The history of Eritrea’s flag is intimately intertwined with the history of Eritrea itself. From its first origins as a free state to the revolutionary rebellion that created Eritrea as it exists today, historical events have left their marks on Eritrea’s flag.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Eritrea was a colony of Italy and the Eritreans did not have their own nation or their own flag. After the Second World War came to an end, the United Nations stepped in to create newly independent nations out of the former colonies. Eritrea was one of the first African states to get its independence and decided to commemorate the help of the United Nations into its national flag.
Eritrea’s first national flag consisted of a field of light blue – the official color of the UN – with a green olive wreath in the middle. The olive branch symbolized peace – both from foreign occupation and as a goal of the United Nations. The olive wreath surrounded a frond of six leaves, also in green, with each leaf symbolizing one of Eritrea’s provinces.
Ethiopian Annexation and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front
In 1962, Ethiopia, with the permission of the United Nations, invaded Eritrea and made it a part of Ethiopia. The Eritreans who still wanted their own independent country joined the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, which fought against the occupation. The flag of the EPLF consisted of a red isosceles triangle with the base on the left edge and the tip on the right. The space above the triangle was green, while the space below it was blue. The green color symbolized the natural wealth of Eritrea – its fields and animals. The blue symbolized the Red Sea, along the coast of which Eritrea sits. The red triangle, with a gold star in the middle, symbolized the struggle of the Eritreans for independence.
In 1993, again with the help of the United Nations, Eritrea once again became independent. The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front took control of the new country’s government and used their own flag as the basis of the new national flag. They did, however, make a few slight changes. They replaced the gold star with the olive branch and the frond from the first Eritrean flag, though also in gold, to symbolize the end to the struggle for independence, and changed the olive branch to have thirty leaves, one for each year the Eritreans fought for independence.