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Rwanda : Historical Flags

Last modified: 2015-05-24 by bruce berry
Keywords: rwanda | r | pan-african colors |
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[Rwanda][Variant][National Flag] 2:3~ image by Željko Heimer, 31 Dec 2002
Flag adopted 1 July 1962, coat of arms adopted 1 July 1962.

See also:

First flag of Rwanda (1962-2001)

Three vertical bands, from the hoist red-yellow-green, with a big black letter 'R' in the middle of the yellow band.
Filip Van Laenen, 07 July 1995

In Rabbow's 'dtv-Lexikon politischer Symbole', (1970), it states that "the original red-yellow-green flag in the form of the republican tricolour was introduced when the Republic of Ruanda was proclaimed on 21-1-1961. It appeared that this flag was identical with the flag of Guinea, so the 'R' was inserted in 1962 for 'R(uanda), born through R(evolution), confirmed by R(eferendum)'. The Pan-African colours symbolise: red - the shedding of blood and the suffering during the people's liberation (that is, the Hutus); yellow - rest and peace of a free people; green - hope and trust.
Jarig Bakker, 05 Jun 1999

We have the adoption date for the Rwandan 'R' flag as 01 July 1962. Whitney Smith [smi82] gives the official hoisting date as "approximately September 1961". I guess that 01 July 1962 is the official adoption of the legislation that confirmed the addition of the letter R in the flag that was done already in practice previous September.
Željko Heimer, 29 Dec 2000

In Album 2000 one can find: the Old National Flag. CSW/--- 2:3
Vertical tricolour of red-yellow-green with black letter R in the middle.
The image is no surprise, but could do handy instead of the 1996 image I made with the technology (and know-how) of the time. However, the Album 2000 image has letter pictured thinner (or more elegant, if you wish) then in other representations I encountered. The simple typeface used here is usually called Gothic or Futura family. Of course, the exact shape and size of the letter was never officially prescribed and therefore we should not insist in describing differences in various sources. Something simple as above would surely be among the most popular choices.
Željko Heimer, 31 Dec 2002
, 30 Dec 2000

"The New Times", from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, reported on 26 March 2006, reports that the old national flag of Rwanda is sometimes still used in international events, in spite of having been superseded in 2001.

Recently, a cultural group from Rwanda won the first prize in an international folklore competition held in Sicily, Italy. During the official ceremony, the old flag was raised. Fortunately, the Rwandans could quickly provide the current flag. The article further says that the former national anthem is also often played in international events. (Source:
Ivan Sache, 29 Mar 2006

 Variants of the first Rwandan Tricolour

[Rwanda][Variant][National Flag] 2:3~ image by Željko Heimer, 31 Dec 2002

It is not at all clear from sources if the Rwanda 1st flag was red, yellow, green or green, yellow, red!

William Crampton mentions in his book named "Flags & Coat of Arms" (1985) [mch85a] that Rwanda's tricolor in the Pan-African colours with vertical stripes of red, yellow and green was established in 1961 and later that year a black letter "R" was added in the centre of the flag to distinguish the flag of Rwanda from that of Guinea. The similar description is given by Dr. Whitney Smith [smi75c].

However, William Crampton amended his above text in his book named "The World of Flags - A Pictorial History" (1990) [cra90] that the first flag of Rwanda was introduced by PARMEHUTU on 28 January 1961 and was simple vertical tricolor of green, yellow, red - however this turned out to be identical with the flag of Mali, once this country had removed the Kanga (black outline of a man) from its flag (01 March 1961) and a large black "R" was added to the centre and that in September 1961 the flag was altered so that the red and green changed places.

I believe Crampton's own correction because the Guinean flag was introduced in 1958 and Rwandan people could not have know that flag as one of New African leader's flag and at that time simple green, yellow, red vertical flag had not been used by any other African nation to my best knowledge. How could they copy Guinean flag for their national flag ?

I assume that it was quite amazing for Rwanda political leaders to learn that Mali changed their flag on 1 March 1961, just two months after Rwanda first flag introduction. And they had to distinguish their flag from most similar flag (Guinean) as well then just put "R" in reverse tricolour which makes it the only one in existing national flag with the country's initial.
Nozomi Kariyasu , 01 Feb 2001

The former South African homeland of Venda also had its initial on its flag which was used between 1973 and 1994.
Bruce Berry, 01 Feb 2001

Form of the 'R' in the flag

In Whitney Smith's "Flag and Arms Across the World" [smi80], Croatian translation I have from 1982 there is an 'R' in san serif.
Željko Heimer, 19 September 1995

It is san serif in the English edition. It is also san serif in Flags [aLe92] by Kent Alexander [maybe not surprising as Whitney Smith is the consulting editor] and in Flags of the World [cra90i] by William Crampton.
Stuart Notholt,
19 Sep 1995

In a documentary about Rwanda on the ABC in Australia a few days ago they had footage of the former (assassinated) Rwandan President taking the Presidential oath. He was standing next to a silk Rwandan flag - the 'R' was sans-serif.
Later they showed the Rwandan Ambassador to the UN at some UN meeting. The flag in front of him had a serifed 'R'.
I suspect that there is probably no explicit definition of the exact size, style and internal dimensions of the 'R', hence the variation we see. However, it would seem the sans-serif 'R' is used more often, and if used at a Presidential swearing-in, is probably the closest we're going to get to an official standard.
Brendan Jones,
20 Sep 1995

What does the reverse of the Rwandan flag looks like? Is the letter R mirrored?
António Martins,
02 Feb 2000

I believe that I read some time ago that it is not prescribed anywhere, and is usually seen on the reverse backwards and only the more expensive ceremonial flags are made double-sided.
Željko Heimer,
05 Feb 2000 


Speaking of that area, wasn't there once a combined state of Ruanda-Urundi? Could someone describe the flag of that country? Separately, Rwanda's flag was simply the Pan-African colors with an "R", and Burundi's was installed in 1962 (they changed the symbols in the center following the end of the monarchy in 1967) to show independence from Germany and Belgium, but I can't find any mention of the earlier, combined area anywhere.
Steve 'Scooter' Kramer,
30 Jul 1996

I doubt that it had a distinctive flag. Until 1918 it was part of German East Africa and after World War I a League of Nations Mandated territory, with Belgium as the protecting power. Maybe the Belgian Congo flag (blue with a yellow star) was used - although strictly speaking Ruanda-Urundi wasn't part of the Congo.
Stuart Notholt,
30 Jul 1996

It is quite difficult to find any information on the Rwanda-Urundi territory. One book mentions a colonial (de facto) badge for Urundi, an oval shield with the heads of a lion and a crane. Behind the shield are four spears. The arms of the independent state of Burundi is obviously based on this badge. The same book also says that Burundi's flag is based on the logo (flag) of the Belgian airlines "Sabena". It is rather unusual that a national flag is modeled after a company flag. It must be different from the present one (blue disk with a stylized "S").
Harald Müller,
01 Aug 1996