Last modified: 2011-06-10 by
Keywords: senegal | star (green) | pan-african | french west africa | mali federation | union of african states |
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2:3~ | stripes 1+1+1 |
image by Željko Heimer
Current flag adopted 20 August 1960 (or September 1960), coat of arms adopted December 1965.
The website of the government of Senegal gives a somewhat official explanation of the national flag. I call the explanation "somewhat official" because it does not seem to be included in any official text (Constitution, law, decree...). However, it must reflect the current perception of the national flag by the authorities of the state. Green is, for Muslims, the colour of the Prophet's flag; for Christians, it is the symbol of hope; for Animists, it is symbol of fecundity. Gold [yellow] is the symbol of wealth; it represents the product of work, for a nation whose main priority is the progress of economy, which will allow the increase of the cultural level, the second national priority. Gold is also the colour of Arts and Literature, as well as of Intellect. Red recalls the colour of blood, therefore colour of life and the sacrifice accepted by the nation, and also of the strong determination to fight against underdevelopment. The star is a frequent element in the Black African symbolism. The five branches of the star represent the opening of Senegal to the five continents. The star represents also the sky and therefore the spiritual values of the nation. The green colour of the star mostly symbolizes hope brought by the recent independence of the Republic of Senegal.
Ivan Sache, 4 June 2004
Another website at www.epa-prema.net/mfas/drapeau.htm gives a slightly different interpretation on the origin and meaning of the colours [also in French, my summary of the relevant parts below]:
Historically, the three colours represent the three political parties which merged to form 'Union Progressiste Sénégalaisé (Senegalese Progressist Union - L.S. Senghor's party), green for 'Bloc Démocratique Sénégalais' (Senegalese Democratic Bloc), yellow for 'Mouvement Populaire Sénégalais' (Senegalese People's Movement) and red for 'Parti Sénégalais d'Action Sociale' (Senegalese Party for Social Action)
[The site also mentions the evident influence of the French Tricolore. Smith says the three colours were found in political party flags but recognized as Pan-african colours]
Islam, the main religion in Senegal, is represented by the green stripe at hoist. Christians interpret green as a symbol of hope, Animists as a symbol of fecundity. The three stripes stand for the Christian trinity, a symbol of unity.
[I am not totally convinced by this ecumenical explanation.]
Yellow (for gold) is the symbol of wealth and economical progress, source of cultural elevation. The golden colour is not only a material symbol, but also the colour of spirit, arts and literature. Literature teachers wear a yellow blouse.
Red is the colour of courage, sacrifice and fight against underdevelopment.
The star is a symbol common to all regions and religions. It stands for perfection, light and knowledge and is common in Black African symbolism. Its green colour represents the hope caused by the independence of Senegal. It is five-pointed to recall the human ideogram which was displayed in the middle of the flag of the former Mali Federation.
[Smith just says the ideogram was replaced by the star.]
The Senegalese Army flags follow the French model, being the national flag with the writing 'République du Sénégal' and the name of the corps. The site says later that the national motto is also shown on Army flags.
Ivan Sache, 30 November 2000
On 4 April, 1959, French Sudan and Senegal formed the Mali Federation. The federation became independent on 20 June, 1960, and Senegal seceded from it on 22 August 1960, at which point it replaced the federation flag with similar tricolour with a green star, instead of the kanaga (black man figure) in the Federation flag.Mark Sensen, 8 April 1996
The details of the flag design are uncertain. The width to length ratio is given as 2:3 by most authors, but some indicate it as approximate ratio. It is probable that it is the de facto ratio which may not be prescribed at all. The size of the green star is also reported differently, varying the diameter of the circle in which it is inscribed from 2/3 to 1/3 of the width of one stripe.Željko Heimer, 13 November 2000
Moustapha Niasse, leader of the opposition party "Alliance des Forces de Progres" gave a press conference on 15 April 2004 in Dakar. The main point of the press conference was the modification of the election code and the set up of an independent commission to check the lawfulness of the next legislative and presidential elections. At the end of the conference, Niasse tackled " [the] defense of the symbols of the Republic against the division threat and the offence against national unity". Niasse produced records of "[a] visible replacement, on certain official documents, of the green star of the central yellow stripe of the national flag by a golden baobab" and of "the non-performance of the national anthem during official ceremonies". Niasse's party asked the President of the Republic and the guardians of the institutions "to protect and respect the Senegalese flag and anthem as sacred properties of the people."
The facts mentioned above were reported by the newspaper "Le Soleil", from Dakar, on 16 April 2004. The article, entitled "Set up of a front against election fraud" emphasized the election question (http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/200404160128.html).
The same press conference was reported by another Senegalese newspaper, "Walf Fadjri", also on 16 April 2004 (http://www.walf.sn/politique/suite.php?rub=2&id_art=9293). There, the emphasis was on the national symbols and the article was entitled "[President] Wade creates a new flag". There are more details on the modification of the flag, and it is said that Niasse showed an official document signed by the head of state on 6 February, with a golden baobab instead of the green star. By doing this, the President would have violated the Constitution. Niasse said: "Only the Senegalese people is sovereign to decide any modification of the symbols of our Republic".
Ivan Sache, 17 April 2004
Could the flags with the star replaced by the tree be the presidential standard of President Wade?
Željko Heimer, 17 April 2004
It is probably relevant since the Constitution and institutions of Senegal were set up after the French model. However, when the President signs an official document, he signs on the behalf of the sovereign people who elected him and not "himself". Therefore, there is no legitimate reason to put the personal emblem of the President on such a document.
Ivan Sache, 17 April 2004
As noted above, the national flag was recently a matter of controversy.
Moustapha Diatta wrote in the newspaper Wal Fadjiri, published in Dakar on 23 August 2005 an article entitled "Flag of Senegal: No more untrue copies !" (Drapeau du Sénégal: Halte au reproductions non conformes !)
The author recall that the national flag of Senegal is widely used during national ceremonies and other celebrations, but he deplores the use of untrue flags made by some manufacturers that do not respect the position of the stripes and the star. The national colours are sometimes arranged in horizontal stripes, with an upside- down star with a wrong number of points. Diatta call this a "sacrilege" and a "profanation", whose authors should be punished. He recalls that there are classes of civics, with presentation of the national flag, in the programs of state education. The author eventually reminds his readers that the national flag of Senegal "as an independent state" is made of three "equidistant" vertical stripes green-yellow-red with a five-pointed star in the middle of the yellow stripe (but he does not say explicitly the colour of the star !).
Ivan Sache, 31 August 2005
From the website of the government of Senegal
[The original text of the Constitution is in French. Below is my translation of article 1]
Constitution of the Republic of Senegal
First Title: Of State and Sovereignty
The Republic of Senegal is secular, democratic and social. It insures equality regarding the law for all citizens, without distinction of origin, race, sex, religion. It respects all beliefs.
(Constitutional Law #78-60 of 28 December 1978)
The official language of the Republic of Senegal is French. The national languages are Diola, Malinké, Pular, Sérère, Soninké, and Wolof. The motto of the Republic of Senegal is:'Un Peuple, un But, une Foi' ['One People, one Goal, one Faith'].
(Constitutional law #63-22 of 7 March 1963)
The flag of the Republic is made of three vertical equal stripes, green, gold and red. It is charged with a green five-pointed star in the center of the yellow stripe. The law determines the seal and the anthem of the Republic.
The principle of the Republic is: government of the people by the people and for the people.
Representative Tafsir Thioye (Liberal) has tabled on 24 June  a Bill on the national flag. The main items of the bill are the following:
image by Željko Heimer
A yellow roundel with green five-pointed star and with red "wings". Correction 1 of Album 2000 shows the red wings fimbriated white from the roundel, but this is an error. The national flag is painted on the fin.
Željko Heimer, 9 January 2003
Armée de l'Air du Senegal was formed on Sept. 1960 and between 1982 - 1989 had a Gambian unit as part of it and called then Armee de l'Air de Senegambie. Its roundel is a green star in a yellow disc (rays not touching the edges) and two stylized wing-like red bars on both sides (Cochrane & Elliott, 1998). A photo at http://www.fokker-aircraft.info/senegalpics.htm shows that there is no white fimbriation but a gap (in fuselage color) between the wings and disc. The national flag is used as a fin flash.
Dov Gutterman, 23 June 2004