This Week In Vexillology #294

This Week In Vexillology, we're dipping back into the Lost Archives for a national flag from Africa and a subnational flag also from Africa! (Well, it's not really a subnational flag--more of a separatist flag? Maybe a rebel flag? I don't really know how to classify it- but we'll see!)

First up, Liberia:
Adopted on August 24, 1847 as the national flag of Liberia if you think that this flag looks a little familiar, well, there's a reason for that! The country of Liberia was founded by free people of color and freed African-American/Caribbean/West Indies slaves from the United States and the Caribbean with the support of the American Colonization Society.

(I feel like the American Colonization Society is worth a tangent here. The biggest proponents of the idea of creating a colony for freed slaves/free blacks were, unsurprisingly perhaps, Southerners. African-American leader ssuch as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and many others opposed it as they (correctly) saw it as a way to legitimize slavery and not abolish it and a way to remove the potential economic power of free African-Americans which Southerners viewed as a threat to their own economic power. It's also worth noting that the American Colonization Society was terrible at it's basic mission: they sent 4,571 emigrants to Liberia between 1820 and 1843 and only 1,819 of them were left alive by 1843. They did not give a shit about tropical diseases or the costs to settlers. And it's pretty grim read overall.)

So, to the flag: the eleven stripes stand for the signatories of the Liberian Declaration of Independence. Red and white stand for courage and moral excellence. The white star stands for the first independent western-styled republic in Africa, above the blue square stands for the African continent. The flag is actually pretty widespread outside of Libera as it's a popular flag of convenience for over 1,700 foreign owned ships fly the Liberian flag. And that's Liberia!

Next up, Western Sahara:
So, let's talk about Western Sahara for a second. If you find Morocco on the old Google Maps (or Atlas/Globe, whatever you use) and head southwest along the coast, in between Mauritania and Morocco you'll find a chunk of territory that is usually labelled as 'Western Sahara' but might indicate that it's been claimed by Morocco-- that, my friends is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic- or, Western Sahara. Currently, Morocco controls about 75% of the territory that the SADR claims, while they control the remaining 25%.. (The SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front- which, I have to admit is probably the coolest sounding liberation army I've come across- though a lot of the liberation armies in the former Portuguese colonies have relatively cool acronyms as well.)

How did Western Sahara end up in this pickle? Well, you can add this to the list of 'Reasons Why Imperialism Is Bad, Kids'- basically Spain was running the joint as the Spanish Sahara right up until 1975 or so, when it just left. Yeah, they just said 'byeeeeeeeeeeeee' and went back to Madrid. This is the quote from the wiki-page that blows my mind: "On 26 Fenruary 1976, Spain informed the United Nations (UN) that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities, leaving no Administering Power."

Read that sentence again and think about waking up un El-Aaiun (the capitol) and going down to the old post office and finding out nobody's there and whatever government you had was straight up gone. No temporary appointments, no interim appointments, they just left. Morocco and Mauritania moved in to try and snap up the vacancy, but the people who actually lived there had different ideas and they've been fighting for their freedom ever since.

Their flag was adopted on February 27, 1976. The colors of black, white and green are the the Pan-Arab colors taken from the Arab Revolt. It's similar to the flags of the Baath Party, Jordan, Palestine and the Arab Federation all of which take their inspiration from the flag of the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule-- so from a historical point of view, this makes perfect sense to me. The mid-70s were awash with Socialist backed nationalism like you saw with the Baath Party and in the region, you still had things like the PLO and the PFLP, so from a design perspective this fits the historical epoch quite nicely to me. Other than the historical connections, there doesn't seem to be a more complete interpretation of the flag. And that's Western Sahara!

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

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