Thursday, May 30, 2024

Prince Harry, Meghan arrive in Nigeria to champion the Invictus Games

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ABUJA, Nigeria — ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, arrived in Nigeria amid pomp and dancing on Friday to champion mental health for young people affected by conflicts and to promote the Invictus Games, which the prince founded to aid the rehabilitation of wounded and sick servicemembers and veterans.

The couple, in the West African nation for the first time on the invitation of its military, began their three-day visit by going to the Lightway Academy school which receives support from their Archewell foundation to train young girls affected by conflicts in Nigeria, before going on to meet with the nation’s military officers.

Harry and Meghan will also be meeting with wounded soldiers and their families in what Nigerian officials have said is a show of support to improve the morale of the soldiers, including those fighting a 14-year war against Islamic extremists in the country’s northeast.

Harry served in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter copilot gunner, after which he founded the Invictus Games in 2014 to offer wounded veterans and servicemembers the challenge of competing in sports events similar to the Paralympics. Nigeria was among the nations that participated in last year’s edition of the games.

At the Abuja school where they kicked off an inaugural mental health summit organized by local non-profit GEANCO, which partners with their foundation, the couple were received by a dancing troupe and a crowd of excited students and teachers.

“We’ve got to acknowledge those amazing dance moves!” Meghan said. “My husband was excited to jump up!”

They then went into the classrooms to interact with the children, who showed robot cars they had built.

They spoke to the students about mental health, and about their own children, Archie and Lilibet.

“In some cases around the world … there is a stigma when it comes to mental health. Too many people don’t want to talk about it,” Harry said. “So will you promise to us that after today, no more being scared, no more being unsure of mental health?”

Meghan praised her husband’s openness.

“You see why I’m married to him?” she said of Harry amid cheers, before urging the schoolchildren to never be ashamed of their experiences in life. “It is a complete honor to have our first visit to Nigeria; be here with all of you. We believe in you. We believe in your future,” she said.

Student Nnenna Okorie couldn’t hide her excitement at meeting the couple. “She is the prettiest human being ever,” said Okorie, a senior student at the school. “I admire her so much and then Harry. I love how he is so supportive,” she said.

The couple then went to Nigeria’s Defense Headquarters where they were received by servicemen and their wives before going into a private meeting with Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Gen. Christopher Musa.

During their stay, Harry and Meghan will also attend basketball and volleyball matches in Abuja and Lagos. Meghan will co-host an event on women in leadership with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization, according to the couple’s spokesperson, Charlie Gipson.

The news of Meghan’s visit excited some in Nigeria where her life — and association with the British royal family — is closely followed. Meghan has also said in the past that she found out through a genealogy test that she was 43% Nigerian.

The Nigerian military has touted the Invictus Games as one which could help the recovery of thousands of its personnel who have been fighting the homegrown Boko Haram Islamic extremists and their factions since 2009 when they launched an insurgency.

“Eighty percent of our soldiers that have been involved in this recovery program are getting better (and) their outlook to life is positive,” Marquis, the military’s sports director, said.

“The recovery program has given them an opportunity to improve their personal self-esteem, to improve their mental health and emotional intelligence.”

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