On February 3, 1960 British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivered a portentous speech to the Parliament of South Africa. Referring to the "wind of change" that was blowing over the continent, he announced the United Kingdom's intention to divest itself of its African colonies. In fact, this process was already underway, the Gold Coast colony having achieved independence as Ghana in 1957. Britain's other West African colonies were granted independence between 1960 and 1965. The colonies of British East Africa gained independence between 1961 and 1964.

The term British East Africa can be confusing. Originally it referred to the territories that later became the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya and it was used informally to refer to that colony plus Uganda (a protectorate) and Tanganyika (formerly German East Africa, later a British League of Nations Mandate and finally a United Nations Trust Territory), and the Zanzibar Protectorate. Protectorates were not considered British territory; they were nominally independent with the protecting power, Britain, supervising an administration that was partly indigenous. Mandates and trust territories were similar, being administered by the mandate power on behalf of the international organization.

In 1948 the British government established the East African High Commission, joining Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika in a customs union. It also provided for a common external tariff, a common currency, a postal union, and common services such as transport, communications and education. These arrangements were continued after independence as the East African Common Services Organization, later retitled the East African Community. Political and economic disputes among the three member states led to the EAC's demise in 1972.



The Colony and Protectorate of  Kenya consisted of the territory formerly administered by the Imperial British East African Company (chartered in 1888) plus part of the mainland territory of the Sultanate of Zanzibar (see below). The former was the colony; the latter was the protectorate. The IBEAC was never profitable and between 1893 and 1895 it relinquished its leases to the British government. Up to 1920 the colony thus created was formally titled the East Africa Protectorate and was informally known as British East Africa, but in 1920 the name Kenya was adopted. At that time the colonial ensigns and flags, which displayed the badge of the IBEAC, were changed to display Kenya's new badge, the red lion rampant. The Kenya Red Ensign is generally considered to have been unofficial but it may have been authorized for ships registered in the protectorate as opposed to the colony proper, which was British territory and whose ships could use an undefaced Red Ensign.

Kenya achieved independence in 1963, the protectorate being merged into the colony. It was a British dominion for one year and then became a republic, though remaining a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The national flag was adopted in 1963, its design being adapted from that of the flag of the Kenya African Union, the country's major pre-independence political party. The flag's colors symbolize the Kenyan people (black), the blood shed in the struggle for independence (red), the country's natural wealth (green), and peace (white). The defense of freedom and independence is symbolized by the shield and two spears.


British East Africa  • Government Ensign  •  1895-1920


British East Africa  • Civil Ensign  •  1895-1920

British East Africa
Commissioner's Flag 1895-1906  •  Governor's Flag 1906-20


Colony & Protectorate of Kenya  •  Government Ensign 1920-63


Colony & Protectorate of Kenya  •  Unofficial Civil Ensign 1920-63


Colony & Protectorate of Kenya  • Governor's Flag 1920-63


Kenya African Union


Republic of Kenya Since 1964



British involvement in Uganda dates from 1890, when the Imperial British East Africa Company attempted to mediate among the various religious factions (Pagan, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim) in Buganda, Uganda's largest kingdom or chieftainship, where a civil war was underway. When the company announced its intention to withdraw from Uganda, British missionaries asked the British government to intervene, arguing that civil war was likely to break out afresh and spread to other areas. The government, though reluctant to get involved, eventually agreed and proclaimed a protectorate over all the kingdoms of Uganda. The local kings and chieftains retained considerable autonomy, maintaining law and order and collecting taxes for the British, whose governing presence was minimal. The chief British official in Uganda was titled Commissioner up to 1910 and Governor thereafter.

Until 1914 the only flag used was the Union Jack but in that year a badge for Uganda was introduced: the crested crane, a bird indigenous to the country. This badge appeared on the government ensign and the Governor's flag but since Uganda was landlocked to Red Ensign was authorized. Uganda achieved independence in 1962, after protracted negotiations to reconcile the conflicting interests of the various chieftainships. The compromise that emerged was an elective constitutional monarchy with a federal structure, an unstable arrangement that gave way to a unitary republic (really a dictatorship) in 1966. Like Kenya, Uganda was a British dominion for one year after independence and thereafter remained a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The national flag adopted in 1962 was based on the pre-independence flag of the Uganda People's Congress Party (UPC), the colors black, yellow and red representing the Ugandan people, sunshine and brotherhood respectively. A stylized depiction of the crested crane is centered on the flag.

Also shown below are the current flag of the UPC and the flag of the Uganda Democratic Party, a predominantly Catholic organization.

Uganda Protectorate  •  Government Ensign 1914-63

Uganda Protectorate  •  Governor's Flag 1914-63


Uganda People's Congress Party Flag 1960-66


National Flag of Uganda Since 1962


Uganda People's Congress Party Flag Since 1966


Uganda Democratic Party Flag Since 1954



After the Great War, the colony of German East Africa was partitioned. The small Kionga Triangle bordering Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) was ceded to Portugal, the northwestern district of Ruanda Urundi was handed over to Belgium as a League of Nations mandate and the rest went to Britain, also as a League of Nations mandate called the Tanganyika Territory. The League mandates came into force in 1922. The Tanganyika Territory had flags of the standard British colonial pattern: the Union Jack defaced with the Territory's badge, the head of a giraffe within a garland, Blue Ensigns with the same badge for government authorities and a defaced Red Ensign for merchant ships registered in the Territory.

Independence came in 1961 and Tanganyika adopted a national flag with horizontal stripes of green black and yellow, respectively symbolizing the land, the people and the wealth of the nation. After one year as a British dominion, Tanganyika proclaimed itself a republic. In 1964 the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar (see below) came into force and the country was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. The national flag was altered to a design with diagonal stripes with blue added for Zanzibar.

The two major pre-independence parties were the Tanganyika African National Union and the Marxist Afro-Shirazi Party—the latter also active in Zanzibar.. In 1977 they merged as the Party of the Revolution, which from then until the constitutional changes of 1992 was the only legally permitted political party in Tanzinia. It is still the ruling party but now there is an official opposition in the form of the center-right Party for Democracy and Progress.


Governor's Flag  •  1922-61


Government Ensign 1922-61


Customs Ensign 1925-61


Civil Ensign 1922-61


Republic of Tanganyika  •  National Flag 1961-64


United Republic of Tanzinia • National Flag Since 1964


Tanganyika African National Union Flag 1954-77


Afro-Shirazi Party 1957-77


Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution) Flag Since 1977


 Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo
(Party for Democracy and Progress) Flag since 1992



The Sultanate of Zanzibar originated as an overseas possession of the Sultanate of Oman to the north. Previously it had been part of the Portuguese Empire and as such it became a center of the slave trade. The Portuguese were driven out in 1698 and the new Arab elite established a plantation economy, enslaving the native African population in the process. Besides the slave trade, Zanzibar was famous for its spices: nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon and especially cloves. In 1861 it because a sultanate in its own right, separate from Oman. The territory of the Sultanate encompassed the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, numerous smaller islands, and a narrow strip of land on the African coast stretching from Cape Delgado in what is now Mozambique to Kipini in what is now Kenya. Zanzibar's political and economic influence extended from this coastal zone into the African interior. The flag of the Sultanate was the same as that of Oman: plain red.

In the late nineteenth century European imperialism began to undermine the Sultanate's independence, part of its mainland territory being lost to German East Africa in 1888. A British protectorate over Zanzibar was established in 1890 and in 1895 the Sultanate was stripped of the remainder of its continental territories, which became part of the British East Africa Protectorate. In 1920 the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya was established, the protectorate portion being the coastal strip. Zanzibar itself remained nominally independent. Internal administration was left largely to the Sultan's government, which from 1914 was supervised by a British Resident. His flag, the Union Jack defaced with a distinctive badge, was probably introduced after the Great War. The termination of the British protectorate did not change Zanzibar's status since it had never been annexed by Britain. However, a new national flag was adopted: red with a green disc displaying two cloves. But in 1964 a revolution broke out and after bloody fighting the Sultan was deposed. In his place the rebels, who claimed to represent the interests of Zanzibar's black African majority, proclaimed a people's republic. The republican flag was adapted from the flag of the Afro-Sirazi Party with the yellow ax deleted and a narrow white stripe added at the hoist. The new government immediately made an offer of union with Tanganyika and this was concluded in April 1964. For a short time the new country was titled the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar but this was changed to Tanzania. The new constitution gave Zanzibar a measure of autonomy, though it was not until 2005 that a flag for Zanzibar within Tanzania was introduced: the blue-black-green tricolor with a canton of the Tanzanian national flag.


Flag of the Sultanate of Oman Eighth Century AD-1970
Flag of the Sultanate of Zanzibar 1861-1963


Flag of the British Resident in Zanzibar 1918-63


Sultanate of Zanzibar •  National Flag December 1963-January 1964


People's Republic of Zanzibar  • National Flag January-April 1964


Flag of Autonomous Zanzibar Since 2005