Flags became one of the symbols of legitimacy for many African states that had gained independence and were shaking off the shackles of colonialism.
While some pre-colonial states did not use flags, evidence abounds of kingdoms and empires in Africa that had symbols or devices that represented sovereignty and authority.
But, many independent states deviated from their ancient identity and opted for visual markers and arms modeled on how European flags were designed, according to the North American Vexillological Association.
This has raised the question, among many quarters, whether African nations used flags prior to the arrival of colonial governments on the continent.
But, historians posit that before the military expedition by the British soldiers in the Kingdom of Benin, the Oba and his people had their own flag that they hoisted on the palace. It is called the flag of the Kingdom of Benin. It was among the objects British soldiers looted from the Kingdom.
The unusual flag showed one figure decapitating another using a sword against a red background. The origins of the flag and its story have not been established, but, it’s been traced to the people Itsekri, who were prominent artists and artisans in Benin City.
Artists of the Kingdom of Benin are well known for their artistic work in brass, wood and ivory. The flag of the Kingdom of Benin has been placed at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, according to History Today.
The British in their military campaign defeated Benin City in 1897 in a retaliatory mission with the objective of avenging an earlier defeat by the Kingdom. The Benin City King was captured in that expedition and exiled while the city was destroyed with many of its artefacts looted away.
Until the 19th century, the kingdom of Benin was one of the powerhouses in West Africa, in what is now southwest Nigeria, as captured by the British Museum.
Another kingdom which had its own flag before the emergence of colonialism was the Zayyanid Dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Tlemencen, an area of north-western Algeria. The kingdom broke away from the Berber dynasties in 1235 and survived for over three centuries. Its flag was a blue field with a white crescent moon.
Another flag which was captured by historians was the flag of the Sultanate of Tuggurt. Its flag is a dark field with a white crescent moon and a star closely attached to Arabic writings. The city of Tuggurt was under the rule of the Hafsid dynasty like the Zayyanid dynasty in present-day Algeria.
It became a breakaway state when it revolted against the payment of taxes to the dynasty. It is believed that the Sultanate was founded in the 15th century under the leadership of Banu Djellab.
One of the myths the people of Tuggurt hold is that they are the last descendants of the Marinid dynasty and ruled according to the dictates of the Marinid which used Black slaves as soldiers.