The Flag of Kenya: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Kenya's flag Ceyhan

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Published: November 10, 2022

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Kenya is a country in east Africa full of vast savannahs. Lions, zebras, elephants, and wildebeest roam freely in the beautiful grasslands, scrublands and woodlands. The capitol of Kenya, Nairobi, proudly flies the nation’s flag as a representation of their freedom dating back more than 50 years to 1963. Here is everything you need to know about the flag of Kenya, including the history, meaning, and symbolism.

Where is Kenya?

Kenya is on the eastern side of the continent of Africa. Ethiopia is just north of Kenya with Somalia on the east, Tanzania to the south, and Uganda on the west. A portion of the southeastern border is coastal on the Indian Ocean. The equator runs right through the middle of the country, dividing it nearly in half.

Kenya on a map

Kenya is on the eastern side of the continent of Africa.

What does the Flag of Kenya Look Like?

The flag of Kenya has three horizontal stripes in black, red and green. Small white stripes separate the large stripes. In the middle of the flag is a red shield, a Massai shield after the Maasai Tribe of Kenya, that has white and black crescents on the side. Two white spears cross behind the shield.

The Kenyan flag flying in the wind

The flag of Kenya has three horizontal stripes in black, red and green.

What is the History behind the Flag of Kenya?

The modern-day flag of Kenya celebrates their freedom from Great Britain, but back in 1895, the governments formed the British East African Protectorate. This means that Britain took over and agreed to protect and partially control the country of Kenya. The British began colonizing Kenya and by 1920 the British appointed a British governor to run the country. After years of poor conditions, forced labor, and unreasonable taxing, the native Africans formed the Kenyan African Union (KAU) to start a campaign to fight for their freedom from British rule. In 1952, a group called the Mau Mau banned together and tried to get rid of the white settlers, but they were unsuccessful. In 1960, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) formed and fought to gain their independence from Britain, succeeding on December 12, 1963. Afterwards, Kenya proudly adopted their new flag.

What is the Meaning Behind the Flag of Kenya?

The red, black, and green colors come from the colors of the KANU as representation of their fight for freedom. The shield on the flag is modeled after a traditional shield of the Maasai tribe, one of the native tribes of African people in Kenya.

What is the Symbolism of the Flag of Kenya?

The current flag of Kenya uses colors and an emblem based on the country’s rich history. Here is what each color and emblem symbolize:

  • Black: the people of the Republic of Kenya
  • Red: the blood shed during their fight for independence
  • Green: the landscape
  • White: peace and honesty
  • Shield and spears: the weapons used by the Maasai tribe

What are Former Flags of Kenya?

In 1895, the British established The Flag of the East African Protectorate and The Colony of Kenya. They used this flag from 1895-1920 until Kenya became a British colony and it remained the same from 1920-1963. The flag was royal blue with a British flag in the upper left hand corner. A red lion standing on its hind legs in a fighting pose was on the right side of the flag.

After World War II the Kenya African Union (KAU) formed. And after that, in 1960, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was created to fight for independence. The modern-day flag resembles this groups’ flag, which had three horizontal stripes, black, red, and green with a white circle in the center and a red rooster.

Where Can You Find the Flag of Kenya?

The flag of Kenya is displayed at the top of the State House in the capitol of Kenya, Nairobi. The State House is where the president of Kenya, William Ruto, lives. He was elected on August 9, 2022.

Nairobi, Kenya

The flag of Kenya is displayed at the top of the State House in the capitol of Kenya, Nairobi.

What are the Military Flags of Kenya?

The following military flags of Kenya each display the official flag in the upper left-hand corner:

  • The Defense Forces: The flag of the Defense Forces has three broad horizontal stripes in red, light blue, and royal blue. A golden eagle with its wings spread lies at the center of the flag. Behind the eagle, sits a blue anchor and two crossed rifles are behind it. A banner with the words “Kenya Armed Forces” is directly below the eagle.
  • The Air Force: The flag for the Air Force is light blue. In the middle is a bullseye in the country’s colors of black, red, and green.

Does Kenya Have a Coat of Arms?

Yes, Kenya’s Coat of Arms has two golden lions on either side of a large Masai shield. The lions each grasp a long red spear. The shield has the colors from the flag of Kenya with a white rooster holding an axe in the center. Below the shield is a banner with the word “Harambee” which is the country’s moto, meaning “pulling together” or “cooperation.” In the background is an outline of Mount Kenya. Pictures of coffee, tea, pyrethrum (a special insecticide), sisal (a vegetable fiber made from Agave leaves), maize, and pineapples represent the agriculture of the country.

Maasai Spear Heads and Shield

The African Maasai spear and shield is featured on Kenya’s Coat of Arms.

What Does the Coat of Arms Symbolize?

The coat of arms symbolizes similar meanings as the flag of Kenya. The Masai shield and the two spears symbolize unity and the defense of freedom. The lions represent the incredible wildlife in the country and the courage to defend their country. The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya has one of the largest lion populations in the world. The rooster has been a symbol of the KAU and KANU, and it represents the break of a new dawn and willingness to work.

The strong belief to defend freedom and work together is evident in the flag of Kenya and across the nation.

animals that eat their young: lion

The lions on the Kenyan Coat of Arms represent the incredible wildlife in the country.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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