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UN Security Chief Says M23 Good Record of Safety, Syria Shutdown Not His

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- With the UN Security Council set to meet about Congo's M23 rebels and UN official Susana Malcorra's recent visit to Goma to meet them, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked outgoing UN Security chief Gregory Starr for his Department's assessment of M23.

Starr said, "We actually have a pretty good record of our humanitarians staying safe in areas that M23 has controlled."

    Referring to late November, Starr continued that "We were very worried about the advance into Goma, we moved out about 50% of our humanitarians. We made sure that those that stayed has proper protection from MONUSCO."

   This last might be seen as irony, as MONUSCO did nothing as M23 entered Goma; the group voluntarily left Goma after a political process in Kampala. While they held Goma,a UN official told The Guardian that M23 was looting the Central Bank - which was later denied by the bank manager, click here for follow up.

   This theme, of the politicization of security, came up again in Starr's final press encounter in his position, held Tuesday at the UN Foundation, managed by several UN communications officials.

   Inner City Press asked Starr if he and his Department made the decision to pull the UN observers out of Syria mid-June. He said no.

  When asked of Inner City Press' reporting that Observer Mission chief Robert Mood, even after the Department of Peacekeeping Operations June 15 memo was filed with the Security Council, was unaware of it while at the Hotel Dama Rosa in Damascus, Starr said that was possible.

   So who made the decision to pull the UN observers out of Syria at that time? It was and is now more clear: DPKO, led by Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold that post. It is apparently an uncomfortable topic in the UN, particularly to Ladsous: the politicization of security, and of peacekeeping.

   But officials like Starr are at least willing to answer questions on it. Starr is leaving the UN, and Ladsous, whose refusal to answer questions extends from the Syria shut-down to the now 126 rapes in Minova in the DRC by the army DPKO partners with, is apparently staying.

Here is a French language profile of Ladsous, from Billets d'Afrique, even before his refusal to answer on Congolese army rapes. Watch this site.

Sad footnote: Inner City Press also asked Starr if, as he leaves, there is any movement on the case of Louis Maxwell, the UN Security officer who protected his colleagues during an attack in Kabul, only to the shot by an Afghan national soldier who subsequently bragged of the killing on TV.

 "No," Starr said on the record. We hope to have more on this. But we wish Starr well.

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