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Cape Verde

Repúblika di Kauberdi / República de Cabo Verde; Republic of Cape Verde

Last modified: 2013-11-30 by antónio martins
Keywords: cabo verde | stars: ring | star: 5 points (yellow) | stars: 10 | law | ratio: ambiguous | sea | sky | island | unity | effort | peace | construction | road | compass | helm | world | horizon |
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Flag of Cape Verde
image by Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005
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History of the flag

A new flag was adopted on 22 Sep 1992, when Cape Verde finally severed its links with Guinea-Bissau. The new flag has 10 stars representing the islands, set in a blue sea. Prior to 1992, the similarity between the two nations’ flags was explained by the fact that both were derived from the flag of the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (P.A.I.G.C.), the liberation movement which succeeded in gaining independence for both countries (Guinea-Bissau in 1974, Cape Verde in 1975). P.A.I.G.C.’s aim had been that the two nations should unite, but this merger was scotched in 1980 by a military coup in Guinea-Bissau.
C. Veale, quoting [dev94]


Meaning of the flag

  • The rectangle of the flag is seen as a large blue field symbolizing the infinite space of the sea and sky.
  • The ten yellow stars represent the 10 islands.
  • The circle of the stars symbolizes the Cape Verdean Nation and its unity.
  • The circle in a certain sense, is the world to which we are opened and that is opened to us; is the line of horizon which limits our freedom, that is the world map, but is also the mariner’s compass and the helm of the navigators.
  • The strips are the road to the construction of the country.
  • The blue is the sea and the sky.
  • The white is the peace we want.
  • The red is our effort.
Gvido Petersons, 15 Nov 2000, quoting from the website of CV embassy in US

Construction details

According to the Constitution

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 20 Jan 2005 | ?:

The Constitution of the Republic of Cabo Verde (Green Cape Islands), adopted in 1992, difines under its Article 8th the new flag, very different from the previous (wich was similar to the Bissau-Guinea flag, for historical reasons), and said by some to be very “unafrican”.

2. The National Flag is made up of five rectangles stacked along its length.
The upper and lower rectangles are blue, being the upper one half of the flag area and the lower one forth.
Separating the two blue rectangles, three stripes each being one 12th of the flag area.
The stripes adjoining the blue rectangles are white and the one between is red.
Over the five rectangles, ten yellow five pointed stars, with the upper apex in the 90 degree position, define a circle which center lies in the intersection of the middle line of the second vertical quarter, counted from the left with the middle line of the second horizontal quarter, counted from the lower edge. The star nearer from this edge is set inside an invisible circle which center lies on the middle line of the lower blue stripe.

Confused? Good — the original is also very “unclear”, to say the least. I’ll try a more clear and concise description:

Over a field of horizontal unequal stripes (from the top: blue, 6 twelveths of the flag’s height; white, 1 twelveth of the flag’s height; red, 1 twelveth of the flag’s height, white, 1 twelveth of the flag’s height; blue, 3 twelveths of the flag’s height), a circle of ten yellow five-pointed stars pointing upwards, with radius of 1/4 of the flag’s height and center 3/8 of the flag’s width from the hoist and 3/8 of the flag’s height from the bottom edge. (Stars’ sizes not specified, neither are the color shades.)

António Martins, 19 May 1997 and 29 Mar 2002

Further details according to William Crampton

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

I have a specification by William Crampton, which refers to a diagram and regulations issued at the time of adoption, and the copy of a diagram which matches this, but, no actual confirmation that this is actually the diagram to which he referred, and there was, regrettably, no copy of the “regulations” as such on file. To make matters even more uncertain, this gives us a third ratio of 10:17. Whilst I had (and have) the greatest respect for William’s professionalism, I have none the less attempted to get some sort of official confirmation, but (as you would expect) without result.
Christopher Southworth, 20 Jan 2005

As per Crampton’s document Christopher cited: overall ratio 1000:1700, measured along hoist 250+83+83+83+500, along length 638+1062, stars arranged on a circle of diameter 470 each inscribed in a circle with diameter 91.

Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

The details of the (unfortunately) unconfirmed specification I have are as follows:

On a flag of 1000 × 1700 units, the fly is given as 500-83-83-83-250, the distance to the centre of the imaginary circle which places the stars is given as 638 along the length and 275 up from the base, the diameter of that circle is given as 470, with each star contained within an imaginary circle of diameter equalling 91.

There are two slight problems [later fixed] with this when set against the prescriptions of the Constitution:

  1. the width of the centre stripes should, of course, be 83.33, and
  2. the requirement that «The star closest to the bottom is on a circle whose centre shall be in the middle of the blue band» would make the diameter of the imaginary circle placing the stars 500 not 470 units.
Hardly significant, but there none the less.

Christopher Southworth, 22 Jan 2005

The figure of 638 is from the hoist to the centre point of the imaginary circle around which the stars are arranged, and almost exactly represents the Constitutional requirement of three-eighths the length (the exact figure on a flag of 1700 units long would be 237.5)? The widths given for the various stripes are indeed clumsy (and as I pointed out previously slightly inaccurate), but this could well be due to somebody — and we hope it was somebody official — having measured an actual flag, but they are (in any case) close enough to the legal stipulation of one-twelfth each for the narrow stripes.

A size of 1000 × 1700 units is hardly what I, or an other experienced vexillologist, would choose for a flag whose legal requirements include 3/8, 1/2 and 1/12, but that is what the diagram uses. I must agree that a flag 240 units wide (and if we accept 10:17) 408 units long would be far more sensible, and would give fly measurements of 120-20-20-20-60.

Christopher Southworth, 28 Jan 2005

fixed figures

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

As per Crampton’s document Christopher cited the circle of stars is too small in accordance with the (constitutional) requirement that the lowest star should be in the middle of the blue stripe. This would be achieved if the diameter would be 500. (In the image above, figures reduced to 25/6 to achieve reasonable and yet exact numbers.)
Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

Ratios specified in selected sources

reported by António Martins, 19 May 1997 Carlos Esparza, 18 Jan 2001; Ivan Sache, 21 Jan 2001; Jarig Bakker, 21 Jan 2001 and Christopher Southworth, 21 Jan 2005

Unless any of the authors above can give a source for those values (which I doubt, considering their disparity), I believe that they are not the ratio(s) prescribed by a lesser and more detailed law, but rather (mis)measurements of real flags, manufactored under the legal license of no fixed ratio.
António Martins, 24 Jan 2001

Size of the stars

The size of the stars is also not mentioned in the Constitution. As all the images I have seen show the stars somewhat “entering” the red stripe, they must be inscribed in circles with diameter larger than exactly 1/12 of the flag’s height, perhaps 1/10 of the flag’s height.
Željko Heimer, 28 Apr 2001

Color shades

I just saw on a large photo taken outside the City Hall of São Filipe (Fogo island) the national flag of Cape Verde. The stars are clearly Y+, “dark” yellow (Y+), with clear contrast on the white areas.
António Martins, 30 Nov 2003


Ambiguous ratio prescription

Note that the constitutional discription only refers to areas and heights and uses independent horizontal and vertical measurements; that means that no fixed proportions are specified — such a description could aply to a 1:2, 2:3, 1:1 or most other flag formats!
António Martins, 19 May 1997

Not unlawfull yet erroneous 1:2 ratio Cape Verde flag

1:2 flag of Cape Verde
image by Željko Heimer and António Martins, 20 Jan 2005

This was also the case of the previous flag: The Constitutions of both Cape Verde and Bissau-Guinea prescribed «three equal area rectangles, one vertical to the hoist and two horizontal to the fly», but Cape Verde had a 2:3 flag (each rectangle being 1×2) and Bissau-Guinea had a 1:2 flag (vertical rectangle 6×4 and horizontal rectangles 3×8).
António Martins, 19 May 1997


Variants and incorrect depictions

Upside-down hoisting

Flag upside down
image by Željko Heimer, 07 Sep 2009

On line photo showing regular flag hoisted upside down — an often enough sighting, even in official settings, such as this one taken at the 5th C.P.L.P. confference held in São Tomé e Príncipe, in 2004.08.02.
António Martins, 15 Jul 2007

Starless variant?

A starless flag pattern (but till now I never saw a real flag) is some times used in several Capeverdean quasi official items, such as national team uniforms and aircraft livery. The former colonial master uses a simplified national flag as its (very “official”) civil and military aircraft fin flash and rudder mark, which may (be thought to) exhert some influence.
António Martins, 17 Oct 2007

On these online photos (#g213, #g214 and #g218) what seems to be a starless variation of the national flag; on these, at the same location and time (#g217 and #g216), we see that the stars are there…
António Martins, 21 Nov 2006

On line photo showing a national flag without the ring of stars is shown in use in a currency exchange rate table in Portugal.
António Martins, 17 Oct 2007

Stars in line on blue

On line image showing national flag pattern but with the stars in line on the blue area in sportsmen uniforms, (arguably an "official" item).
António Martins, 15 Jul 2007


National Emblem

emblem of Cape Verde
image by Jarig Bakker, 15 Nov 2000

As on the flag, the stars represent the main islands of Cape Verde; the plumb-bob is symbolic of rectitude and virtue; the torch and triangle represent unity and freedom.
Ivan Sache, 21 Jan 2001


National markings on planes

Força Aérea Caboverdiana (formed 1982 — 6 cargo and light planes) and Guarda Costeira de Cabo Verde (with 1 plane); the book [cos98] reports a national flag as fin flash (changed as the flag changed in 1992). See on line photos with old and new markings, and the coast guard’s only plane with the flag-fin flash.
Dov Gutterman, 13 Jun 2004


Civil Defense of Cape Verde

At the official web site, the emblem of the Civil Defense of Cape Verde, almost identical to the portuguese one. I could not find any mention to a flag, though.
António Martins, 14 Jan 2007


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