Prince Harry, Meghan visit Nigeria for Invictus drive


People walk past a sign welcoming Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, ahead of their visit to the Lightway Academy in Abuja on May 10, 2024 as they visit Nigeria as part of celebrations of Invictus Games anniversary. [AFP]

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle visited Nigeria on Friday as part of his promotion of the Invictus Games, the sporting event he founded for wounded military veterans.

The couple arrived Friday in the capital Abuja where they visited a school to open an event on mental health for students there in a trip that also saw the prince meet wounded Nigerian soldiers.

Greeted by a drum and dance group from the Igbo ethnic community, Harry and Meghan toured the Lightway Academy where they were welcomed by cheering pupils.

"If you take anything away from today, just know that mental health affects every single person," he told students, wearing a traditional Nigerian bead necklace.

"The more you talk about it, the more you can kick stigma away."

Meghan joined Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, on the stage before they left for a meeting with Nigerian military commanders as part of the Invictus programme.

"I see myself in all of you," she told the children to applause.

The duchess has claimed Nigerian heritage.

Excited pupils waved the couple off outside the academy.

"It was really cool. I just wanted to touch him," said student Nnena Edeh, 13, as the prince left the school. "It was really inspiring."

Prince Harry was in London on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the games. As with all his trips to the UK since he moved to the United States in 2020, his visit prompted fresh speculation over a reconciliation with his family.

Wounded troops

Harry, a former army captain who served as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, founded Invictus in 2014. Since then the games have expanded, boosting rehabilitation through sports.

He was invited to visit by Nigeria's military command. In Abuja, he met Chief of Defence Staff General Christopher Musa, who praised the experience of Nigerian troops at the Invictus Games in Germany last year.

"When I saw them at Invictus and seeing them smile and seeing their faces -- they thought the world had forgotten them, but I could see they were appreciated," he said at the Abuja meeting.

Last year, former Nigerian soldier Peacemaker Azuegbulam, who lost his leg in combat, became the first African to win a gold at the games in Germany.

Later Harry travelled without his wife to Kaduna in Nigeria's northwest to visit a military hospital and speak with troops wounded in combat.

He toured six wards seeing young men recuperating from their injuries. Many had been shot, ambushed by jihadists or lost limbs in blasts fighting in the conflict in the country's northeast region.

"You are going to get better, get back on your feet," he told the first ward.

On Saturday Prince Harry is scheduled to take part in a seated volleyball tournament and see sports training for Nigeria's Invictus team. On Sunday, the couple will travel to the country's economic capital Lagos.

Nigeria's military forces are battling armed groups on several fronts.

A grinding jihadist insurgency in the northeast has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced another two million more since 2009.

In northwestern and central states, heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits carry out mass kidnappings for ransom and raid villages from camps hidden deep in remote forests.

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