What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Tanzania Mean?

By Molly John on April 29 2018 in World Facts

The flag of Tanzania.

The United Republic of Tanzania (Jamuhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania) is the largest country in East Africa that is located south of the equator. It became a sovereign nation in 1964 through the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The Tanzanian flag's design is a combination of green, black, blue, and yellow colors placed diagonally. It is a symbol of national unity and sovereignty representing togetherness and unison among the Swahili people of Zanzibar and Tanganyika.

History of the Flag of Tanzania

While a part of the Sultanate of Oman, the Sultanate of Zanzibar was represented by a plain red flag. However, the German exploration and invasion of the East African coast eventually annexed Tanganyika and Zanzibar, combining them with Burundi and Rwanda to create German East Africa. In 1891, East German Africa adopted a white flag with a black cross running through the middle and a red portion at the top left with five-pointed stars. After the collapse of German rule in 1916 during the First World War, Britain took control of Tanganyika and a British Red Ensign flag with a white circle featuring a giraffe was adopted. This flag was used until 1961, when the Tanganyika African National Union, whose flag was a horizontal combination of green and black stripes, fought against the British rule and Tanganyika became a sovereign state. Upon gaining its independence, the new sovereign state adopted a flag featuring green, black, and yellow-bordered stripes.

After gaining independence from Britain in 1963, Zanzibar adopted a new flag. Introduced in 1964, the new flag was based on the plain red field used by the Sultanate of Zanzibar, but included the addition of a green circle and two yellow cloves. During this period, Zanzibar became known as the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba, a new flag featuring black-yellow-blue horizontal tricolors, was briefly adopted but abandoned two weeks later in favor of a blue-black-green horizontal tricolored flag. In April 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar united, melding their flag traditions to create a new national flag for the newly formed United Republic of Tanzania. The final flag incorporated a green and blue bicolor with a diagonal black bar with a yellow-border, appearing diagonally for distinctiveness.

Symbolism of the Flag of Tanzania

The colors and symbols of Tanzania's flag have political, regional, and cultural meanings. The green color symbolizes the country's rich green agricultural lands and natural vegetation. In Tanzania, green is also a symbol of peace and unity, and its incorporation on the flag is a reminder to Tanzanians of the need to grow their economy through agriculture and preserve their forests while upholding peace. The black color is a symbol of the black Swahili people who account for the majority of the country’s native population. The color signifies the unity of the native Swahili people through their skin color, reminding them that they should not be discriminated based on their complexion. The thin yellow stripes represent the country's rich mineral resources, while blue epitomizes the Indian Ocean and other water resources, like lakes and rivers, that flow through Tanzania.

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