Flag of Uganda: Ornithological influence

Flag of Uganda

Ornithological influence

Despite being relatively young, the flag of Uganda is a unique and striking design that holds its own against some of the classic national flags. And even though Uganda’s national history is a complicated one, the history of it’s flag is relatively simple.

Uganda got its first flag in 1914 while under British control as the Uganda Protectorate. The British first came to present-day Uganda in the 1860s when explorers were searching for the source of the Nile River. In 1888, the British established the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) to protect business interests in the area. However, the IBEAC eventually lost its foothold in the area due to a series of religious wars in the late 1880s and 1890s. In order to gain better control over the area and protect their business, the British claimed the area as the Uganda Protectorate (UP) in 1894.

Flag of the Uganda Protectorate
Flag of the Uganda Protectorate.

It would be another 20 years before the area got a flag based on a British blue ensign, typical of British colony and territory flags. The Uganda Protectorate seal emblazoned on the flag features a crested crane; a large bird native to Uganda and the surrounding areas whose gracefulness was of particular interest to the British in the area. One such Brit was Sir Frederick Jackson, ornithologist and governor of the Uganda Protectorate who successfully lobbied King George V to make the crested crane the official symbol of the territory. To this day, the crested crane remains the official symbol of Uganda and is revered by its people.

Flag of Uganda (March - October 1962)
Flag of Uganda (March – October 1962).

In a push to have a more autonomous government, Uganda became a commonwealth realm in October of 1962 (a country with full or nearly full legislative independence but still a part of Great Britain’s constitutional monarchy). A few months prior to officially gaining their independence, the ruling Democratic Party introduced a new national flag featuring a large crested crane to replace the old Uganda Protectorate flag. While there are conflicting sources on whether or not this design was ever made official, the Democratic party still flew the blue, green, and yellow flag from March 1962 to October 1962. (Personally, I think I prefer this flag to the current Uganda flag).

After an election on April 25, 1962, the Democratic Party majority was replaced by members of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party, who immediately submitted a national flag design based on the party’s flag. The British government would approve the UPC design as the official national flag in October 9, 1962, right before granting Uganda it’s independence.

The UPC design was one of two flags proposed by Ugandan Minister of Justice Grace Ibingira. The black stripes represent the people of Africa, the yellow stands for Africa’s sunshine, and the red stripes represent the blood through which all Africans are tied.

It is reported that the third president of Uganda, Amin Dada, stole the original flag and other Ugandan artifacts when he was fled the country in 1979. It is believed that the objects were sold on the black market by his family after his death in 2003.


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