Why do African flags have the same colors?

The Brazilian team plays today (2) against Cameroon in the last round of the group stage of the Cup. In the stands, many fans display the green, red and yellow flag of the African country.

They are the same colors as Ghana and Senegal, which are also in the Cup, and other African countries such as Ethiopia, Benin and Mali, which did not qualify for the World Cup.

But, after all, why are these colors repeated on the flag of 13 nations in Africa?

Why do African flags have the same colors?

The origin of red, yellow and green adopted by various African countries is in the history of Ethiopia🇧🇷 The East African country officially instituted the tricolor flag after its victory against the colonial rule of Italy in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa.

Emperor Menelik II, who was a Christian, raised the flag to mark the end of the First Italo-Ethiopian War, with the three colors that would represent the rainbow placed by God in the heavens after the flood in the book of Genesis in the Bible.

Although it was invaded again by Mussolini’s Italy in the 1930s, Ethiopia was – along with Liberia – one of the only countries on the continent not to be colonized.

Already in the middle of the 20th century, during the wave of independence wars of African countries against European colonizers, the three colors began to be spread across the flags of independent nations in honor of the Ethiopians’ first victory over their invaders🇧🇷 The first country after Ethiopia to opt for a flag in these colors was Ghana in 1957.

Currently, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal and Togo display the three colors.


Senegal fans


What do the three colors of the flags represent?

In each African country, the symbolism of these three colors can vary and evolve over time. In the context in which they were adopted, however, during decolonization, the colors were usually related to independence, war and power. Red, for example, is usually associated with the blood shed by ancestors and warriors, yellow with the power and wealth of African countries, and green with hope or the nature of the continent.

Two color triads are associated with the Pan-Africanist movement, which emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a proposal to unify the fight against the exploitation of Africans and their descendants and their emancipation around the world.

One is the green, yellow and red flag of Ethiopia, colors used by various pan-africanist groups and the rastafarian movement🇧🇷

The second triad is composed of red, black and green. It was introduced by Jamaican Marcus Garvey in 1920 and is also adopted in flags of African nations.

How was the story in Cameroon?

In 1960, it was Cameroon that started the wave of independence on the continent: Between January and August of that year, eighteen colonies in sub-Saharan Africa proclaimed their sovereignty.

Former German colony, the African country had its territory divided between the United Kingdom and France after the First World War. In 1955, a conflict began against French troops for independence, which materialized in the early 1960s. The national flag with the three colors was officially adopted in 1957 and maintained after independence.

Cameroon flag - Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images - Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Cameroon flag

Image: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In addition to Ethiopia’s history, the choice of colors relates to the African Democratic Assembly, which they also represent. The political front was created in the post-war period by African leaders to pressure the decolonization of countries on the continent under French rule.

The current configuration of the Cameroon flag, with the yellow star in the center, dates from 1975, when the two stars that used to symbolize the two territorial zones were replaced by a single one, representing national unity.

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