find. And that are photographs, for example. Websites must be handled with care (who made it, how correct is the info in general, how old are the pages).
Photographs must be judged on several aspects: What is the light the flag is photographed. Cloudy sky makes colours appear dull and dark, flashlight and digital cameras rise the contrast of colours, so they seem bright and occasionally darker than they are, etc.
What kind are the flags shown? Decoration, table flags, official flags, official occasions (swearing in, funeral...), unofficial events (olympics, soccer...). This question leads to the question who might have manufactured the flag. A printer around the corner? A talented graphic artist? A firm who does not know more than me? A factory that is specialized on flags? etc.
Ralf Stelter, 27 February 2001

Same shade of blue as in 1960?

All photos I have seen on TV and in the newspapers show the flag is true to the 1960 model except in color of the background, which in the 1960 model had light blue while the current flag photos show dark blue as the field.
Steve Stringefellow, Jun 1997

I checked the other day with the Embassy of Congo-Kinshasa in Washington DC and they confirmed that the new flag is the six small stars and one large star flag of 1960. I asked about the colour of the background and they replied that it was sky-blue. Of course sky-blue can be anything from ultramarine to the palest blue, but it normally means light blue.
Graham Bartram, 12 Jun 1997

The exact shade of blue in the first independentist flag was never specified and so many variations in color existed. In fact, as a descendant of the Congo Free State (also known as Belgian Congo), the darker blue is more appropriate since that flag was specified as a dark blue.
Dave Martucci, 02 Dec 1997

I remember reading somewhere (I'll try to find the source) that light blue was deliberately chosen in 1960 for two reasons: to distinguish the post-independence flag from that of the Congo Free State and to acknowledge the role of the United Nations in securing the country's independence - the Belgians were reluctant decolonisers.
Vincent Morley, 03 Dec 1997

The color of the flag seems to date back to the 19th century, from books I have. The "Congo Free State" flag as described and shown in Pedersen's book of 1970 [ped70] says it was introduced in 1885, when the "Free State" was concepted. The book Flags of the World, Past and Present [hol39], of 1939, says "The governor-General of the Congo also hoists a square tricolour, but with the flag of the Congo in the canton. This flag is bright blue, and has a yellow star thereon." The fact that the government issued postage stamps (in 1961) showing one color or shade of blue, while government had another, lighter shade, is not surprising. The fact that some flags in current pictures have all sorts of "designs" in homemade flags is not surprising.
Steve Stringfellow, 03 Dec 1997

Please, consider that in heraldry there is no difference among shades of colours. Even metallic gold and yellow or metallic silver and white are exactly the same thing. This turned out in an heritage for vexillology, at least until colour standards appeared. So, there is no way to state which shade of blue was correct for the Free State of Congo or most of other flags all around the world. Only in recent years governments started to define their official colours using standards. Before that blue was blue, whatever shade one decided to use. Moreover, different types of paintings behave diferently under light, so that some of them wear more and loose their brightness more easily than others, which means that at different times you see different shades for the same flag. When this happens without an official prescription for colours, flag lasts more... and it is cheaper.
Pier Paolo Lugli, 06 Dec 1997

Same star as in 1960?

Today De Standaard, a Flemish newspaper, had a black and white picture of the rebel flag of Kabila. The orientation of the stars was a bit weird. The flag was flying in the wind, but it looked as if the stars were pointing down. If I compared them to the central star, they were definitely pointing down, not even pointing to the hoist.
Filip Van Laenen, 8 Apr 1997

I saw a very good image of the flag in TV, and the stars are pointing up the first, third, fifth and sixht, and ponting down the second and fourth. The stars are larger than in the old pattern, and each one threshold with the other.
Jaume Ollé, 9 Apr 1997

The Flemish newspaper De Standaard featured a picture yesterday from AP showing a child with a small flag with would should be the flag of Congo-Kinshasa. But it had a six-pointed star, not a five-pointed star. The picture didn't show the small stars at the hoist, but I would reckon they would be six-pointed too. The caption said that the flag was held by a daughter of a member of the embassy of Congo to Kigali, Ruanda, but one should expect that they would know how their flag looks like, no?
Filip Van Laenen, 11 Sep 1997

The Göteborgs-Posten of 11 September 1997, includes a photo (© Brennan Linsley) of the President of Congo-Kinshasa, Laurent Kabila, and the President of Rwanda, Pasteur Bizimungu, and in front of Mr. Kabila is a small flag of Congo ? with 5-pointed
Christian Berghänel, 11 Sep 1997

Current usage of the 1964 flag

Congo-Kinshasa flag of 1963-1971 by Vincent Morley, 08 Jan 1997

The rebels of the RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Déemocratie, Congolese Union for Democracy) have started using the 1964 flag as the flag of Congo, whereas Kabila chose the 1960 flag. Kabila used the 1960 flag as a symbolic continuation of September 1960, when prime-minister Patrice Lumumba, Kabila's idol, was put down from power.
Lunda Bululu, former prime minister of the former Zaire and current member of the political bureau of the RCD says to De Standaard that this isn't correct. The flag of independence has six stars, but there are ten provinces now. We use the flag of 1964 to honour the political-historical truth.
The flag is the one as designed at the constitutional reform of 1964 in Luluaburg. The name of the country became République Démocratique du Congo or RDC in that same reform, the same as the name today.
«We hoist the flag of Luluaburg out of respect for the history and for the people, that voted by referendum the constitution in 1964» says Lunda.
The situation in Bukavu has been unstable these last days: the population feared that the new flag was a foreplay for a declaration of secession on June 30th - the day at which Congo became independent - of the Eastern part of Congo by the RCD.
The peace negotiations for Congo between the RDC and the RCD in Lusaka have been suspended. The rebels are divided, and the RCD/Goma of Emile Ilunga has boycotted the negotiations because the RCD/Kisangani of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was invited to the talks.
Filip Van Laenen, 2 Jul 1999, summaryzing from De Standaard 

Premature flagchange

New flags manufactured for Congo in South Africa posted by Ralf Stelter, 18 April 2001

In May 1997 Assocated Press reported with a photograph that more than 100 new flags for the new Congo had been manufactured in a Johannisburg (South Africa) flag factory. The photo shows Sheraldine Mohammed with the new flags made by her factory. Interesting: the flags were of light blue with the red stripe and star. Questions: who ordered the flags? Who received them? Any help from South Africa? Note the photo is copyrighted by AP.
Ralf Stelter, 18 April 2001

The flags were made in 1997 following the demise of the Mobuto regime in the then Zaire. The flags were made by National Flag, a flag manufacturing company in Johannesburg. At the time it was unclear as to which of the previous flag designs used in the Congo would be reinstated and the Company was approached by representatives of the new government to make up flags which were to have been used at the inauguration of the President Laurent Kabila. Instructions given to National Flag were that the preferred design was the one used in the Congo between 1963 - 1971, immediately prior to the change to Zaire. However, this proved to be incorrect and the 1960 dark blue flag was later chosen to be the new flag of the renamed Democratic Republic of Congo.
The incorrect flags were kept by the manufacturer and sold off to collectors etc, and I have one in my collection. If anyone is interested, I can find out whether any of these flags are still "in stock". The whole affair was really a case of "jumping the gun" and I think most of us can recall the initial hesitation on the part of the members of the new Congolese regime in deciding which flag to revert to.
The blue on the flags is somewhat darker than that shown in the photograph.
Bruce Berry, 18 April 2001

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