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Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Last modified: 2003-01-11 by zeljko heimer
Keywords: ethiopia | panafrican colors | power | faith | church | peace | wealth | love | land | hope | holy trinity | pentagram | lion |
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[Flag of Ethiopia] [National flag and ensign] 1:2
by Zeljko Heimer, 29 August 2001
Flag adopted on 6 February 1996, coat of arms (emblem) adopted 6 February 1996.

See also:

The 1996 National Flag

This is the new Ethiopian flag, based on information and a picture from the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. The circle only just overlaps the top and bottom bands. The pentagram is actually made of five Y-shapes, each rotated 72 degrees around the centre of the star to make the new one.
Graham Bartram, 2 July 1996

Green-yellow-red tricolour with emblem in the middle. The emblem (also used as the coat of arms) is light blue disk, of diameter (approximatley?) half the hoist inscribed with yellow pentagram symbol. The green seems to be rather dark aproximated in Album 2000 [pay00] as Pantone 349c.
Zeljko Heimer 29 August 2001

The plain tricolour

[Flag of Ethiopia]
by Ivan Sache, 18 July 2000

Probably the most widespread Ethiopina flag in use no matter what the central symbol was official at the given time, is the plain tricolour. I have never seen any supporter waving a flag with the emblem. I first looked after some political meaning in this flag, but this was erroneous. My "definitive" interpretation is that the flag with emblem is complicate and expensive to manufacture, whereas everyone is able to identify correctly a "plain" Ethiopian flag. By the way, the "plain" flag seems to be usually 2:3 in proportion and not 1:2. I would say that the "plain" flag is a kind of non-official "civil" flag.
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2000

For example, the BBC web pages included [in March 2001] paper about withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from a buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Interestingly, there are two color photos showing the Ethiopian flags without emblems, both apparently 1:2.
Jan Zrzavy, 8 March 2001

I visited Ethiopia a few months ago (a great country to visit despite the poverity), and I can confirm that the vast majority of national flags there are flown without the blue disk and star in the middle. However, the blue disk and star appears on many government documents including my visa, declaration forms, exchange forms, etc. The flag with the disk and star can be seen at the airport, government offices, and almost nowhere else. The Ethiopians are quite fond of their flag and it, as well as paintings of it, are frequently seen but without the disk and star.
Just thought you might be interested in these observations.
Robert Wilson, 26 December 2002

Meaning of the flag

The green-yellow-red flag appeared in 1897. It was the flag of Ethiopia that became the basis for the panafrican colours. Before the end of the Ethiopian Empire the colours were interpreted as: red for power and faith; yellow for church, peace, natural wealth and love; and green for land and hope. The colours were also interpreted as having a connection to the Holy Trinity, and the three main provinces. At first the flag was used as three separate whimps, and arranged in rectangular shape on 6 October 1897, with red at the top. At some point the order of colours was changed.
Zeljko Heimer, 14 December 1995

The national flag symbolizes the honor and beauty of the Ethiopian nation: green represents the fertility of the country, yellow the religious freedom found there, and red the lives sacrificed in the protection of national integrity.

Recently, the Council of Peoples' Representatives endorsed the proclamation of a new emblem on the national flag. The new emblem will have a radiant star with equidistant rays to show the equality of all ethnic groups as well as creed and gender equity. The shining rays from the star testify to a bright future for Ethiopia, and surrounding the emblem will be a blue background to denote peace and democracy in Ethiopia

located by Dov Gutterman, 7 May 1999

From a website no longer active:

According to the Flag and Emblem proclamation colours and shape of the flag is:

The Flag shall have the colours: green at the top, yellow at the middle and red at the bottom.
The colours shall be bright and basic.
The colours shall be structured horizontally and be of the same size. The length of the Flag shall be twice its width.
The Emblem shall be a blue circle with depictions:
a) straight and equal lines of yellow that come from all directions and join each other;
b) a star formed by the straight and equal lines;
c) yellow rays radiating from the joints of the straight and equal lines.

located by Dov Gutterman, 7 May 1999

Regarding the order of the colours, as noted elsewhere, the original 1897 flag was flown with red at the top. It was explained to me that the flag was still traditionally flown "upside-down" with red at the top when the country was at war, though (fortunately!) I never witnessed this myself.
Simon Gardner, 7 April 2001

Article from 1994 Draft Constitution

Draft constitution of 8 December 1994

Article 3 The Ethiopian flag:

  1. The Ethiopian flag consists of three horizontal bands of equal size, the uppermost green, the middle yellow and the nethermost red.
  2. The National Emblem on the flag shall reflects the equality of the Nations, nationalities, peoples and religions in Ethiopia and their aspirations to live in unity.
  3. Each member state of the Federation may have its own flag and emblem. Particulars shall be determined by their respective parliaments.

Pascal Vagnat, 5 June 1996

The 1987-1991 variant

[1987-1991 variant]
posted by Robert Czernkowski, 10 June 1998

This flag appeared on the most common postage stamps even for years after the overthrow of the socialist government in 1991. The central device is the emblem of the "Peoples Democratic Republic of Ethiopia" as the country was called at the time. The five pointed star and rays over a cogwheel is surrounded by a wreath of green leaves.
Simon Gardner, 7 April 2001

[Flag of Ethiopia, 1987-1991] [National flag and ensign] 1:2
by Manuel Gabino, 14 December 2002

Flag used by Ethiopia in 1987-1991. In year 1987 through a referendum, Ethiopia becomes in a Democratic People's Republic, Meghistu is confirmed in the presidency and the country is administratively divided into 24 administrative regions and 5 autonomous regions: Eritrea, Assab, Ogaden, Tigre, and Dire-Daua. (Source: "Guía Mundial 1992", Abril Cinco ed. Colombia 1992).
This flag was flown also in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics.
The shield is circular in shape. It is blue bearing (according to William Crampton) the "obelisk of Axum" (a former Kingdom settled in the region of Tigre), a cogwheel, a red ribbon depicting a golden lion's head, an spear and a scepter, a yellow star on red and a the country's new name (?) at the top in Amharic characters.
Manuel Gabino, 14 December 2002

[Emblem of Ethiopia, 1987-1991] [Emblem of Ethiopia, 1987-1991]
by Manuel Gabino, 14 December 2002

As I've seen the original flag during Mengistu's official visit to Prague (1988?), I believe that the Aksum monument should have been brown - and also the cogwheel coloration looks a little bit unfamiliar.
Jan Zrzavy, 15 December 2002

Source were Encyclopaedia britannica, and an engraved plate (at the time) at the Ethiopian consul office to Mexico. Currently the engraved plate there is like the emblem in the present-day flag.
Manuel Gabino, 19 December 2002

The Lion on the Flag

[Earlier Lion Flag of Ethiopia]       [Crowned Lion Flag of Ethiopia]
from Ethiopia home page      by Jaume Ollé, 6 February 1999

In an atlas that I have from 1969, there is a flag chart, showing the Ethiopian flag with the golden crowned lion. It is reproduced here from the Ethiopia home page at the Abysinnian Cyberspace Gateway. The lion is golden (or orange?) and outlined with black. Since W. Smith claims that the pure green yellow red flag was adopted (reintroduced) in 1941 (although he indicates it as civil flag and ensign), this might be the state's (government) flag.
Zeljko Heimer, 12 June 1996

The North American Vexillological Association met in Trenton, New Jersey a few years ago (1986 IIRC, FOTW member Don Healy was our host) and the son of Haile Selassie (a local resident at that time) was invited to be our guest Dinner Speaker. Mr. Selassie was presented with a very nicely made reproduction of the Ethiopian flag with the Crowned Lion holding the flagstaff with the cross finial on the obverse and St George and the Dragon on the reverse. Mr. Selassie told us about the symbolism of the flag, and he stated that the Cross that the lion carried was a pre-Christian symbol. Since I was highly suspicious of this explanation, I asked him "If the cross on the Ethiopian flag is a Pre-Christian symbol, what does it represent?" Unfortunately I did not get a coherent answer, or at least not one that I could understand. IMHO the cross refers to the Coptic Christians. But that incident in Trenton does serve to remind me of the use of the cross in the Ethiopian flag during the Imperial era.
Nick Artimovich, 12 June 1996

Mr. Selassie may have been confused or it may have been deliberate obfuscation and superstition (which I have occasionally noted in ancient cultures as they seek to legitimize their antiquity). Imperial Ethiopia claimed direct descent from King David of Israel (hence of the Lion of Judah in the flag and in the emperor's title), but these pre-Christian symbols apparently mingled with Christian ones pretty early in the history of the Christian church.
T.F. Mills, 12 June 1996

[Uncrowned Lion Flag of Ethiopia]

The State flag was modified after Haile Selassie's overthrow (12 September 1974) by removing the crown from the lion's head and by changing the Cross finial to a Spear point. This version lasted only a few years until the Socialists took over and radically changed Ethiopia's symbols. But they didn't mess with the basic green/yellow/red flag!
Nick Artimovich, 12 June 1996

The lion is the old emblem of the emperor, and was part of the first Ethiopian flag hoisted on 6 October 1897, but then the order of the colours was red over yellow over green. I don't know when the order was change to the green-yellow-red, but this tricolor without any device was reintroduced in May 1941. AFAIK, the flag remained the same.

However, one should consider that W. Smith states that the pure green-yellow-red flag is used by civilians on land and sea (when his book was issued Ethiopia still included Eritrea and its coast on the Red Sea). He does not mention what kind of flag the government or army uses.
Zeljko Heimer, 6 June 1996

Former War Ensign (Blue Ensign)

[Blue Ensign of Ethiopia]       [Blue Ensign of Ethiopia]
by Jaume Ollé, 6 September 1999      by Jaume Ollé, 6 February 1999

Imperial Ethiopia used a British-style blue ensign with the Ethiopian state flag in the canton. This was the familiar green-yellow-red tricolour with the addition of the Lion of Judah holding a staff with a Christian cross on the end and the tricolour as a banner. Christian Fogd Pedersen [ped70] states baldly that this ensign was 'Modelled on the British Blue Ensign' but gives no further details.

Stuart A. Notholt, 11 February 1996

Like the State flag, the ensign was modified after Haile Selassie's overthrow (12 September 1974) by removing the crown from the lion's head and by changing the Cross finial to a Spear point.
Jaume Ollé, 6 February 1999