The Ethiopian flag controversy rears its head – again!

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.

What do the flags carried into battle tell us?

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?

4 comments

  1. An un-Ethiopian thought: upon coming to power, the Nazis immediately got rid of Germany’s Republican flag and restored the Imperial one. Conservatives entertained the hope that was a first stop toward restoring the Kaiser. Hardly. It was a mere step en route the Swastika. By the same token the Amhara hardliners may have a reversal of the federal republic in mind more than a restoration of the throne. Their Ethiopia-to-be is a unitary one-party state, closer to the Mengistu system than to Haile Selasie’s. Only guessing here. How does it strike you?

    1. Well the idea of a unitary system is not of a significant problem by itself. The problem last time around when Ethiopia was a unitary system is that the Amhara ( and their elites) imposed their culture and language on everybody and forced them to accept it as Ethiopian. They forced everyone to study in Amharic, made Islam a second class religion, socially segregated non-Amharas as second class citizens, and and and … It was unthinkable to challenge what the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was allowed to do what others could not dare dream of! So this Flag without the Star is a symbol for repression and segregation, anyone who believes otherwise is either blind to really or just a Amhara nationalist!

  2. The flag with out the stars symbolized the the supremacy of Amhara Elite. 150 years ago the Shoan(Amhara) Emperor invaded the Oromo people in the south, They call the invasion Amhara colonization. The Oromo Liberation Front says “During the process of colonization Menelik continued to treat Ormos with utmost cruelty. They are forced to speak Amharic and get Amhara culture.
    The Amhara Elite never accepted the Flag with the stars which they take it as a symbol of their defeat in 1991. Their fight today is to bring back their supremacy they lost in 1991 and they want to bring back the old one.

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