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Republic of Benin, Bénin, République du Bénin

Last modified: 2013-06-07 by bruce berry
Keywords: benin | dahomey | africa | star | pan-african |
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[Benin flag] [National flag and ensign] 2:3    Image by Željko Heimer, 04 March 2001
Flag adopted 16 November 1959, abandoned in 1975 and reintroduced 01 August 1990. 
Coat of arms (re)adopted 01 August 1990.

See also other Benin pages:

History of the flag

Benin gained independence in 1960 as a Republic of Dahomey.  Up to 1975 the flag was the same as the current one.  However, between 1975 and 1990 the country was known as the People's Republic of Benin and used a flag that was red with green star in the canton.  The flag originally adopted at independence was re-introduced in 1990. 
Jarig Bakker, 22 Sept 2000

Flag of Benin (1959 - 1975; 1990 - )

The symbolism of the colours of the flag are explained in the national anthem - Green recalls hope and revival, red the courage of ancestors and yellow is a reminder to preserve the country's wealth.  The flag of August 1960 (adopted on 16 November 1959, but hoisted for the first time on 01 August 1960) was reestablished during the National Conference of Active Forces of the Nation (19-28 February 1990).

Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book explains the colours as being Pan-African. Pedersen [ped70g] associates red to the soil, yellow to the savannas and green to palm trees. Whitney Smith [smi80] agrees with Pedersen, except for the red symbolizing the blood of ancestors.

According to Album des Pavillons [pay00], the national flag is also used as the national ensign

When the country abandoned its socialist policies in 1990, a multi-party democracy was established in 1991.  Although the original flag was re-adopted, the country retained the name Benin introduced in 1975.  This was the name of the ancient African empire centered in that area.  
Summary of contributions by Željko Heimer and John Andrew Lowe, 30 Nov 1995; Nick Artimovich,  05 June 1996 and Ivan Sache, 23 April 2000

[Benin flag construction sheet][National flag and ensign] 2:3  Image by Željko Heimer based on Album des Pavillons 2000 [pay00], 11 Jan 2001

In the construction sheet is given in Album des Pavillons 2000 [pay00], the ratio between the length of the green field to the fly is 6:9, while ratio of yellow and red stripes is 5:5.  In many sources an erroneous flag image is shown where green stripe is of equal width as the yellow and red stripes.
Željko Heimer, 11 Jan 2001

This construction is based on the Constitution, see Flag in the Constitution and the Anthem.

People's Republic of Benin (1975 - 1990)

[People's Republic of Benin, 1975-1990] Image by Željko Heimer, 04 March 2001

It is said that star represents "peoples unity, unity of all revolutionary forces in overwhelming of inner and outer enemy and making a new, revolutionary and socialist land of Benin".

This flag reversed the colours of the The flag reversed the colours of the flag of the People's Revolutionary Party of Benin, which had a green star and red background.
Stuart Notholt

The national flag 1975-1990 was, as far as I am aware, never officially adopted, (meaning there was no law regarding it) and therefore the construction details (size and position of the star) were never determined either.
Željko Heimer, 04 March 2001

Kingdom of Dahomey (19th century)

[Flag of the Kingdom of Dahomey] Image by Jaume Ollé, 12 Sept 1996 The Béhanzin king (1889-1892, born 1844, died 1906), successor of the king Gle-Gle, had a flag (r atio 43:59) with a light blue field. The shield is yellow with a dark grey shark, and white egg and tusks; green palm; light green snakes, and a white ribbon. Some inscriptions suggest manufacture by one of the Portuguese who had commercial relations along the coast. The French General Alfred Dodds captured a flag in the Dahomey royal Palace at Abomey on 18 November 1892. It was sent to the Musee de l'Arme in Paris and was transferred in 1932 to the Musee Colonial (now the Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens).  Details of the flag is reported in the issue 145 of the Flag Bulletin. That museum has an engraving by Albert Vallon, showing a French mission being received by King Ghezo (1818-1858), with a different flag, which suggests that each king may have had his own flag. 

The flag used by King Ghezo is shown above.
Jaume Ollé,
12 Sept 1996

People's Revolutionary Party of Benin

[People's Revolutionary Party of Benin] (1)
[People's Revolutionary Party of Benin] (2)    Images by Željko Heimer, 04 March 2001

While Jaume Ollé states that the star should be in the center of the flag (2), other sources seems to imply that it was indeed in canton as (1)  (e.g. Smith [smi80], Crampton [cra90]).
The flag of PRP may have been adopted earlier then 1975.
Željko Heimer,  23 April 2000

Coat of Arms

   Image sent by Jarig Bakker, 22 Sept 2000

The Coat of Arms were originally adopted in 1964 and were re-adopted in 1990 after being replaced in 1975 when the country became the People's Republic of Benin.

The Arms are surmounted by the national crest which consists of two horns with corn in the ear and filled with sand. These are reputed to stand for prosperity. Below is the national shield which is quartered and depicts a local Somba fortress in the top left quadrant representing the history of the country; in the top right quadrant is the Order of the Star of Benin, the highest decoration in the country.  The bottom left quadrant features a palm tree and in the bottom right is a sailing ship representing the arrival of the Europeans. The shield is supported by a pair of leopards, the national animal of Benin. 

Below the shield is the national motto (in French)  'Fraternite, Justice, Travail'  (meaning: Fraternity, Justice, Work).

Image sent by Jarig Bakker, 22 Sept 2000

On 01 December 1975 the name, arms, and flag of the country were changed.   The Arms adopted at the time comprised a green shield with red star within a wreath of yellow, ripe maize-cobs (symbol of agriculture) a cog-wheel (industry). On the red ribbon, that has been bound around a stack of maize-cobs, are the initials of the name of the country RPB in green.  These Arms were replaced in 1990 when the previous Arms were restored as outlined above.
Jarig Bakker, 22 Sept 2000