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Gabon - Pre-Independence Flags

République Gabonaise

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
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[Pre-Independence Flag of Gabon] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 1997

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Pre-independence flags

For less than a year between 29 June 1959 and 09 August 1960, according to Crampton's The World of Flags (1990) [cra90], the flag of pre-independence Gabon had the French tricolore in the canton and three unequal horizontal stripes of green, and yellow and blue in the proportions of  4, 1 and 4 blue.

According to Eve Devereux's Identifying Flags [dev94], the French tricolour was superimposed on the green band.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 1997

LAW NO. 36/59 OF 29 JUNE 1959


The flag of the Republic of Gabon is composed of three horizontal stripes whose colours (are) thus determined:

(The) upper horizontal stripe (shall be) of a width equal to 5/12 of the total width (of the) flag, (and is) divided into two equal parts. Against the flag pole - (the) colours of the (French) Community (of Nations), at the fly - light Irish green.

(The) central horizontal stripe of golden yellow shall equal 2/12 of the total width of the flag. (The) lower horizontal stripe of royal blue (shall be) equal to 5/12 of the total width of the flag.

Source: Jos Poels
Christopher Southworth, 24 February 2008

[Pre-Independence Flag of Gabon, Possible Variant] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 1997

I've also seen a version with no tricolor in an Angolan newspaper of that time.  This is based on a very sketchy black and white hand drawing with colour hatch indications (it could be a mistake).

Still according to Devereux [dev94], the colours mean respectively the forest, the Equator line (which crosses the country) and the sea.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 1997

[Pre-Independence Flag of Gabon, Possible Variant] image by Mark Sensen,  31 May 1997

I've seen a picture [can't remember where] with the tricolore also partly over the yellow stripe.
Mark Sensen, 31 May 1997

I remember speculation on the FOTW mailing list some time ago that the flag with 4:1:4 stripes and the French tricolore in canton 1:1:1:3,might be the origin of the unusual 3:4 proportions of the Gabonese flag. If so, the tricolore couldn't reach into the yellow. But, of course, I don't remember if anyone confirmed the speculation with some evidence.
Željko Heimer, 01 June 1997

I found this about the 1959-1960 Gabonese flag:

The country's original flag was selected in 1959; it's center yellow stripe was one-half its current width, and there was a French Tricolore in the canton.

Pierre Gay, 17 September 1998

One would expect a former French territory to use a 2:3 flag, but it is not so in the case of Gabon. Flag books (Smith 1980 [snu80] for example) state that Gabon used the same flag with a thinner middle stripe (Smith does not say that it was half the current width!), and with the French flag in canton.

Trying to draw such a flag you would get something like this as most natural:

upper edge 2:2:2:6 blue-white-red-green
hoist side 4:1:4 blue-yellow-blue

That is, the French tricolore is 4:6 units in the above scheme (i.e. 2:3) You make the canton to be half the length of the flag, so the green part is 6 units long.

Adding the units you get ratio 9:12, i.e. 3:4.

[Pre-Independence Flag of Gabon] image by Željko Heimer, 07 Oct 1996

When the French Tricolore is removed,  the yellow stripe to widened to make three equal stripes but the overall ratio was not changed. If this scenario is right, then the old yellow stripe was not half the width of the current, but one third actually.
Željko Heimer, 20 Sept 1998

[Pre-Independence Flag of Gabon] image by Pierre Gay, 22 Sept 1998

Another reported variant:

"The blue and gold stripes emphasize that Gabon is a maritime nation through which the equator runs". Smith (1975) [smi75c].

The symbolism seems to me much less evident than in the case of Nauru, because of the wide use of horizontal equal tribands in national flags.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 1999

As far as I remember the pre-independence flag of Gabon was of the same basic design as that adopted at independence, but with a much narrower central stripe and with the French tricolore in the canton of course. Sounds like this middle stripe represented the Equator.
J.F. Blanc, 11 May 1999