The Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: December 3, 2022
© iStock.com/Дмитрий Ларичев
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The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country in Central Africa centered on the Congo Basin. By area, it is the second-largest country in Africa and the 11th-largest in the world. The country is frequently referred to as the DRC or simply as Congo (Kinshasa). The country’s capital, Kinshasa; which is also the largest city in Central Africa, is usually added in parentheses as a form of distinction from the other Congo republic, officially the Republic of Congo

Extremely rich in resources, the country gained its independence in 1960 but has since suffered political instability, a lack of infrastructure, and very little development. This article examines the country’s history and its impact on the country’s flag.

Characteristics of The Democratic Republic of Congo 

With a population of about 108 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the largest officially Francophone nation in the world. 

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The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest country by land area in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Situated at the center of the continent, this equatorial country is almost completely landlocked except for a sliver of coast along the Atlantic. By area, the country is the second-largest African country and the 11th in the world. With a population of about 108 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the largest officially Francophone nation in the world. 

Geographically, the central Congo basin dominates the country’s interior. Congo is surrounded by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zambia to the east, and Angola to the southwest. Around 90,000 years ago, foragers from Central Africa initially settled in the area that is now the DRC. There are over 200 ethnic groups in the DRC, of which the majority are Bantu people. There are also as many languages as there are ethnic groups, currently 340 and counting. Because of the large number of ethnic groups and languages spoken in the country, French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Christianity is the primary religion of the people in the DRC, with over 93% of the country’s population practicing Christianity. Among Christians, the most practiced version is the Roman Catholic. It is impossible to overstate the Catholic Church’s influence, and some have even referred to it as the nation’s one true national institution aside from the state. The church also owns and operates a sizable network of schools and hospitals in addition to other businesses like farms, ranches, stores, and art galleries.

Founding of The Democratic Republic of Congo

The country was colonized by Belgium, and their exploration and administration lasted from the 1870s until the 1920s. For most of the later part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, millions of people in the region died as a result of diseases and exploitation. More areas began to experience a decline in their population, and more than half of the people at the lower Congo River died from smallpox and sleeping sickness.

On 18 October 1908, the Belgian parliament voted in favor of annexing the Congo as a Belgian colony. The colonization of the Congo was not to primarily provide healthcare and education, but instead to make the country’s natural and mineral resources available to the Belgian economy. During this period, all parts of the Congo were under the Belgian administration and were not allowed to partake in any form of political activity and immediately shut down any acts of rebellion. On June 30, 1960, the Belgian Congo became independent under the name “République du Congo,” or the Republic of the Congo in English.

By 1971, the country’s name was changed again to the Republic of Zaire. It was at this point the corruption in the country reached its peak; the government in power at the time took loans and international aid and proceeded to squander it on their own selfish desires. By 1996, a joined force of Rwandan and Ugandan armies infiltrated the country to overthrow the government at the time, and that singular act marked the First Congo War and marked the beginning of many more wars within the country. At the end of the country’s civil war that lasted between 1998 and 2003, it was decided that the government shall be headed by a president and prime minister. 

Meaning and Symbolism of the Flag of The Democratic Republic of Congo

Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo
The current flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo was adopted in February 2006.

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The national flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was adopted in February 2006 and is a sky blue flag with a yellow star in the upper left canton. The flag also has a red stripe with two thinner yellow stripes running diagonally across it. The flag’s light blue background represents peace among the Congolese people. The yellow tint that surrounds the red stripe represents the nation’s prosperity, the red stripe symbolizes the blood shed by the country’s martyrs, and the yellow five-pointed star represents the country’s togetherness. 

History of the Flag of The Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s flag is a descendant of the country’s colonial flag, which featured a gold star in the center of a blue field. The first flag ever used by the country was in 1877 and was the Association Internationale Africaine flag. Even after the Congo Free State gained independence from Belgium in 1960, the 1877 flag remained in use as its national symbol. Afterward, to represent the six provinces of the country at the time, six tiny stars were placed on the corner of the flag, but this design was only used from 1960 to 1963.

When the nation was renamed Zaire in 1971, the flag underwent another modification. Unlike the other flags that maintained a blue background and the use of one or more stars, the Zaire flag was totally different. It had a completely green background with an emblem of a hand holding a fiery torch in the middle. This flag was also used as the flag of the leading political party at the time, the Popular Movement of the Revolution party. 

The flag was discarded in 1997 when the government at the time was overthrown, and the country became known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At this point, the nation returned to the post-independence design from the 1960s, which featured a single large star and six smaller stars. The most recent alteration to the flag happened in 2003 when the six smaller stars were taken out and substituted with the red and yellow lines, and the shade of blue was made lighter. However, this flag did not come into use until 2006.

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The Flag of the Republic of Congo: History, Meaning, and Symbolism


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Flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo
The flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo has red, blue, and yellow colors, with a star in the upper left corner and a red stripe with two thinner yellow stripes running diagonally across it.
© iStock.com/Дмитрий Ларичев

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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Sources
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  2. Edarabia, Available here: https://www.edarabia.com/dr-congo/flag/
  3. World Atlas, Available here: https://www.worldatlas.com/flags/democratic-republic-of-the-congo