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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is greeted by Senegalese President Macky Sall at the Presidential Palace, in Dakar, Senegal, on Feb. 12, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Senegalese President Macky Sall pledged to support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up the second part of his visit to Africa.

Speaking during a news conference at the presidential palace in Senegal’s capital Wednesday, Sall said it was “very easy” to root for Canada and that he would speak with his African counterparts to encourage them to cast their ballots for Canada when UN members vote in June.

Canada, Norway and Ireland are campaigning for two available seats at the powerful table at the UN. Trudeau has said winning the position for a two-year term would give Canada more influence on the world stage on such issues as peace, security and human rights.

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Trudeau has spent several days in Africa partly to drum up votes from leaders across the continent for Canada’s campaign. He was previously in Ethiopia, where he met leaders attending an African Union summit before jetting to Kuwait to meet a group of Canadian sliders.

Prior to the news conference in Dakar, Trudeau and Sall greeted each other with big smiles and a hug and, after stopping to listen to an honour guard play their two national anthems, the pair walked part way toward the palace with their arms around each other’s backs.

The apparent ease in their relationship stood in contrast to many of Trudeau’s meetings with other African leaders over the weekend in Addis Ababa.

Sall nonetheless pushed back during the news conference in response to a question put to Trudeau about whether he’d raised the issue that homosexuality remains illegal in Senegal, saying the populace would reject any change to the law and denying homosexuals are discriminated against.

“These laws reflect the vision and our way of living,” he said in French. “This has nothing to do with being homophobic.”

For his part, Trudeau said he brings up human rights every chance he gets, but acknowledged “there is more work to do.”

Prior to meeting Sall, Trudeau visited Goree Island, which was once a slave-trading centre on the African coast. During the visit, the prime minister said the world needs to do more to prevent repeating the horrors of history.

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He later told Sall that he would remember the visit to Goree Island for the rest of his life.

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