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* Sri Lanka President visits UN office in Africa
Fri, Dec 13, 2013, 08:58 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 13, Nairobi: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in Nairobi on a four-day official visit to Kenya, Friday visited the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) at Gigiri, the only UN office in Africa.

Located in an area a short distance from Nairobi, the complex is situated on 146 acres comprising of more than 80 buildings that house more than 50 U.N. organizations with a total staff exceeding 3,500.

UNON Director General Mrs. Sahle-Work Zewde hosted President Rajapaksa at the UNON and briefed the President on how the headquarters was established and the scope of its work in Africa.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner also briefed the President and commended Sri Lanka on its work in the area of sustainable development.

"Sri Lanka and UNEP have a lot of history of collaboration," Steiner said. "Sri Lanka has pioneered sustainable development strategies."

Steiner also applauded Sri Lanka for its interest in working with the private sector to find financing for sustainable development initiatives and the country's work towards developing a green economy.

"We look forward to many more years of collaboration," Steiner told the President.

The Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat Ms. Aisa Kacyira thanked the Sri Lankan Government for being supportive of the organization's work and noted the good relationship they share, particularly in the implementation of projects related to post-disaster recovery.

President Rajapaksa recalled that several of the UN-Habitat projects in Sri Lanka have been completed successfully, particularly in the northern parts of the country.

Following the meeting, President Rajapaksa planted and watered a sapling of the African Rubber Tree on the UNON premises. It has been a tradition for heads of state to plant a tree on their visits to UNON. Before leaving the compound, the President, on behalf of Sri Lanka, gifted a painting of the Kandy Perahara (annual Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka) that would be hung on the UNON premises.

Earlier in the day, the Sri Lankan President accompanied by Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto, laid a wreath at the mausoleum of the founding Father of the Nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, at Parliament building in Nairobi.

Jomo Kenyatta, the current President Uhuru Kenyatta's Father, is considered the Founding Father of Kenya due to his leading role in Kenya's independence movement.

President Rajapaksa was escorted to the mausoleum by Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto. Following prayers by Christian and Islamic religious leaders, the President laid a wreath and paid his respects.

The President also visited the Nairobi Buddhist Temple, located in a suburb of Nairobi this morning.

The Theravada Buddhist temple that has been functioning for more than a decade consists of a stupa, a meditation hall and a residence for monks.

President Rajapaksa worshipped at the Temple, presented atapirikara to the head priest Bhante Wimala and spent time talking with members of the Sri Lankan community living in Kenya. A large crowd of Sri Lankans had gathered at the Temple to welcome the President.

The President is currently on a four-day state visit to Kenya. He and the First Lady, yesterday (Dec. 12), attended Kenya's 50th Independence Day celebrations and are scheduled to attend a number of other official events during the visit.

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Deputy Minister of Civil Aviation Geethanjana Gunawardena, Chief Minister of the Uva Province Sashendra Rajapaksa, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin De Vass Gunawardena and Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga joined the President for the meeting.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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