english news

Armed attack kills 6 at birthday party in Ecuador

QUITO – At least six people were killed and another six injured when armed assailants opened fire on revelers at a birthday party in Duran, one of Ecuador’s most crime-ridden cities, local media reported.
The attack occurred in the Abel Gilbert district of Duran, in the southwest coastal province of Guayas.
According to preliminary reports, the fatal victims, including the 23-year-old birthday boy, had no criminal record.
Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared the country to be in a state of “internal armed conflict” in January, following a spike in violence blamed on organized crime linked to drug trafficking.
Under the measure, security forces were instructed to disband 22 criminal gangs classified by the government as “terrorists.”
In 2023, Duran registered a homicide rate of more than 145 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the country’s highest, according to official data. (Xinhua)…[+]

US removes Cuba from list of countries not cooperating fully against terrorism

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US – The U.S. removed Cuba from a short list of countries the United States alleges are “not cooperating fully” in its fight against terrorism, a State Department official said.
The official cited the resumption of law enforcement cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. as one the reasons why the previous designation was deemed “no longer appropriate.”
“The department determined that the circumstances for Cuba’s certification as a ‘not fully cooperating country’ have changed from 2022 to 2023,” the official said.
The decision marks a tepid if symbolically important move on behalf of the Biden administration, which until now has largely maintained Trump-era restrictions on the Communist-run island.
The cooperation against terrorism list, which the State Department is required by law to provide the U.S. Congress, is not the same as the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, according to the department official.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump separately designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism just prior to leaving office, a jab that Cuba maintains has contributed to a severe economic crisis on the island, and to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
“This move by the Biden Administration could well be a prelude to the State Department reviewing Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,” William LeoGrande, a professor at Washington’s American University, told Reuters.
The State Department official said the state sponsor designation is determined by separate statutory criteria.
“Any future review of Cuba’s status would be based on the law and criteria established by Congress,” the official said.
Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez applauded Wednesday’s decision by the Biden administration but said it did not go far enough.
“The US has just admitted what is known to everyone: that #Cuba collaborates fully with efforts against terrorism,” Rodriguez posted on X.
“All political manipulation of the issue should cease and our arbitrary and unjust inclusion on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism should end,” he added.
North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela remain listed as not cooperating fully with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, the official said. (Reuters)…[+]

Jailed ex-PM Imran Khan appears before Pakistan top court by videolink

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PAKISTAN – Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a virtual appearance before the Supreme Court through a videolink from prison in connection with a case regarding amendments to the country’s anticorruption law.
Yesterday’s hearing was the first time Khan, imprisoned since August 2023 in several cases, made an appearance before the top court.
However, the court appearance of the 71-year-old leader was not livestreamed on the top court’s website or aired on the country’s news channels.
Al Jazeera reached out to Information Minister Attaullah Tarar for his comments on why the hearing was not broadcast on news channels or the Supreme Court website, but did not receive any response.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) accused Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa of collusion with the government for not allowing the hearing from being broadcast to the people.
“Our party believes that the chief justice of the country is in connivance with the security establishment and their aim is to hurt PTI in every possible manner,” the main opposition party’s Aamir Mughal told Al Jazeera. “Establishment” in Pakistan is a euphemism for its powerful army, which has directly ruled over the country for nearly three decades and enjoys immense political power.
Shortly after Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament in April 2022, the government that succeeded him amended the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, clipping the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s main anticorruption agency.
The changes in law barred the NAB from investigating a case unless the transactional value was more than 500 million rupees ($6million) or the number of “affected individuals” in a case exceeded 100. It also said its trial against an accused must be concluded in a year and that the agency must present evidence against an individual before making an arrest.
The amendments to the law saw the withdrawal of at least 22 corruption-related cases from the NAB courts. The cases involved current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Asif Ali Zardari, and former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani among others.
In July 2022, Khan filed a petition in the Supreme Court, charging the government of protecting “influential people” and legitimising corruption through the amendments, and asking the court to scrap the changes.
The top court yesterday adjourned its hearing on the matter. Khan did not speak during his video appearance.
Khan’s appearance before the top court came a day after he was granted relied by two other courts. The Islamabad High Court gave him bail in a high-profile land deal case while another court in the capital acquitted him in a 2022 case in connection with a protest march.
But Khan continues to remain in jail due to his conviction in two other cases related to the leaking of state secrets and unlawful marriage. He was sentenced for 14 years in another case related to illegal sale of state gifts but the sentence was overturned by Islamabad High Court in April this year.
It was in the land deal case that Khan was briefly detained on May 9 last year, triggering nationwide protests by the PTI and leading to an unprecedented government crackdown on the party, which included Khan’s imprisonment in several cases in August.
PTI politician Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari told Al Jazeera he was hopeful Khan will be a “free man soon”.
“We have always maintained that as these cases go to higher courts, not only will Khan get bail, but he will also win these as they are all baseless and have no factual standing,” he said. (Al Jazeera)…[+]

Former PNC General Secretary, Oscar Clarke passes

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Former General Secretary (GS) of the People’s National Congress (PNC) reportedly died after complaining of feeling unwell. He died at a private city hospital.
Oscar Clarke, CCH, Clarke was appointed General Secretary of the PNCR on December 1, 1968. He started his service to the PNC in its youth arm and at age 26 was selected to represent the Party in the National Assembly.
In 1965, he was made a Parliamentary Secretary and served as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly from January 1, 1969 to December 31, 1969.
In a long and illustrious career that spanned over five decades, Oscar Clarke served his nation as Minister of State, Minister of Regional Development, Minster of Home Affairs and Guyana’s High Commissioner to Zambia and the Front-Line States, and Ambassador to the Republic of Cuba.
He served as a Member of Parliament for 21 years, and in 2015 he was awarded the Cacique Crown of Honour for his exemplary public service to Guyana.
He retired as the Party’s General Secretary on June 30, 2017, making way for his colleague, Amna Ally. (INewsGuyana)…[+]

Guard shot dead, teen wounded during police operation at Vigilance

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A security guard attached to Kalibur Security Service was shot dead by police at Vigilance South, East Coast Demerara.
Dead is 39-year-old Michael Britton called Mickey of Vigilance South ECD. The shooting occurred around 14:00hrs.
Police said in a statement that the incident involved ranks from the Vigilance Police Station. Enquiries revealed that at about 11:30hrs Tuesday an Inspector, a Sergeant, a Corporal, and three Constables left the Vigilance Police Station to conduct cordon and search exercises within the Lusignan and Good Hope areas on the East Coast of Demerara.
The inspector alleges that around 13:30hrs they had completed their cordon and search exercises and were proceeding north along Brushe Dam headed back to the Vigilance Police Station when they were approached by “a 27-year-old Wash Bay operator, who reported that Britton threatened him with a firearm.”
In light of the report the ranks subsequently exited the police vehicle. “They left on foot in an eastern direction, accompanied by the Wash Bay operator, who pointed out Britton about 25 feet ahead of them.”
Police said that, “On seeing the ranks, Britton began running in an eastern direction and jumped a fence. The ranks gave chase, during which Britton pulled out a black firearm and discharged a round in the ranks’ direction. As a result, the ranks returned fire in Britton’s direction who kept running and jumped several fences in the area.”
With the ranks in pursuit Britton was about to jump a fence on the southern side of an empty lot when he suddenly collapsed. He was picked up by the said ranks and a wound was observed on his left hip. The injured man was placed in the police pick up and rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital. He was seen and examined by Doctor Kellman who pronounced him dead on arrival. The area was then searched and the police recovered “a 9MM Canik pistol, along with four (4) rounds in the magazine and one 9MM round in the breach of the firearm.”
The weapon was examined, processed for fingerprints, photographed, packaged and lodged for analysis. The scene was also photographed, and all exhibits, including Britton’s motorcycle #CL 6124, were lodged at the station. A 17 year old bystander was allegedly grazed by a bullet on his right shoulder during the ordeal. He was also escorted to the GPHC by ranks of the Vigilance Police Station. He received treatment and was sent on home. Statements are currently being submitted as investigations continue, police said. (Kaieteur News)…[+]

Teachers Union’s demand for salary increasefrom 2019-2023 not in interest of educators’ wellbeing – Attorney General

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC, has expressed concerns about the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and its recent demand for a salary increase before ending the ongoing strike.
Nandlall believes that this demand reflects a lack of interest in conciliation and resolving issues beforehand, enphasising the need for both parties to engage in good faith and adhere to the principles of conciliation.
The Teachers Union is insisting on a 20 per cent interim across-the-board payment for teachers before ending their strike and entering into conciliation talks with the Ministry of Education, leading to an impasse on talks between both parties.
“In order for the conciliation to even start, you have to go back to work,” Minister Nandlall highlighted as he appeared on an interview with the National Communications Network.
He continued: “But the Union has now imposed upon the conciliation, a regime of demands, which they are saying, must be addressed, before the conciliation even begins. Now, that is in bad faith [and] that is contrary to the principles of conciliation, and may very well be unlawful.”
Minister Nandlall also pointed out that the government cannot grant an increase for the period of 2019-2023 due to various valid reasons, including the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on economies worldwide.
He highlighted that while many countries were cutting the salaries of its workers, the Guyanese Government continued to pay teachers even when they were not physically present at work.
In fact, they also received consistent salary increases and even benefitted from several interventions and programmes outlined in the government’s fiscal plans for each year.
The Attorney General expressed his belief that the union’s demands for an impossible increase reveal ulterior motives and a lack of seriousness about conciliation, which seeks to create unrest in the education sector
“The mask I think fell off, from the face of the union, when, it went to the table, during this conciliation, and superimposed a series of demands, even before the conciliation starts. And in terms of salary… the mask has come off. This union has illustrated, even to those who were in support of it, that they are not serious about conciliation. They are not serious about resolving, any impasse. This industrial action is not a bona fide, one. It is, influenced, by, other considerations,” he opined.
Additionally, Minister Nandlall raised concerns about the affordability and sustainability of the requested increases, particularly the lack of provisions for retroactive salaries for educators.
He also argued against singling out teachers for salary increases, emphasising the need for fair treatment of all public sector employees as mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has regarded the request as unacceptable and unreasonable, which she believes is set out to derail the process.
Teachers in Guyana initiated a second wave of strike actions on May 9, prompting discussions that commenced on May 13 and persisted through May 14. Despite the government’s willingness to discuss teacher salary increases from 2024 onward, the GTU insists on retroactive increases from 2019-2023. The government will also be appealing High Court Judge Sandil Kissoon’s ruling that the teachers’ salaries should not be deducted following their participation in a five-week strike even as the written judgment is yet to be disseminated. (DPI)…[+]

EBS employees must get back to work

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The judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of the management team at the Energy Company Suriname (EBS) which means that the employees had to end their strike and get back to work. There have been growing tensions between the management team and the Ogem Workers’ Organization Suriname (OWOS).

The union issued a strike after management had fired Union Chairman Marciano Hellings over a picture that had allegedly been posted on social media by Marciano’s brother. The executives at the EBS claimed that confidential information of the company had been shared with the nation. The union officials and the employees went to the offices of the executives but when they did not get any response, they went to the Office of the President where the union presented a petition with several demands. They were visibly upset when the head of state did not meet with them face to face. The union made it clear that the strike would not end until all of the demands had been met. One of the demands is the reinstatement of Hellings and the resumption of the negotiations aimed at reaching a new collective labor agreement.

The management team at the EBS decided to take the union to court over the strike. The judge made it clear that the union would have to pay a fine if it failed to comply with the order to end the strike. The OWOS was also ordered to cover the expenses of management that were made with the lawsuit. The CEO at the EBS, Leo Brunswijk, on Tuesday explained that things had gotten out of hand because of the post on social media. “I have my own money to buy a car so I do not need the government’s money or money from the EBS to buy a Prado for me,” said Brunswijk in response to the comments on social media. Brunswijk made it clear that he expects somebody such as the union chairman who also works for the EBS to be aware of the fact that information of the company should not be shared. He pointed out that “they could have discussed this issue with management” but that “they chose to make a big fuss about it on social media.” “So they should not complain about it now,” said Brunswijk…[+]

Several schools closed because of flooding

Ditch sewage hi speed cause air bubble enormously some city in T

Several schools that are located in Paramaribo were closed last Tuesday because of the flooding that was caused by the heavy rainfall last Monday.

One of the principals told Times of Suriname that she went to school early Tuesday to assess the situation because she knows that the school is flooded after each heavy rainfall. “I saw that the school was partially flooded and that some of the classrooms still had junk that was floating on the water so I called the Inspection before instructing the teachers to inform the parents that the school would be closed,” said the principal.

A concerned parent told Times of Suriname that he sent his children to school but that they returned home after a short while. He pointed out that the flooding issue has existed for many years and that he wonders when the government will finally come up with a structural solution. Several principals also want to know when the flooding issue will be addressed.

A teacher who works at a primary school located at Flora explained that she has worked at the same school for the past nine years and that there is always a problem in the rainy season. All of the principals who ran this school informed the Ministry of Education Science and Culture of this problem but nothing has been done about it. The teachers and the parents hope that the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture will address this issue soon…[+]

France prison van attack: Unprecedented manhunt for escaped prisoner

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FRANCE – An “unprecedented” manhunt is taking place in northern France for a prisoner who escaped during a deadly ambush.

Mohamed Amra, known as “The Fly”, was being taken back to jail from a court in Normandy last Tuesday when a car rammed his prison van at a toll booth. Armed men then opened fire on the vehicle, killing two officers and seriously injuring three others.

The shooting marks the country’s first fatal attack on prison staff for more than 30 years. “All means are being used to find these criminals,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. Mr Darmanin told French media yesterday the attack was an act of “cold-blooded barbarity” and that around 450 gendarmes and police officers had been mobilised in the Eure department of Normandy in an “unprecedented” search. President Emmanuel Macron has told France that “everything is being done to find the perpetrators”.

Meanwhile, French prison officer unions have called for walkouts at institutions across the country yesterday in support of the two who died. Hundreds of staff at prison and detention centres across the country have been been staging work-to-rule protests, where they will only perform essential tasks.

In a joint statement, the unions demanded urgent measures to improve staff safety – including the “drastic reduction of extraditions” of prisoners to court hearings, by promoting video-conferencing, and an “overhaul” to escort levels. A minute’s silence took place yesterday at 11:00 (09:00 GMT), and there have been demonstrations outside of French prisons, including in Paris according to local media.

Addressing a press conference, Paris state prosecutor Laure Beccuau said the attack took place just before 11:00 local time when the van carrying Amra crossed the toll barrier in Incarville in the Eure region of northern France and “immediately, a Peugeot vehicle hit it from the front to stop it”. “Men with long guns got out, joined by other armed men who got out of an Audi vehicle, which was likely following the prison vehicle.” They “fired several times” at the two vehicles, killing and injuring officers, before leaving the scene and taking Amra with them. The Paris prosecutor said two vehicles believed to have been used by the criminals were found scorched, in different locations.

Mr Dupond-Moretti told reporters that one of the officers killed “leaves behind a wife and two children who were meant to celebrate their 21st birthday in two days”. While the second officer killed, aged 34, leaves behind a wife who is five months pregnant. Three other officers were injured in the attack. As reported by local media, Ms Beccuau said the three injured officers are also fathers – aged 48, 52 and 55 years old. “Everything – and I mean everything – will be put in place to find the perpetrators of this vile crime,” Mr Dupond-Moretti said, adding that the perpetrators were “people for whom life has no value”. They will be found and punished “in a way that is proportionate to the crime”, the justice minister added.

Amra was convicted of burglary on 10 May and had been indicted by prosecutors in Marseille for a kidnapping that led to a death. His lawyer, Hugues Vigier, told French news channel BFMTV “he would like to believe that he [Amra] didn’t know about the plan to free him”. “For me this plan doesn’t match with what I know of him. If he’s behind it then I failed to understand who he is,” Mr Vigier added.

According to some French media reports, Amra had tried to escape his prison cell earlier this week by trying to saw the cell’s bars.

Ms Beccuau, the capital’s state prosecutor, told a news conference Amra had 13 convictions, with the first one dating back to October 2009 – when he was 15 years old. Although the now 30-year-old was not a “closely watched inmate”, the Paris prosecutor said his transportation required a “level three escort”. Amra is said to have ties to a gang in the southern city of Marseille, which has been plagued by drug-related gang violence. But his criminal record to date does not contain any convictions for drug offences, the Paris prosecutor said.

(BBC)…[+]

CCJ rules Guyana Government can join ExxonM in fight against unlimited parent company guarantee for oil spills

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The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has overruled the decision of Guyana’s Court of Appeal, allowing the Government of Guyana (GoG) to join the fight with ExxonMobil and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against an unlimited parent company guarantee for oil spills.

The decision was handed down after being heard by Justice A. Saunders, Justice W. Anderson and Justice M. Rajnauth-Lee. Guyana’s High Court had ruled in favour of public interest litigants, Godfrey Whyte and Frederick Collins on May 3, 2023 for ExxonMobil Guyana Limited (EMGL) formerly Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) to provide an unlimited parent company guarantee to protect the nation from costs of an oil spill. In his judgment, Justice Kissoon was very clear and had castigated the EPA for abdicating its statutory responsibilities stating that the EPA had “relegated itself to state of laxity of enforcement and condonation compounded by a lack of vigilance thereby putting this nation and its people in grave potential danger of calamitous disaster.” Both the EPA and the oil company had appealed the ruling of High Court Judge, Justice Sandil Kissoon, while the AG, who was not initially a party to the case, applied to join the appeal on May 12, 2023. He was subsequently denied on December 19, 2023. On January 31, 2024, the AG moved the CCJ to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision. During his weekly programme, ‘Issues in the News’ on Tuesday evening, the AG explained, “after hearing submissions from all parties on the 13 May, 2024, not surprisingly, the CCJ reversed and overruled the decision of the Court of Appeal by allowing the Appeal and ordering the Attorney General to be added as a party to the Appeal which is still pending in the Court of Appeal.” According to the written ruling of the CCJ, it has been ordered that the Appellant be added as a party to Civil the Appeal No. 67 of 2023. The AG argued that since the GoG is a party to the 2016 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil, the operator of Guyana’s Stabroek Block, the State should have been added to the appeal. “We also explained in great detail that the Attorney General represents the public good and the public’s interest. This is one of the most important contracts ever executed in the history of this country to which the government is a party and from which the government is getting hundreds of millions of dollars annually which the government is using to finance its budget and to execute transformational projects for the benefit of the citizens of this country and that the Attorney General protects the public’s interest in law,” Nandlall posited following the ruling. He pointed out that the government will now apply to the Appeal Court to be added to the matter.

(Kaieteur News)…[+]

King Charles’ first official portrait since coronation proves divisive

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ENGLAND – Buckingham Palace revealed the first official portrait of King Charles III since his coronation, and it’s proving to be divisive with its lurid red brushstrokes. The 8.5 by 6.5-foot painting is by British artist Jonathan Yeo, who has painted high-profile subjects throughout his career including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, actor Nicole Kidman and education activist Malala Yousafzai.

Yeo, who began the project while Charles was still Prince of Wales, depicts the monarch wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, sword in hand, against a fiery red background that appears to almost swallow him whole, as a butterfly looks like it’s about to land on his shoulder.

“Much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed,” said Yeo in a statement released by Buckingham Palace. “I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter’s face. In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st century monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject’s deep humanity.” Yeo had four sittings with the King, and also worked from drawings and photographs according to the palace.

The work was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Charles’ membership in The Drapers’ Company, which funds education initiatives among other philanthropic efforts, and will be exhibited to the public from May 16 to June 14 at the Philip Mould Gallery in London. It will later hang at Drapers’ Hall from the end of August alongside other royal portraits.

The King and Queen are reportedly happy with the portrait — Yeo told the BBC Camilla said: “Yes you’ve got him,” after seeing the result, while the monarch was “mildly surprised by the strong color, but otherwise he seemed to be smiling approvingly” — and there was no shortage of commentary on social media.

Commenting under a post of the portrait on the royal family’s Instagram account, one user wrote: “with the uniform and that color it looks like (the) visual representation of the massacre cause by colonizers,” and one said: “I would have loved this if this was any other color than red. He really captured the essence of him in the face, but the harshness of the red doesn’t match the softness of his expression.” Another post read: “Looks like he’s going straight to hell.”

Art historian Richard Morris said on X: “I really like the portrait… before photography, to have a great painter capture your real appearance you accepted the revelation of your flaws and your mortality. It’s what Yeo captures here.” While the celebrated artist works mainly in oils, he has dabbled in another medium: collage. In 2007, after a commission to paint former US President George W. Bush fell through, he decided to make an “ironic homage,” according to his website, by collaging cutouts from hardcore pornographic magazines to create a portrait of the then US president, a satire on “the assumed moral superiority of the extreme right in American politics.” It was the first in a wider series depicting public figures “understood to have traded on their sexual morality,” including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin, Silvio Berlusconi and British conservative activist Mary Whitehouse.

As for the portrait of the King, Yeo said on his website that the vivid colors of the glazes are “not only resonating with the royal heritage found in many historical portraits but also injecting a dynamic, contemporary jolt into the genre with its uniformly powerful hue — providing a modern contrast to more traditional depictions.” He added the butterfly symbolized beauty and nature while highlighting the king’s passion for the environment.

Yeo’s paintings are included in the permanent collection of London’s National Portrait Gallery. The King is an artist himself, and a collection of his watercolors went on show in London in 2022. He has previously described painting as “one of the most relaxing and therapeutic exercises I know,” adding that it “refreshes parts of the soul which other activities can’t reach.”

(CNN)…[+]

Police intercept cocaine in Brinta and cornflakes

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The police recently intercepted a shipment of cocaine that was hidden in boxes of Brinta and cornflakes. The driver who was transporting these boxes managed to flee the scene. When the driver approached a police checkpoint located at Stolkertsijver, the police officers signaled him to pull over. The police then searched the car and found two boxes that were filled with cocaine. The box of Brinta contained 23 cocaine pellets that weighed 460 grams while the box of cornflakes also contained cocaine pellets that weighed 860 grams in total. While the police officers were inspecting the boxes the driver managed to drive off in the direction of Moengo. The investigation is ongoing. The suspect is still at large…[+]

Meghan visited Nigeria as a duchess and left an African princess

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NIGERIA – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex embarked on what was officially dubbed a 3-day private visit to Nigeria, yet it unfolded with all the grandeur and attention typically reserved for royal tours. Their first day saw them receive a red-carpet welcome complete with cultural dancers following their arrival in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where they kicked off a multi-day mental health summit at Lightway Academy. There, they also unveiled a partnership between their Archewell Foundation and the GEANCO Foundation to provide students with school supplies and menstrual products.

The pair had been invited to the West African nation by the country’s highest-ranking military official, Christopher Musa. After meeting him at the Nigerian Defense Headquarters, Meghan signed a guest book thanking officials for “welcoming me home.”

Despite the private nature of their visit, the couple’s itinerary resembled previous official tours they carried out before stepping back as senior working royals in 2020. They were warmly received everywhere they went, with Nigerians showcasing their famed hospitality. The couple were showered with gifts, including a touching portrait of a young Harry with his mum. For both Nigeria and the Sussexes, this visit held significant weight.

It was an opportunity for Nigeria to demonstrate its capability to host such high-profile guests and dispel any doubts raised by skeptics, especially considering the country’s standing in the eyes of the UK’s Foreign Office as one of the most dangerous countries to visit in the world.

Nigeria has security issues with a terrorist insurgency in the northeast and northwest. However, it is a huge country — larger than the US state of Texas — and the other areas visited by the royal couple over the past several days are relatively safe.

Meanwhile, for Prince Harry and Meghan, this marked their first major trip to Africa since relinquishing their official royal duties. It was a chance for them to engage in a hearts-and-minds charm offensive, which they executed with aplomb. Meghan, in particular, embraced exploring her Nigerian ancestry after discovering several years ago that she is 43% Nigerian through a genealogy test.

Last Saturday, she co-hosted a women’s leadership event with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, for about 50 leading women from across Nigerian society and politics, business, media, and culture.

During a panel discussion, moderated by Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu, the duchess spoke passionately about uncovering her Nigerian roots and its significance to her own identity. She described Nigeria as “my country,” adding that “being African American, part of it is not knowing so much about your lineage or background, where you come from specifically. And it was exciting … to discover more and understand what that really means.” It was here that Meghan’s natural ability to connect really shone through. She chatted effortlessly with attendees, posed for selfies and engaged in heartfelt conversations.

At another event last Sunday at the prestigious Delborough Hotel in Lagos – where the great and good of Nigerian society had gathered to welcome the couple – she appeared visibly moved when three powerful traditional rulers honored her with royal titles.

The Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe christened Meghan “Ada Mazi,” which means “the daughter of the Igbo ancestral palace.” While, the Oluwo of Iwoland, southwest, Nigeria, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi christened her with the Yoruba name of “Adetokunbo” which means “royalty from across the seas.”

Their engagements during the three-day visit were centered around their core passions: sports rehabilitation, mental health, and women’s empowerment. For Harry’s part, the duke demonstrated his compassion and connection to his late mother, Princess Diana, as he visited wounded soldiers at a military hospital in Kaduna, 150 miles from Abuja. His first stop was to drop in on the governor of Kaduna state, Senator Uba Sani, where he was again welcomed by a troupe of dancers and a red carpet. Governor Sani sat opposite him and praised Harry as a “symbol of courage,” and “praised his service to his country.” He added: “Please give our regards to the Duchess of Sussex, Princess Meghan.”

Harry toured about six wards at the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital and met young men recuperating from their injuries. Many had been shot, ambushed by Boko Haram, or lost limbs due to blasts. One moment captured by photographer Misan Harriman, showing Harry holding a wounded soldier lying on the hospital bed resonated deeply and went viral on social media. Corporal Yusef, 23, who had been shot through the knee, spoke with the duke, who asked him about his rehab. “Are you going to try for the Invictus Games team? Are you preparing for that?… We will see you there,” Harry said.

Their visit also extended to cultural experiences, such as witnessing a vibrant dance performance and a polo match at the historic Lagos Polo Club. Polo holds special significance for Harry and the event provided a platform to showcase his longstanding commitment to the sport and its charitable endeavors.

Amid the festivities, the couple expressed gratitude for Nigeria’s warm reception. As they bid farewell to Nigeria, Meghan declared: “I can’t wait to come back!”

(CNN)…[+]