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The flag of Ethiopia is a flag that was adopted on February 6, 1996. It conforms to the specifications set forth in article 3 of the 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia. The three traditional colours (green, yellow and red) date back to Emperor Menelik (1889–1913) and were first used in a flag in 1897. The current flag and emblem were adopted after the defeat of the Marxist Mengistu regime (in power from 1974–1991). The emblem is intended to represent both the diversity and unity of the country. Blue represents peace, the star represents diversity and unity, and the sun's rays symbolise prosperity. The green recalls the land, yellow stands for peace and hope, and red is symbolic of strength.
Colours of the flag
The colours of African unity (red, green and yellow) are seen here on one of the oldest African flags. These colours were used for the flag of the Ethiopian Empire in 1897, a year after Ethiopia decisively defended itself from colonial Italy at the Battle of Adwa. The flag's tri-colour scheme has existed since the early 19th century, and was previously the official banner of the Ethiopian Empire's Solomonic dynasty. The colours green, yellow, and red have carried special importance since at least the early 17th century.
The royal flag often featured the emblem 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 that was united. The processional cross carried by the lion was the former "flag" or symbol of Ethiopia, and has been in use since at least the early 17th century, as well. Whilst red is currently featured at the bottom of the horizontal tricolour, this was reversed until the mid-19th century. The emblem was added in 1996. What the colours symbolise varies depending on point of view, but generally, red represents power or African blood spilled in defence of the land, yellow represents peace and harmony between Ethiopia's various ethnic and religious groups, and green is said to symbolize hope, or the land and its fertility. Other African nations, upon gaining independence from their colonial rulers often adopted these three colours that are known as the Pan-African colours.
Prior to 1996 (and to some extent even today) the 'plain' flag was commonly seen across the nation and the world. Previously, especially during the Derg regime, a number of different emblems were experimented with. However, the basic colour schematic has remained constant. Even the oppressive Derg did not dare to tamper with the colours' layout, but simply removed and changed the imperial emblem after Haile Selassie's overthrow. An alternative emblem featuring a five pointed star and rays over a cogwheel surrounded by a wreath of leaves is now the featured emblem.
The star is yellow on a blue disc which overlaps the green and red stripes. The star testifies 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 sex.
- Manoel Barradas, "Tractatus Tres Historico-Geographici: (1634); A Seventeenth Century Historical and Geographical Account of Tigray, Ethiopia", Elizabet Filleul, trans., Richard Pankhurst, ed., in Aethiopistische Forschungen 43. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996, p. 59.
- Barradas, pp. 70-71.
- Ethiopia at Flags of the World
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