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Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Last modified: 2015-05-10 by bruce berry
Keywords: ethiopia | panafrican colors | power | faith | church | peace | wealth | love | land | hope | holy trinity | pentagram | lion |
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[National flag and ensign] 1:2  Image by Željko Heimer, 29 Aug 2001
Flag adopted on 06 February 1996, coat of arms (emblem) adopted 06 February 1996.

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Ethiopia is a land-locked country in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea in the north, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Somalia to the east and Kenya in the south.  It is the most populous land-locked country in the world.

Ethiopia has been a monarchy for most of its history and the Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the 2nd century BC.  During the Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was one of only two African countries to retain its independence and was one of only four members of the League of Nations.  After a brief period of Italian occupation during World War II, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations.  Many African countries adopted the colours of the Ethiopian flag on their flags when they achieved independence which, together with black, became known as the Pan-African colours.
Bruce Berry, 10 Dec 2010

National Flag (1996 - )

The current flag of Ethiopia was adopted on 06 February 1996 and is a green-yellow-red tricolour with the national emblem in the centre. The emblem, also used as the coat of arms, is light blue disk with a diameter approximately half length of the hoist inscribed with yellow pentagram symbol. 
Željko Heimer, 29 Aug 2001

The Federal Negarit Gazette,  the official publication by the Ethiopian Government to document all of the laws recently passed, has a scan of a document dated 28 August 2009  which contains the law about the
Ethiopian flag, its size and construction.

When it comes to the construction, some of the information we have is correct.  For example, the ratio is still 1 x 2.  One thing I did notice in Part 3, Article 6, Section 1 regards the National Emblem. The direct quote from the law:

"The Flag shall have the colours: green at the top, yellow at the middle and red at the bottom together with a National Emblem of circular blue background. The Emblem shall be set at the centre of the Flag in such a way
that its circumference curves on the mid-point of the width of both the green and red colours."

If I am reading this right, should the emblem be 2/3rds of the width of the flag.
Zachary Harden, 02 May 2010

Another document found online at the website of the University of Minnesota, shows a scan of the Federal Negarit Gazette of 31 October 1996 establishing Proclamation No. 48/1996  amending the "Flag and Emblem Proclamation" No. 16/1996.  According to this document, the size of the emblem had already changed from 1/2 to 2/3 of the flag width back in 1996 by this Proclamation. The document includes a colour image of the flag
to confirm this.
Antonio Gutiérrez, 28 May 2010

Based on information and a picture from the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC, the disc only just overlaps the top and bottom stripes.  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, 02 July 1996

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual, London, 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each National Olympic Committee was sent an image of their flag, including the PMS shades, by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) for their approval. Once this was obtained, the LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specifications may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the National Olympic Committee believed their flag to be.

For Ethiopia : PMS 347 green, process yellow, 032 red, 638 blue. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 Oct 2012

The plain tricolour flag

Image by Ivan Sache, 18 July 2000

Probably the most widespread Ethiopian flag in general use, no matter what the central symbol was official at any given time, is the plain green-yellow-red tricolour.  My interpretation for this is that the flag with emblem is too complicated and expensive to manufacture, whereas everyone is able to identify correctly a "plain" Ethiopian flag.  The "plain" flag seems to be usually 2:3 in proportion and not in the official 1:2. I would say that the "plain" flag is a kind of non-official "civil" flag.
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2000

I visited Ethiopia a few months ago (a great country to visit despite the poverty), 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.
Robert Wilson, 26 Dec 2002

Symbolism of the flag

The green-yellow-red flag appeared in 06 October 1897. It was the flag of Ethiopia that became the basis for the Pan African 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 rectangular strips with red at the top. At some point the order of colours was changed.
Željko Heimer, 14 Dec 1995

According to an Ethiopian Government web-site no longer in use, "the national flag symbolizes the honour 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.  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".
Dov Gutterman, 07 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.

Dov Gutterman, 07 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, 07 April 2001

Extract from the 1994 Draft Constitution

Draft constitution of 08 December 1994 included the following:

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, 05 June 1996