Readers of this blog will remember that this issue was dealt with in November 2020.
Well, it’s back! With the police in Addis banning flags that don’t carry the Ethiopian star – only to withdraw the ban. Is this the result of pressure from Amhara hardliners, who favour the old Imperial flag?
Why is this so controversial? This is the background.
Ethiopia’s official flag
There’s no doubt what the flag of Ethiopia looks like.
Here it is shown last week, when Prime Minister Abiy met with the three mediators from the African Union – the former Presidents of Liberia, Mozambique and South Africa.
Wikipedia points out, The three traditional colours of green, yellow and red date back to Lij Iyasu (reigned 1913–1916). The green recalls the land, yellow stands for peace and hope, and red is symbolic of strength.
Here it is again.
Since 1996 it has always had the emblem of Ethiopia in its centre.
As Wikipedia says: “The star testifies to Ethiopia’s bright future, 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.
In recent years, the government of Ethiopia has taken a conscious effort to increase the usage of the flag with the emblem, which had been seen far less than the plain tricolour.”
This is the old Imperial Flag, which was used until 1941, when Haile Selassie introduced the lion of Judah in its centre.
The use of this flag is now illegal.
In 2009, the Parliament of Ethiopia passed Proclamation 654/2009 (The Federal Flag Proclamation), which prohibited firstly amongst 23 other provisions “use [of] the Flag without its Emblem”, as well as “to deface the Flag by writing or displaying signs, [sic] symbols, emblems or picture [sic]”, or “to prepare or use the Flag without the proper order of its colours and size or its Emblem.”
While most offences were punishable by a fine of “3000 birr or rigorous imprisonment up to one year,” the first offense, mandating the usage of the emblem, received an increased penalty of “5000 birr or rigorous imprisonment up to one year and six months.”
The Imperial flag is illegal, so why is it being carried into battle?
As pictures carried on social media show, the old Imperial flag is being flown on tanks….
And on flag poles.
So why is this the case?
A colleague suggests that the Imperial flag is the preferred flag of the hardline Amhara – hence it is being flown by the Amhara militia.
Does this explain the vision militant Amhara militia have for the future of Ethiopia – once more an Imperial state?