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Rwanda - Historical Flags

Last modified: 2022-04-16 by bruce berry
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[Rwanda][Variant][National Flag] 2:3~ image by Željko Heimer, 31 Dec 2002
Flag adopted 01 July 1962, Coat of Arms adopted 01 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, 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reports that the old national flag of Rwanda is sometimes still used in international events, in spite of having been superseded in 2001.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 first Rwandan 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

    images sent by Blinxcat, 20 Mar 2022

In Whitney Smith's "Flag and Arms Across the World" [smi80], the Croatian edition dated 1982, the 'R' is shown in san serif.
Željko Heimer, 19 September 1995

It is also san serif in the English edition. It is also san serif in Flags [ale92] by Kent Alexander [maybe not surprising as Whitney Smith was 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 in September 1995 there was footage of the former (assassinated) Rwandan President taking the Presidential Oath of Office. He was standing next to a silk Rwandan flag with the 'R' again being in sans serif.

Later in the same documentary the Rwandan Ambassador to the UN was shown 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 although other fonts for the 'R' have also been used.
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 

Reports on a change of the Rwandan flag (1999)

KIGALI, 04 June 1998 (AFP) - The top Rwandan political parties and the government have decided to change the flag and the national anthem of the country, according to the Agence Rwandaise d'information (ARI, private owned agency). The ARI was citing this week's issue of Imvaho, the government paper, reporting such a decision was taken during a meeting on the 30th of May at the village of Urugwiro (presidency of Rwanda). "During the debate on unity and national reconciliation the idea to replace current flag and anthem was raised", say ARI citing Imvaho. Rwandese Prime Minister Pierre-Célestin Rwigema confirmed this information, saying "the decision to change the anthem and the flag had been already taken" at a meeting in the central district of Gitarama.
Translated from the French by Jaume Ollé, 06 Jun 1998

KIGALI, May 18 1999 (Reuters) - The Rwandan government said on Tuesday it would introduce a new flag, coat of arms and national anthem because the old symbols carried echoes of a 1994 genocide. Officials said the red, yellow and green flag, with a capital R in its centre, was seen as a symbol of the previous Hutu-dominated government whose ideology lay behind the genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus perished. It will be replaced by a red, white and green flag with a new coat of arms in its centre, showing an ear of sorghum, a wreath and a bird.

The old coat of arms, showing a hoe, a bow and arrow and a sickle, carried unfortunate echoes of the crude weapons used to carry out the genocide.

"We judged it necessary to change the national flag, the anthem and the coat of arms to bury the divisive past and foster national unity and reconciliation," Rwanda's Local Government Minister Desire Nyandwi told Reuters.

The Tutsi minority dominated the country before and during the era of Belgian colonial rule, but Hutus held power from independence in 1962 until 1994, when Tutsi rebels took power to end the genocide. The old national anthem celebrated a long Hutu struggle under Tutsi "oppression" while the red in the old flag symbolised the blood of Hutus killed in that struggle. "In public ceremonies... half of Rwandans prefer not to sing the anthem because it is perceived as thrusting the knife into the wounds," one official said.

In the new flag, red will symbolise the blood of all Rwandans, including those killed in the genocide, white will stand for transparency and justice and green will represent hoped-for prosperity. The government also intends to replace street names commemorating Hutu heroes who it says killed Tutsis. It will also rename Kigali's international airport, which is named after the country's first Hutu president Gregoire Kayibanda.
Located by Jan Oscar Engene, 19 May 1999

A Reuters report on CNN ran:

Rwanda adopts new flag to bury genocide memories

KIGALI, 01 October 1999 (Reuters) -- Rwanda adopted a new national flag and motto on Friday because the old ones carried echoes of the 1994 genocide. The motto "Unity, Work, Patriotism" replaced "Liberty, Co-operation, Progress" which had been the motto of the central African nation since independence from Belgium in 1962, state-run Radio Rwanda reported. The new flag is mainly blue and green and features a sunrise. It replaces a red, yellow and green flag with a capital R in the centre. The old flag and other national symbols were seen as representing the previous Hutu-dominated government whose ideology lay behind the genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus perished. The Tutsi minority dominated the country before and during colonial rule, but after independence Hutus held power until Tutsi rebels overthrew the government to end the genocide in 1994. "It was high time we carried out these changes for not all sections of Rwandans were identifying themselves with the flag... which was a eulogy to the Hutu supremacy," a government official told Reuters.

Web posted at: 10:30 AM EDT (1430 GMT), 1 October 1999
Located by Mark Sensen, 02 Oct 1999.

I just received the following message from Dr. Whitney Smith of the Flag Research Center:

The news report from Reuters about a new national flag having been adopted by Rwanda on 1 October was incorrect. I checked with my direct sources in Rwanda who report that the Cabinet on 30 September decided to propose a flag change. The bill must be drafted, presented to the national assembly, and passed by a three-quarters vote since it involves an amendment to the Constitution. It must then be cleared by the Constitutional Court, signed by the President, and published in the official gazette before Rwanda has a new flag.
Dave Martucci, 04 Oct 1999

Some proposed designs for a new flag

Based on these speculations, some possible designs for the new flag include:
Dylan Crawfoot  Dylan Crawfoot  Robert Wheelock

If my memory is correct, the Tutsi Patriotic Front flag is blue over green while Hutu MDR Party's colour is red, black, green and yellow - namely the previous colours of the national flag plus black.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 27 Oct 1999

Rwanda has still not settled for a new design to replace its current national flag, it seems. The Africanews web site carried a report from the Nairobi newspaper The East African in which it is reported that the Rwandan government has announced an international competition to find a new flag for the country. As usual, a news report like this much be taken with a few pinches of salt. Anyway, vexillographers should mind the "guidelines", the favoured colours are yellow, green and sky blue, and the designs should feature a rising sun.

Quoting from the website: "In a notice to bidders for the competition, the Minister for Local government, Mr. Desire Nyandwi specifically points out that the flag must symbolise national unity, respect for work, heroism and confidence in the future. The government wants the flag to have the colours yellow, green and sky blue in it with the rays of the rising sun shining through."
Jan Oskar Engene, 6 Dec 1999

A piece of news at this webpage
We're sorry, say Rwanda genocide leaders
RWANDA'S main political party, which incited Hutus to slaughter their Tutsi neighbours, has asked for forgiveness for its role in the 1994 genocide.
"The MDR asks for forgiveness from all Rwandans for the divisive campaign propagated by some of its leaders, which became the basis of the Hutu 'power' and which led to the 1994 genocide," says the party's new chairman, Pierre Celestin Rwigema. Rwigema, who held a news conference in the Rwandan capital of Kigali at the weekend, says they have began reforming the Mouvement Democratique Republicain (MDR) since the murderers lost power in the tiny Central African country in 1994.The reform includes the changing of the party's flag from red-black, which reinforced the Hutu supremacy, into red-green. "The 'green' epitomises hope for a reconciled and unified Rwanda. While the 'red' represents the Tutsi and Hutu blood," he explains.
Source: Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa), April 15, 1999

So there was [maybe] a flag-change after all... that of the MDR.
Jarig Bakker, 15 Jan 2000

Last week a French minister visited Kigali ; on this occasion TV report showed that Rwanda still uses its unchanged national flag with black R in the yellow.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 01 Feb 2000

A week ago I asked Embassy of Rwanda in Tokyo about the new flag. They say they still use r-y-v with R flag since the government is still in process to decide new flag. I asked them whether the new flag is somehow blue over green with sunburst and they were surprised that I know the basic design which they received as one of proposals from Kigali.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 15 Sep 2000