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UN Chief makes West Africa trip

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres headed to West Africa on Saturday to join Muslims marking the end of the holy month of Ramadhan and to highlight the impact of the Ukraine war on the African continent, the UN announced on Friday.

UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said the Secretary-General arrived in Senegal on Saturday evening, travels to Niger today and to Nigeria tomorrow and then returns to New York.

The UN Chief shared an iftar dinner with Senegal President Macky Sall who assumed the presidency of the African Union earlier this year, Haq said. Guterres will also take part in celebrations of the Aidilfitri holiday marking the end of Ramadhan with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, Haq said, and he is also scheduled to meet Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the three countries, the Secretary-General also will meet civil society representatives, religious leaders and families affected by violence and instability in Africa’s Sahel region, including people internally displaced and refugees, the UN spokesman said.

Guterres will also see first-hand the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, and will assess progress and challenges to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Haq said.

The Secretary-General issued a report this month saying Russia’s war on Ukraine threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries in Africa and elsewhere.

Guterres began annual Ramadhan visits in his previous job as the UN Refugee Chief but the tradition was interrupted by the pandemic.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. PHOTO: AP
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