The official name of Somalia is the Federal Republic of Somalia, and the blue flag with the white star in the center is the official flag of Somalia. It was created in 1954, and has been used ever since.
The 5-pointed star is known as the Star of Unity, meant to represent the 5 geographical locations Somalis mainly reside;
- Somalia (formerly know as Italian Somalia/Italian Somaliland)
- Somaliland (formerly known as British Somaliland)
- Djibouti (formerly known as French Somaliland)
- The Somali Region (also known as Ogaden or ‘Somali Galbeed’) located in the eastern part of Ethiopia and mainly inhabited by Somalis
- The North Eastern Province (also known as the Northern Frontier District (NFD)) located in North East Kenya, mainly inhabited by Somalis
The blue background represents the blue sky and the waters following the coastline of Somalia (The Indian Ocean to the East, Gulf of Aden to the North, and the Guardafui Channel in between).
Somalia is a federation, meaning that it consists of partially self-governing states in a union under the central federal government. Oficially there are 6 federal states of Somalia, and each of those have their own flag.
The most popular of those flags is the flag of Somaliland. With the Shahada on the green top, black star on the white middle section, and the red bottom it can be seen during all sorts of events by Somalilanders both in Somaliland and around the world, especially on May 18. Somaliland functions as an autonomous region. Interestingly, the national blue/white Somali flag is reported to be banned in Somaliland, as Somaliland is aiming for independence from Somalia – a political conflict many decades old.
The flags of the other 5 federal member states are here, along with a map of the state locations in Somalia.
History of the flag
The short story is, that the blue flag with the white star representing all of Somalia was created on 12th October 1954 by Mohammed Awale Liban through adapting (1) the coats of arms designed by the colonial powers and (2) the UN flag. Read the section below to see how he created the flag.
From the late 1880s until 1960 Somalia was under control of the British and Italian powers seperating the region of Somaliland and the rest of Somalia respectively (see the images below). This was done through signing treaties turning the two regions into protectorates. The history is long and a bit complicated, so we will not go into depth in this post, but only summarize the big dates and the flags.
A full breakdown can be found here. Click on the dates to find the wikipedia page for each period.
1889–1936: Somalia was controlled by various sultans, who each entered into a treaty with the Italian protectorate creating Italian Somaliland.
1936 – 1941: Somalia Governorate, one of six parts of the Italian East Africa.
1941 – 1950: British Military Administration of Somalia (BMAS). The British won over Italy during during “East African campaign” a part of the 2nd world war.
1950 – 1960: Trust Territory of Somaliland was created as a trusteeship of the United nations (UN) and administered by Italy. The Italian trusteeship took control in April 1950 and was supposed to govern Somalia for the next 10 years.
1st July 1960: The Republic of Somalia was created through unification of the the former Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland. This is the official independence day for all of Somalia. Since then, there has been various name changes during the different governments, but the flag stayed the same.
1884: British Somaliland was created as a British protectorate through signing various treaties.
1960 (26th June – 1st July): Creation of short-lived independent ‘State of Somaliland‘
1st July 1960: The republic of Somalia was created through unification of the the former British- and Italian Somaliland (The State of Somaliland was unified with the Trust territory of Somaliland). This is the official independence day for all of Somalia.
6 April 1981 – 18 May 1991: Somaliland’s war for independence from the rest of Somalia, resulting in the creation of modern day Somaliland, a de facto state that is still considered to be a part of the republic of Somalia internationally.
The Somaliland region is inhabited by Somalis just like the NFD, Somali region and parts of Djibouti, thus the blue flag with the white star is considered a unifying flag for all Somalis and not just representing the former Italian Somaliland.
The creation of the flag:
Finding the tale of the actual creation of the Somali flag is not easy, however there is a source reporting on it. To summarize:
It was October 1954, and Somalia was known as the “Trust territory of Somaliland” (see the timeline above) which had a legislative council, consisting of members from different countries. Its goal was to prepare the laws for Somalia for its independence, and one of the tasks was the creation of the Somali flag. Mohammed Awale Liban, the Galkacyo born Somali scholar who was a member of this council, suggested this should be decided among the Somali members themselves.
They chose Sheik Omar as a chairman of this task and the discussion of the Flag was set for the next day.
Mohammed Awale Liban went home and began designing the flag, and the result was the blue flag which as mentioned above represents the Sky, Somali waters, and the color of the UN (who was helping Somalia gain its independence) and the star representing regions where the Somali people live.
The next day, when Mohammed Awale Liban was given the word at the meeting he stood up, stretched out the Somali flag on his chest which he had made in 1 day, which resulted in a long standing ovation by the legislative council members. This is the flag currently used for Somalia.
Up October 1954, only the Italian flag was used by the trusteeship after which the UN flag was also used until the day of independence in 1960. On independence day 1 July 1960, the UN flag and the colonial flags were lowered and replaced by the flag of Somalia:
The Somali Coats of arms:
The current coats of arms of Somalia was created on 10th October 1956 – almost 2 years after the flag was created, and resembles the previous coats of arms. The shield, which contains the Somali flag, is supported by two Leopards – the official animal of Somalia! They do look like cheetahs, but lack the black lines on the face. Additionally, the Somali consitution of 2012 describes the two felines as “leopards”.
Regardless of different flags belonging to the different regions and the Somali people split between multiple countries, many of whom have even fled the harsh conditions in the Horn of Africa, the more important goal for all Somalis is a better and more prosperous future in which we have overcome many of the dificulties the region is currently facing. It is the hope of @moresomalia, that through a better understanding of the country/region and the Somali people, we can contribute to the needed ‘growth, development and sustainability’ process in a more informed way. Knowledge is power, and you cannot expect to change something you don’t understand to begin with. I hope you enjoyed reading this 1st post of MoreSomalia. Feel free to follow along and come with suggestions to either the curent topic or future topics on the website 🙂