1. Mali, 1959-1961

    The first modern state to bear the name Mali was the Mali Federation, a union of French Soudan and Senegal. Senegal broke away shortly after the union gained independence in 1960 and it replaced the stick figure with a green star. The Soudanese Republic kept the old flag and on 22 September 1960 it officially exited the moribund Federation and changed its name to the Republic of Mali.

    In 1961, the black kanaga effigy in the centre of the flag was removed at the insistence of Muslim fundamentalists, who objected to having a depiction of the human form on the national flag. This left it with a flag that was not only super similar to Guinea’s, but actually identical to one that had just been adopted by the soon-to-be-independent Rwanda

     
  2. Bamileke National Movement, reported circa 1996

    This is a pretty slick flag, but comments on Wikipedia from actual Bamileke people make me think it may not actually exist. Or at least, it may not be as common as a google image search for “Bamileke flag” would suggest.

     
  3. Riograndense Republic

    The hilariously-named “Ragamuffin War” started on 20 September 1835. It began as an anti-tax revolt among the gauchos of Rio Grande do Sul, and within a year the province had declared itself independent from Brazil. The new country got some recognition from Uruguay but had little support elsewhere. It was joined by the neighbouring Juliana Republic in 1839 but that state collapsed in a matter of months. In 1845 the rebels were defeated and Brazil resumed control of the province.

    (designer: Tito Livio Zambeccari)

     
  4. Libya, 1977-2011

    Remember this thing? Muammar Gaddafi’s green banner wasn’t the only single-colour flag in history but there haven’t exactly been a whole lot of them.

    Why was this one so plain? I’m pretty sure part of the reason is that it was originally supposed to be temporary. Until 1977, Libya used the flag of the Federation of Arab Republics: a red-white-black horizontal tricolour with a gold hawk in the centre that was shared by Egypt, Syria and Libya. Then on November 19, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, initiating the process that would lead to the Camp David Accords.

    Gaddafi was furious. He had the federation flag burned in front of the Egyptian embassy and pledged to replace it with a new uniquely Libyan flag. In the meantime he whipped up a plain green “interim” flag, no doubt a reference to his “Green Book” philosophy. But green was always Gaddafi’s favourite colour, and once the interim flag was flying he apparently didn’t see a need to replace it. It was another 34 years before country’s original independence flag was flying again. 

    (designer: Muammar Gaddafi)

     
  5. United Kingdom (minus Scotland), 2012 proposal 

    Okay just for the record: the idea that the rest of Britain would have to stop using the Union Jack if Scotland separated is just silly. Flags aren’t like automatically updated by a computer whenever the size of the country changes. If the people of the United Kingdom want to keep their flag they are entitled to do so, protestations of the deputy chairman of the parliamentary flags and heraldry committee notwithstanding.

    If you want to see this principle in action, look to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Before the split the Czechs and Slovaks had both agreed that neither would use the old Czechoslovakian flag, but then the Czech Republic decided to keep the old flag anyway and there was nothing Slovakia could do about it. Or look at the Comoros. They have a star and a stripe on their flag representing Mayotte, an island which has never even been a part of their country.

    Bottom line: if Scotland declares independence, the UK will be allowed to keep St Andrew’s Cross on their flag, just like Newfoundland was allowed to keep using the Union Jack after it became a Canadian province and New Zealand was allowed to keep the Union Jack on its flag after it became fully independent. So don’t worry about it.

     
  6. Central America, 1825-1838

    September 15 is Independence Day in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. And if you’ve ever wondered why all those countries have such similar looking flags, it’s because they were all once part of the same country. The Federal Republic of Central America only lasted for 15 years, but all five successor states kept using the blue-white-blue tricolour. 

    There were tweaks of course, but they were usually minimal. El Salvador and Nicaragua’s flags are nearly indistinguishable from each other and from the original flag. They both even still say “America Central” on them. Meanwhile Honduras literally just kept flying the old Central American flag for another 30 years. Today Costa Rica’s is the most different; they added a big red stripe during the Revolutions of 1848.

    (designer: Louis-Michel Aury)

     
  7. South Uist

    South Uist is one of the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles. The Isles themselves don’t have a flag, but it’s been suggested that the South Uist flag could be adopted by the whole chain. The Shetland and Orkney islands already have offset cross flags to pay tribute to their Nordic heritage.

     
  8. Talysh National Movement

    The Talysh people are an Iranian-speaking group that lives around the border of Azerbaijan and Iran. Like the Tajiks over in central Asia, they use the Iranian red-white-green colours on their national flag.

     
  9. Portland, since 2002

    Douglas Lynch designed this flag all the way back in 1969, but his vision was only fully realized recently. The version adopted in 1969 had the city seal added on a blue field in the top left corner against the designer’s wishes. He was eventually able to convince the city to go back to his original design in 2002.

    The green field represents the forests of Oregon, the yellow lines represent wealth and agriculture, and the blue lines represent the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with a star where they meet for the city of Portland itself. A lot of times when people are assigning meanings to flags they make sure and cover every colour, but the white lines apparently have no meaning. They’re just there to make it look better.

    (designer: Douglas Lynch)

     
  10. FROLINAT, 1966-1993

    The National Liberation Front of Chad was an insurgent group from the north of the country in the decades following independence. Like the flag of the national government, the FROLINAT flag doesn’t look particularly African.

     
  11. San Marino, since 1862

    According to legend, San Marino was founded on 3 September 301. The Sammarinese flag is quite a bit younger. The most recent rendering of the coat of arms was only adopted in 2011, replacing an earlier version which had been used since 1862. The new design has cleaner, thicker lines and a defined set of twelve colours.

     
  12. Uzbekistan, since 1991

    I’m surprised I’ve never had an Uzbek flag on here before. There’s a lot of double meaning on the flag. Blue represents water but is also allegedly the colour used by Timur’s empire. Green represents nature and a crescent moon represnts the birth of a new republic, but both symbols can also represent Islam. 

     
  13. President of Equatorial Guinea, 1986 proposal

    Equatorial Guinea has never had a presidential standard, but a couple of them were floated in the 1980s. The flag has the silk-cotton tree from the coat of arms, with three stars to represent President Obiang Nguema’s colonel rank.

    (designers: Tomas Rodriguez and Antonio Manzano)

     
  14. Telanganaunofficial flag reported c. 2002

    This four-striped flag is reported as the “Telenganan national flag” in a book called the Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations. Who specifically designed and used this flag it doesn’t say, and I can’t find any more on it. Wikimedia Commons also has another version that goes yellow-blue-red-green.

     
  15. Saint Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard, since 1967?

    St. Kitts has a designated “naval ensign”, but no navy per se. The coast guard flies it instead, and even then only on the two largest of its five vessels. So I guess that means there are only two of these flags flying in the world?

    The design is on the model of the British white ensign: White field, red cross, and the national flag in the top left quadrant. This stretches the national flag out to a kind of ridiculous 4:9 ratio, which kind of messes up the star placement.