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Early in Mobutu's long spell in power he instituted a policy of Authenticité, promoting African names over colonial ones. As part of that policy the name of the country was changed from Congo to Zaire. Additionally, the flag was changed radically, from the pre-1971 blue background/yellow star flag (influenced by the earlier Belgian Congo flag) to a predominantly green one.

Flag to 1971 | Mobutu's flag 1971 to 1997 | post-Mobutu 1997 flag

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In 1997, Laurent Kabila's AFDL overthrew President Mobuto of Zaire and Kabila was named president.

The name of the country was swiftly changed back from Zaire to Congo and the flag also reverted from Mobutu's authenticity policy flag to a version of the old blue and yellow one.

I assume the reason this happened was that it underscored the break with Mobutu's rule and was intended both domestically and internationally to make exactly that statement.

However, it still seems a curious set of decisions. Horrific and disastrous though Mobutu's rule was, the Zaire name and the updated flag, both of which had been in place years for 26 years aren't obviously terrible. And Mobutu's names for Kinshasa and Kisangani were left alone.

Especially curious is that the Congo name and the reverted flag both hark back to the even more horrific period of Belgian rule.

Simply renaming country and flag isn't the norm, even in Africa, when a terrible dictator is overthrown. Zambia didn't when Kaunda was ousted and Zimbabwe won't when Mugabe goes.

Is there an explanation that goes beyond "breaking with Mobutu"?

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The answer is "No". –  Lennart Regebro Sep 6 '13 at 15:20

1 Answer 1

The 1997-2006 flag (your third flag) is the first flag (1960-1963) of independent Congo, then known as Congo-Léopoldville. While it's true that it's design is reminiscent of the Belgian Congo flag, I imagine the symbolism of being the first flag of independent Congo was a major factor in choosing it over any other design.

The 1963-1971 design (your first flag) was adopted when a seventh province was created. The six stars at the left represented the first six provinces of the new state, and the Congolese decided they didn't want to add a new star every time they created a province.

Interestingly, the 1963-1971 flag was also used from 1997 to 2006, as the presidential flag. From 2006 and onwards it's the official flag of the country, replacing the 1960-1963 / 1997-2006 design.

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