(Solomon Dibaba, ENA)
The Ethiopian flag is one of the ancient flags in the world. The tricolor with green, yellow and red from top to bottom in bold colors is known as sendek alama in Amharic (Scepter Symbol, Sceptre motto in English).
The earliest flag used by humankind is probably the colors of the rainbow, basically the Green, Yellow and Red. Throughout the year, it is seen in the rains of the monsoon seasons or in one of the many waterfalls during the dry season.
According to Asfaw Tefera, the Author of the Ethiopian National Flag (in Amharic, 1999), two nations that have kept these colors are Ethiopia and Bolivia.
Augustus B. Wylde in his book "Modern Abyssinia(1900)" quoted by Asfaw describes three color pennants, yellow at the top, red in the middle and green at the lower, were used together as the national flag.
The three pennants were later united into the traditional Green, Yellow and Red horizontal strips of the Ethiopian flag as we know it today. Sometimes in the early part of 1900's the three colors were united to signify the unity of Ethiopia and as part of Menilik's desire to modernize Ethiopia.
The Green, Yellow and Red horizontal strips flag with the emblem of the Lion of Judah (Moa Anbessa) was used by Emperor Hailesilassie I. Some people abroad are still using this flag during demonstrations. Certain individuals use the British or Persian lion in the flag but the Lion of Ethiopia is unique and as depicted on the currency of the country.
The military regime that overthrows Emperor Hailesilassie I in 1975, removed the Lion of Judah and continues to use the flag with the Green, Yellow and Red stripes with an emblem meant to show the unity between peasants and workers in the country.
The current Ethiopian flag adopted on the 28th of August 2009. It is composed of three equal horizontal bands of green on top, yellow in the middle , and red at the bottom, with a yellow pentagram and single yellow rays emanating from the angles between the points on a light blue disk centered on the three bands; green represents hope and the fertility of the land, yellow symbolizes justice and harmony, while red stands for sacrifice and heroism in the defense of the land; the blue of the disk symbolizes peace and the pentagram represents the unity and equality of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.
The emblem reflects the equality of nations, nationalities and peoples as well as of religions, and signifies the unity founded by the will of peoples of Ethiopia, many in the opposition abroad prefer to use the flag without its emblem.
Although the peoples of Ethiopia use the federal flag with its constitutionally defined emblem on various occasions, it is not certain that how many citizens are aware of the representation of the emblem and legal punishments the law provides on those who tamper with the tricolor. Article 16 of the Flag Proclamation No. 654/2009 Provides that
“The flag of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia shall only be of the colors of green, yellow and blue circular background as provided hereinabove, together with the Emblem at the center as specified in this proclamation.”
The 2009 flag proclamation enforced to properly implement the constitutional declaration under article 23 prohibits use of the flag without the emblem, defacing it, using torn flag, fastening advertisements on the flag, disrespect for the flag at public places, use of the flag in improper disorder.
Recent illegal demonstrations have witnessed a misuse of the Ethiopian flag in which flags with no emblems were hoisted as a gesture of rejection to the current Ethiopian flag.
The recent tampering with the flag on illegal demonstrations can be viewed from three perspectives. In the first place, some misinformed demonstrators vented their anger on issues on unmet demands related to good governance. Others simply wanted to create chaos so that social disorder could prevail serving the interests of those who never wish to see the prevalence of the federal system. All the more, some wanted to create a situation in which the development programs of the nation could be disrupted by all possible means.
Whatever the case might be, replacing and hoisting an improper flag that does not depict the federal order is tantamount to an opposition not to the government as such but tarnishing the symbol that shows the national identity of the country.
Maaza Hayimanot Worku, Assistant Attorney General at the Directorate for Administration of Civil Justice at Federal Attorney General says that “Such flag does not in any manner represent the peoples and state of Ethiopia. An official flag can be changed only with a constitutional amendment.”
Since the constitution declares that the flag symbolizes the sovereignty of the Republic and unity of its peoples, such actions are targeted against the identity of the state.
He said that an offense committed against the flag is also a crime against the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and various religious denominations in the country.
He said: “Any crime that is committed against the Ethiopian flag is not only a crime against the sovereignty of the state and the constitution but is also an offense committed against the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and various religious denominations in the country.”
The national emblem reflects the equality of nations, nationalities and peoples as well as of religions, and signifies the unity founded by the will of nations, nationalities and peoples of the country.
According to Bizuneh Zegeye, legal consultant and attorney at the court of law, using the flag without the emblem comes mainly from lack of awareness about its meaning and representation and the respect need to pay to the flag.
He said: “There seems to be a vivid lack of awareness on the meaning and legal implications of the Ethiopian flag and we need to engage in teaching the public at all levels on the importance of the flag. We need to ensure a meaningful public awareness on our flag. Children should be educated thoroughly from KG up to higher education. This is our weak point that needs to be addressed.”
It is importance to educate the people about the meaning and representation of the emblem and the need for a proper respect to the flag as well as the accountability the law provides for crimes committed against the flag.