The flag of the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe reflect the ties between two that country’s two main islands. The flag also acknowledges the importance of African unity and self-government. A fascinating history led to the design of this very beautiful flag.
The nation of Sao Tome and Principe today enjoys one of the most stable democratic governments in Africa. Its society has achieved a fusion of Portuguese and African cultural influences. With a significant Catholic majority, the secular government has enjoyed peaceful transitions of power since the nation gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and established a Republic.
The first President of Sao Tome and Principe, Manuel Pinto da Costa, reportedly played a significant role in the selection of the national flag. It carries the colors of red, green, yellow and black to reflect the importance of the Pan-African unity movement. Its flag shares the same colors as some close neighbors to the north, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau.
The flag of Sao Tome and Principe displays a red triangle symbolizing equality and independence on the hoist side. The triangle points into a broad yellow horizontal stripe containing two black five-pointed stars, representing the nation’s two main islands, Sao Tome and Principe. Both islands sit in the Bay of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa. Portuguese mariners discovered these uninhabited islands in the 1470s. Two slightly thinner green horizontal stripes border the central yellow stripe.
Many Portuguese settlers moved to Sao Tome and Principe during the 1500s. Some of the settlers established sugarcane and cacao plantations on the tropical islands. During this period, slave trading in Africa spread across the Atlantic Ocean, and large numbers of African slaves endured transportation to the Americas aboard slaving vessels. The Portuguese islands of Sao Tome and Principe became a slave-trading center and way-station. The islands remained a Portuguese colony after slavery became illegal during the early 1800s. Today, the vast majority of residents of Sao Tome and Principe trace their ancestry to both Portugal and the African mainland. The islands became an official overseas province of Portugal in 1951, and at that time used the Portuguese national flag.
The Pan-African Unity movement grew in importance during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1975, Portugal granted political independence to Sao Tome and Principe. The new nation adopted its current national flag on July 12, 1975.