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In Goma, M23 Said to Loot Bank, But Manager Says No, Still No Correction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 9, updated twice -- During the day the M23 mutineers controlled the Eastern Congo city of Goma, the UK Guardian reported that the "rebels appeared to be looting the central bank in Goma. M23 fighters surrounded the bank early this afternoon and were seen loading white bags into cars. The armed rebels looked nervous and ordered the Guardian to leave the area. 'They're looting the bank,' a UN source said."

   This report was echoed in Le Soir and elsewhere. But once M23 pulled out of Goma under the plan proposed in Kampala, the Bank's director Venance Lengwe was quoted that the safe was "perfectly closed," everything in "perfect shape," nothing taken.

  And so some have been waiting for the Guardian to run a correction or amplification. Unless, of course, they think Venance Lengwe suffers from the Stockholm Syndrome.

  At the UN Security Council in New York, multiple sources tell Inner City Press French Ambassador Gerard Araud called M23 nothing but criminals and gangsters.

  They note the same is not said of the rebels in Syria, even the Al Nusra Front. There's been little denunciation of video footage of Al Nusra murdering ten captured soldiers. If M23 did it, it would cited as proof of brutality.

   Similarly, while the UN system issues -- well, leaks -- detailed reports on Eastern Congo, when Inner City Press asked the head of the UN's Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paolo Pinheiro, if he was studying the acts of the Al Nusra Front. He said, no.

   The Goma bank job that wasn't has the type of movie script resonance as some of the leaked reports of the UN Group of Experts coordinated by Steve Hege (who, we've noted, did not correct but took off the Internet his 2009 writing dismissing the threat posed by the FDLR militia). Some have wondered if the bank issue will be edited out, or amplified on, in Hege's next leaked report.

  There is, to be diplomatic, some race related differences in the coverage, not only political. To play out the idea, just for argument's sake, would Syria rebels pull out, in order to negotiate? Would they be asked to? The M23 when asked by the Kampala communique pulled out of Goma, to head to Kampala for talks with the Kabila administration that began today, with DRC foreign minister Raymond Tshibanda, who began by denouncing M23. Watch this site.

Update 1 - after some weekend back and forth stories about whether M23 took "beans from the bank," at Monday's UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky what the UN's final position on what one of its officials told The Guardian was "looting by M23."

   Was it only looting of beans? Or what the whole story a hill of beans? Nesirky told Inner City Press to ask the Bank - the manager already told Radio Okapi everything was intact -- and that he'd revert if he gets any more information.

Update 2 -- then, after Inner City Press asked if the UN's position was that the Bank in Goma had been looted by M23 of anything, this came in:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]>
Date: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Your question on the Central Bank of Goma
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

On the Central Bank in Goma: We checked with DPKO. The UN mission reports that the Central Bank in Goma was not attacked.

  So who WAS that UN official who told the Guardian M23 was looting the Bank?

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