Niger’s tailors rush to make Russian flags after coup

NIAMEY (Reuters) – Nigerien tailor Yahaya Oumarou carefully ran cuts of white, blue and red fabric under his sewing machine, assembling them into the three horizontal bands of Russia’s flag.

The flags have been in demand since President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled late last month in a military takeover, leading to some Russian support among crowds that celebrated the coup.

It echoes similar outpourings of pro-Russian sentiments after recent military takeovers in other West African countries, worrying Western powers who see their influence slipping in some old regional allies.

“Since the coup I have made dozens of these,” said Oumarou, who works in capital Niamey.

He said the flags of neighboring Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, where military takeovers have also occurred since 2020, were also popular.

Support for Russia has accompanied a rise in anti-French sentiment across West Africa.

Mali’s junta has turned its back on France since it took over in 2021, and is instead cooperating with Russian mercenaries to fight a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel.

Citizens in Burkina Faso also waved Russian flags during violent anti-France demonstrations that followed a coup in September 2022, the second in the country that year.

“I’m a fan of the Russian flag, which is why I’ve come today to buy fabrics for the tailor to make me a flag,” said Niamey resident Okacha Abdoul-Aziz, who took part in pro-junta demonstrations when the military seized power.

“Before the coup d’etat I didn’t know the Russian flag,” he added. “It’s really a fashion statement.”

(Reporting by Boureima Balima and Abdel-Kader Mazou; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Sandra Maler)