Record 45 Million People Need Urgent Food Aid In Southern Africa – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

An unprecedented 45 million people in southern Africa are in urgent need of food aid due to drought, flooding and economic hardship, the UN said Thursday.

“This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,” World Food Programme (WFP) regional director Lola Castro said in a statement.

The agency warned that it had only secured $205 million (184 million euros) of the $489 million it requires.

“If we don’t receive the necessary funding, we’ll have no choice but to assist fewer of those most in need, and with less,” Castro said.

Low growth, rising population, drought and floods have combined to worsen food insecurity in the region, with Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe the worst-hit.

Nearly half of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people live in a state of chronic food insecurity — some 2.2 million in urban areas and five million in the countryside, according to UN figures.

Twenty percent of the population in drought-stricken Lesotho and about 10 percent of Namibians are food insecure.

In October, Zambia’s Red Cross flagged that the drought had left an estimated 2.3 million people facing “severe food insecurity”. The country was a longtime regional breadbasket.

The WFP warned that families across the region were already eating less, skipping meals, taking children out of school, selling off precious assets and falling into debt to stave off agricultural losses.

Women and children are the worst affected.

Meanwhile, experts have forecast more months of hot and dry weather in the coming months, auguring another poor harvest.

The situation could escalate further as the dry season may last longer than usual, affecting the annual cereal harvest in April.

The WFP plans to provide lean season assistance to 8.3 million people in areas that are grappling with crisis levels of hunger.

 

AFP

UN Raises 2020 Budget, To Investigate War Crimes In Syria, Myanmar

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday adopted a $3.07 billion operating budget which for the first time includes funding for the investigation of war crimes in Syria and Myanmar.

The budget represents a slight increase from 2019’s figure of $2.9 billion.

The increase is due to additional missions assigned to the UN Secretariat, inflation and exchange rate adjustments, according to diplomats.

These include the observer mission in Yemen, a political mission established in Haiti, the investigation of crimes committed in Syria since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, and in Myanmar after the 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.

For the first time, the budgets for the Syria and Myanmar investigations — which were previously financed by voluntary contributions — will in 2020 be transferred to the UN secretariat’s budget and will receive compulsory contributions from the 193 member states.

Russia proposed multiple amendments during negotiations in the Committee on Budgetary Questions meeting and in the General Assembly plenary session.

At each vote, Russia, Syria, Myanmar and their supporters, including North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua and Venezuela, were outvoted. They all stated that they dissociated themselves from references to investigative mechanisms in the adopted resolutions.

Russia said it would examine its future obligatory payments in light of the vote outcome and predicted an increase in the arrears that currently plague the UN’s treasury due to countries not paying enough.

Moscow argued Friday the investigative mechanism was illegitimate, while Damascus stressed that it had no mandate from the Security Council.

The UN’s operating budget is separate from the annual budget for peacekeeping operations of some $6 billion that is adopted in June.

Ethiopian Migrants Killed In Attack On Yemen Market – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem.

 

Seventeen civilians were killed in an attack in a market in Yemen’s northern Saada governorate, the United Nations said, the third deadly assault on the same location in just over a month.

The attacks come despite relative calm in Yemen, where large-scale combat between government troops — backed by a Saudi-led military coalition — and the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels has subsided.

The UN said 12 Ethiopian migrants were among the 17 civilians killed in the incident on Tuesday at the Al-Raqw market in Saada governorate, a Huthi rebel stronghold.

At least 12 people were wounded, it said, without saying who was responsible or what weapons were used.

An attack on Al-Raqw market on November 22 killed 10 civilians, again including Ethiopian nationals, and just days later, at least another 10 civilians were killed and 22 wounded in a second such incident.

“The attacks on Al-Raqw market raise deeply troubling questions about the commitment of the parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian law,” Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said Wednesday.

“Every attack of this kind is a gross violation,” she said in a statement.

The UN says 89 civilians have either been killed or wounded in the attacks on the market.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemen conflict to back the government against the Huthi insurgents.

The UN considers the war in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

AFP

UN Talks Out Of Sync With Global Climate Demands

 

UN climate negotiations in Madrid remained bogged down Monday in the fine print of the Paris treaty rulebook, out-of-sync with a world demanding action to forestall the ravages of global warming.

The 196-nation talks should kick into high-gear Tuesday with the arrival of ministers, but on the most crucial issue of all — slashing the greenhouse gas emissions overheating the planet — major emitters have made it clear they have nothing to say.

Only the European Union is dangling the prospect of enhanced carbon-cutting ambitions, to be laid out this week in its European Green New Deal.

The arrival Tuesday of Michael Bloomberg, who has thrown his hat — and a ton of money — into the US presidential contest, will underscore how much easier the task might be with a Democrat rather than a climate denier in the White House.

“I’m going to #COP25 in Madrid because President Trump won’t,” Bloomberg tweeted.

Observers say the case for a global Marshall Plan on global warming has become overwhelming.

A quartet of recent UN science reports catalogued a crescendo of deadly heatwave, flooding and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas, and projected far worse impacts just over the horizon.

Every year that CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise — as they have for decades — compresses the task of drawing them down fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming into an impossibly narrow time frame.

A youth-led movement, meanwhile, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — a magnet for climate hope and fear — has seen millions of protesters spill into the streets, with tens of thousands in Madrid on Friday.

Even forward-looking businesses and corporations are pushing for a rapid and well-ordered transition to a low-carbon world.

Fossil Fuel Taboo

On Monday 631 institutional investors managing $37 trillion — a third of the world’s monetary assets — called for a price on carbon and end to fossil fuel subsidies.

But governments are waiting until next year’s deadline to unveil revised emissions reduction commitments.

“Negotiations, by their nature, are ‘I’ll give you this, if you give me that’,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based climate policy think tank.

“So we are standing and watching our house on fire. I’ve got a hose, you’ve got a hose, but I’m not going to turn mine on until you do.”

At the same time, the rising tide of urgency has clearly permeated the “climate bubble” of diplomats, policy wonks, NGOs and business leaders that gather in a new city each year.

“Delegates are finally saying the ‘F’ words — Fossil Fuels,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, an umbrella organisation of activists.

For 25 years, she noted, it has been more-or-less taboo to point an accusing finger within the UN negotiations directly at the cause of global warming — the burning of fossil fuels.

It is no coincidence that the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement — which calls for capping the rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius — does not mention “fossil fuel”, “oil”, “coal” or “natural gas”.

Climate-Addled World

Last month, however, a United Nations report showed for the first time that fossil fuel production planned or in the pipeline will overwhelm efforts to hold warming to levels consistent with a liveable planet.

Negotiators are addressing a trio of politically-charged technical issues before the Paris Agreement becomes operational at the end of next year.

One is reworking rules for largely dysfunctional carbon markets.

Another is so-called “loss and damage”.

Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of “mitigation” and “adaptation”.

But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states disappearing under the waves.

“There must be a path forward that ensures vulnerable countries will see finance and capacity-building support substantially scaled-up to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Even fixing a timetable for periodic reviews of carbon-cutting pledges has proven too contentious for frontline climate negotiators to resolve.

At Least 7,000 Reportedly Arrested In Iran Protests – UN

FILE PHOTO: Iranians embark on a protest against government’s policies. Credit: AFP

 

The United Nations said Friday that at least 7,000 people have “reportedly” been arrested in Iran since mass demonstrations erupted last month, and called for the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained.

In a statement, the UN human rights office also said it had obtained “verified video footage” showing security forces firing on protesters, apparently with intent to kill.

The rights office added that it had “information suggesting that at least 208 people were killed” during the unrest, supporting a toll previously given by Amnesty International.

“There are also reports, which the UN Human Rights Office has so far been unable to verify, suggesting more than twice that number killed,” the statement added.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said video obtained by her office shows “severe violence was used against protesters.”

“We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill,” Bachelet said.

Additional video material shows “armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building” in the city of Javanrud, west of Tehran in Kermanshah Province, as well as gunfire from helicopters in Sadra, in Fars Province.

The protests began on November 15 following a surprise hike in fuel prices.

Iran has yet to give overall figures for the number of people killed or arrested when security forces moved in to quell the unrest that saw buildings torched and shops looted.

Bachelet charged that “many of the arrested protesters have not had access to a lawyer,” while raising alarm over “reports of severe overcrowding and harsh conditions in detention centres, which in some cities include military barracks, sports venues and schools.”

“I urge the authorities to immediately release from detention all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty,” she further said.

Iran has blamed the violence that broke out during the protests on “thugs” backed by its foes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran has also dismissed the high death tolls reported by foreign sources as “utter lies”.

AFP

UN Launches $29bn Emergency Funding Appeal

 

The UN launched a humanitarian appeal for nearly $29 billion on Wednesday as climate change and increasingly protracted conflicts put tens of millions of people in urgent need of aid.

The world body’s Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 168 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance in 2020, including food, shelter and healthcare.

That figure marks a “record in the modern era,” UN emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock told reporters, clarifying that he was referring to the period since World War II.

Needs continue to rise in part because “conflicts are becoming more protracted and intense,” Lowcock said.

“Combatants display total disregard for humanitarian law,” with the result that civilians caught up in conflict are increasingly likely to be displaced or traumatised psychologically, he said, adding that the number of attacks on schools and health facilities continues to rise.

In addition, climate change has unleashed more extreme weather events, notably drought and flooding, which trigger humanitarian emergencies, he said.

“The brutal truth is that 2020 will be difficult for millions of people,” Lowcock said.

Of the 168 million people who are expected to require assistance next year, the $28.8 billion (26 billion euro) UN appeal is targeting the 109 million who are most in need and whom UN agencies are in a position to help.

The UN is seeking more than $3 billion to address humanitarian crises in Yemen and Syria, the countries most in need.

Venezuela is the country where needs have increased the most in the past year.

The UN sought nearly $740 million for the regional response to the Venezuela crisis for 2019, but as the country’s devastating economic and political crisis has intensified, that figure has risen to $1.35 billion.

AFP

UN: Nigeria Has 218,000 Refugees In Cameroon, Chad, Niger Republic

 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that there are about 218,000 Nigeria refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the UNHCR country representative, Mr Anthonio Canhandula, urged the Federal Government to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.

Mr Canhandula added that Nigeria is currently housing 46,000 refugees from Cameroon, which is spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.

He also noted that only 1.2 million of the 1.8 million accessible Internally Displaced Persons are receiving assistance – a situation which he believes requires urgent attention.

Foreign National Killed As UN Vehicle Hit In Kabul Blast

 

A foreign national was killed and at least five other people wounded in a grenade attack on a United Nations vehicle in Kabul on Sunday, an Afghan official said.

The attack happened on a road frequently used by UN traffic shuttling workers between central Kabul and a large UN compound on the outskirts of the capital.

“At around 6:20 pm (1350 GMT) a grenade was hurled at a UN vehicle,” interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

Aside from the one fatality, Rahimi said five other people — including two Afghan staff — were wounded. The nationalities of the other victims were not released.

READ ALSO: US Navy Defies Trump, Proceeds In Effort To Expel SEAL

A UN official did not immediately return a message seeking comment, and no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast comes during what has been a period of relative and uneasy calm in Kabul, where large-scale attacks have dropped over recent weeks.

The comparative lull followed a blood-stained presidential campaign season that ended with a general election nearly two months ago.

But Afghans are still waiting for the results of that September 28 poll, with a recount bogged down by various technical difficulties and complaints from main candidates.

Additionally, Afghans are waiting to see what might happen next in negotiations between the Taliban and the US.

President Donald Trump in September ended those yearlong talks as Taliban violence continued, but on Friday he suggested to US broadcaster Fox News that negotiations could be getting underway again.

AFP

 

 

Buhari Signs Executive Order To End Open Defecation By 2025

Atiku, Ezekwesili Absent As Buhari And Other Candidates Sign Peace Accord
File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari signing a document

 

 

 President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday signed an Executive Order 009 entitled, The Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order.

Nigeria is therefore committed to end open defecation throughout the country by 2025 in consonance with her commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

READ ALSO: Social Media Bill Passes Second Reading In Senate

This is according to a statement signed the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. He added that the Order signed by President Buhari declares as follows:

  1. That by this Order, Nigeria is committed to being open defecation free by 2025.

 

  1. That the National Open Defecation Free (ODF) Roadmap developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with support from other key sector players across Nigeria be put into effect

 

  1. a. There is established in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources a National Secretariat called “Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat”.

 

b. The Secretariat is authorized on behalf of the President to implement this Order by ensuring that all public places including schools, hotels, fuel stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.

 

  1. All Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government shall cooperate with the Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat.

 

  1. The National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly shall enact legislation on the practice of open defecation with appropriate sanctions and penalties.

 

  1. All development projects shall include construction of sanitation facilities as an integral part of the approval and implementation process.

 

  1. The Secretariat shall terminate when Nigeria is declared Open Defecation Free.

 

  1. All enforcement authorities are hereby directed to diligently collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in implementing this Order.

 

The statement added that the Executive Order 009 came into being against the background that Nigeria is ranked second among the nations in the world with the highest number of people practicing open defecation estimated at over 46 million people.

President Buhari described the statistics as disturbing and declared commitment to implement the National Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Action Plan.

The President also declared a State of Emergency on Nigeria’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector.

The Executive Order takes effect from Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

Dismay As US Formally Starts Pullout From Paris Climate Accord

Photo combination of US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron

 

The United States has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other major powers on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change, with September the fourth month in a row with near- or record-breaking temperatures.

Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the UN on the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement.

The US will be officially out on November 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second term on appeals to the white working class.

Announcing the move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump’s rationale in 2017 that the accord would disadvantage US businesses.

“It was America that would suffer the straitjacket,” Pompeo told the Fox Business network. “It would be quintessentially unfair to the American people and to the American workers.”

Pompeo said in a statement that the United States would advocate a “realistic and pragmatic model” that included renewable energy but preserved a role for fossil fuels.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Trump to stay in the accord named for his nation’s capital, lamented the decision.

“We regret this and it makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on climate and biodiversity even more necessary,” the French presidency said as Macron visited China, the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Beijing also expressed “regret” over Washington’s decision ahead of the planned signing Wednesday of a joint document on climate by President Xi Jinping and Macron.

“We hope the US can take more responsibility, and do more to contribute a driving force to the multilateral cooperation process, instead of adding negative energy,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Russia warned that the US withdrawal seriously undermined the Paris accord.

“Without the largest economy in the world, it’s very, very hard to talk about any kind of climate agreement,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The United States, the number-two emitter, is still planning to attend this month’s COP climate negotiations in Spain, according to a State Department official.

 Trump rolls back action

Pompeo in his statement pointed to a 13 percent US reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2017 even as the economy grew.

But Trump, who took office in 2017, has pledged to turn back environmental regulations as states such as California and New York try to take stronger action on their own.

Trump has sought to block California from setting tighter standards on car emissions and moved to let states set their own standards on existing coal-fired power plants.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Trump administration has “once again thumbed its nose at our allies, turned a blind eye to the facts and further politicized the world’s greatest environmental challenge.”

Former vice president-turned-climate champion Al Gore deplored Trump’s decision — but said that a new president could re-enter the Paris accord within 30 days.

“No one person or party can stop our momentum to solve the climate crisis, but those who try will be remembered for their complacency, complicity and mendacity in attempting to sacrifice the planet for their greed,” Gore said.

The Paris accord set a goal of limiting temperature rises to well within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that scientists say is vital to check the worst damage from global warming such as increasing droughts, rising floods and intensifying storms.

Limited diplomatic effect

Contrary to some predictions, Trump’s decision did not trigger a domino effect of withdrawals by countries such as Brazil and Australia.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has belittled environmentalists but has held off on threats to withdraw from the Paris accord, with the European Union requiring adherence as a condition for a major trade deal.

Trump has cast the climate accord as elitist, saying that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

But a Washington Post poll last month found that even in his own party he faces growing opposition on the issue, with 60 percent of Republicans agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.

AFP

Military Action Alone Won’t Tackle Insurgency, UN Tells Nigerian Govt

 

The United Nations has advised the Nigerian government to step up its fight against insurgency as military action is not enough to address the situation in the North East.

UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, gave the advice in a statement.

The UN humanitarian chief who visited Nigeria recently said he has watched with growing concern the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Borno State.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s First Female Science Graduate, Deborah Jibowu Dies At 95

He was clear that military and security measures against the insurgents were a necessary and legitimate part of the response led by the government.

He appealed that the military should be cautious in its effort at fighting the insurgents and avoid worsening the condition that the devastated victims had already found themselves in.

Lowcock said, “Military action needs to be proportionate and avoid adding to the plight of civilians, huge numbers of whom have suffered terribly as a result of the actions of the terrorists and insurgents. And military action on its own will not solve this problem.

“It is, therefore, extremely important that the Nigerian Government, including through institutions like the North East Development Commission, is also implementing wider measures to address the root causes of the crisis, relieve humanitarian suffering, and promote stabilisation, recovery, and development. I strongly support these measures.”

 

Hungry Victims?

The UN humanitarian chief thanked the government and others who between 2016 and 2018 made successful efforts to regain control of areas previously ravaged by the insurgents, leading to the return of more than two million displaced people.

He was, however, worried that no fewer than seven million people currently need humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.

Lowcock added that renewed violence, most of it perpetrated by Boko Haram insurgents, has sparked an upsurge in forced displacement in Borno, with more than 140,000 people forced to move in 2019 alone.

He said, “Many farmers have missed multiple planting seasons and more than three million people are food insecure.

“I am glad to have had the opportunity during my visit this week to review the situation with senior figures in the Nigerian government, with the military and other authorities in Borno, with international, national and local NGOs, and others.”

The UN humanitarian chief insisted that NGOs – through their rich networks and capacity to reach people, and their expertise and experience in operating at the community level – have a very important role to play in the fight against insurgency.

He pointed out that the UN and humanitarian partners have supported the humanitarian response in the North East since the beginning of the crisis and have so far provided critical and life-saving assistance to more than 3.8 million people in 2019.

 

Groups Resume Operation

Lowcock said they have been operating in the most challenging circumstances such that a total of 38 UN and NGO workers, most of them Nigerian, have been killed since 2011.

He added that 10 aid workers have died as a result of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other criminal groups in the past 18 months while six others were still missing.

The UN humanitarian chief stressed that all humanitarian organisations working in Nigeria which receive support from the international community have operated in full compliance with international standards, including counter-terrorism related conditions, national laws, and humanitarian principles.

He explained that operating in such a manner was that not only a matter of principle but was required as a practical condition of funding from the major donors.

“It is important to recognise that all the international NGOs working in the North East are authorised to do so through the government registration process and local approvals from the relevant authorities.

“I have received assurances from the relevant authorities that the suspension of the activities of Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger announced in September will be lifted in the next few days,” he confirmed.

Lowcock believes this will allow an immediate resumption of life-saving assistance to nearly 400,000 people who have been without food and other essential help for the last month.

He said the government also planned in the next fortnight to bring together all the relevant stakeholders, including the UN and NGOs, to discuss the shared challenges in Borno.

“I greatly welcome all this. Enhanced dialogue between the Government and the international community, including international NGOs, in pursuit of the shared goals of bringing peace, promoting recovery, and assisting and protecting innocent civilians in the north-east who have been the main victims of the conflict is in everyone’s interest.

“The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, and his team based in Nigeria remain at the disposal of the Government and others in support of those goals,” Lowcock added.

First Let Me Take A Selfie, El Salvador’s President Tells UN

 

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, whose social media savvy helped win him power earlier this year, took a selfie before his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly, which he called “obsolete” and suggested scrapping.

In a dark suit and no tie, his hair slicked back in his signature style, the 38-year-old thanked the other leaders present and said he especially wanted to greet his wife and baby daughter sitting in the gallery.

“If you’ll just bear with me a second,” he then added, pulling out his iPhone 11, lifting it up to his grinning face and snapping a photo he later posted on Twitter to his 1.1 million followers.

“Believe me, many more people will see that selfie when I share it than will listen to this speech — I hope I took a good one.”

“A couple of images on Instagram can have more impact than any speech delivered in this assembly,” he said, quipping that the annual summit of the world’s leaders could be done by video-conference.

The conservative businessman and former mayor of the capital San Salvador was sworn into office in June in the small Central American country of 6.6 million people, tasked with turning around grinding poverty and rampant gang violence that are sending thousands fleeing to the United States.

He traded on his telegenic looks and promises of a break with the past, but critics have called him light on policy and substance.

Trump bromance

On Wednesday, he held his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, a fellow prolific social media user and self-styled iconoclast whom Bukele has aggressively courted — a contrast with his predecessor Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a leftist former guerrilla.

The two countries reached an agreement last week to curb illegal migration that opens the door for the United States to send refugees back to the violent Central American country, a move slammed by migrant rights advocates.

“For us, the United States is not only a partner and an ally, but also a friend,” Bukele told reporters after that meeting.

“We’re hoping that this meeting will only strengthen our relationship even more, and I think it will because, you know, President Trump is very nice and cool, and I’m nice and cool, too. We both use Twitter a lot, so, you know, we’ll get along.”

Talking to journalists on Thursday after his speech, he defended his show of bonhomie with the US leader.

“Someone made fun of the fact that I joked with Trump. Did they want me to come fight with him — or for me put on a cranky face or something?”

On the controversial migration agreement, he appeared to agree that those Salvadorans fleeing to the US were involved in gangs.

“We’ve supported our natural and biggest ally,” he said. “We’ve caught human traffickers, we’ve seized their money, their arms, false documents.”

“El Salvador has to propose a positive migration, academic migration, business migration, work migration, not those with false documents or drugs.”