Subscribe: IRIN - DRC
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: Swahili
armed groups  armed  children  congo  country  crisis  forces  groups  humanitarian  international  irin  kabila  year     
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: IRIN - DRC



Rebellion fears grow in eastern Congo

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 16:05:53 +0000

While attention has focused on the raging conflict and humanitarian crisis in Kasai in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo, armed opposition groups in the east of the country have stepped up attacks and are threatening to wage all-out war. Tension and frustration are mounting across Congo as President Joseph Kabila clings to power well after his second and supposedly final term in office expired last year. Eastern Congo was the main theatre of two devastating civil wars, fought in 1996-1997 and then from 1998 to 2003. It still plays host to dozens of small, armed groups, many of them local “self-defence” militias known as Mai-Mai. But recent months have seen the emergence of at least two new insurgencies that claim to have increasingly broad support in their shared aim of toppling Kabila. South Kivu In June, the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNSPC), led by former national army ally William Yakutumba, began taking on army positions in South Kivu Province. In late September, it attacked the lakeside town of Uvira, using heavy weapons and speedboats, before being beaten back by UN peacekeepers. Yakutumba has publicly boasted of having 10,000 fighters under his command. While the true number is impossible to establish, analysts suggest it could be fewer than 1,000. In late September, top army General Didier Etumba described CNSPC as a “flash in the pan” and said: “We’re going to put it out.” But Delphin Ntanyoma Rukumbuzi, a conflict reseracher and Congo expert at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, told IRIN that Yakutumba’s force drove the national army out of a fairly large area and resisted counter-attacks, although it is unclear where it is now. “He has disappeared into thin air with his weapons and fighters, which also raises questions about his plans for the near future,” he said. “Anything is possible, but I think he will need more military tactics, as well as human, financial, and political resources to overthrow the Kabila regime.” For Rukumbuzi, youths recruited by CNSPC are also more likely to be motivated by chronic marginalisation and historic inter-ethnic rivalries than by any preoccupation with who is in power in distant Kinshasa. Noting that South Kivu is also home to a range of other armed groups, Rukumbuzi warned: “It is a volatile situation that could set this Great Lakes region alight if it is not contained.” North Kivu In neighbouring North Kivu, another group, calling itself the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR), has been attacking villages and towns since June. MNR spokesman John Mahangaiko Apipawe told IRIN the group had been set up in 2015 and spent the next two years discreetly organising and planning its actions. “At the outset, we couldn’t give out information about our operations for fear of being stillborn. If, today, we are in a position to claim certain actions, it is because we are already strong,” he said. Speaking on the UN’s Radio Okapi in July, North Kivu Governor Julien Pulaku said recent attacks appeared to be beyond the capabilities of local Mai-Mai groups and that a new rebellion was emerging. When the Mai-Mai launch attacks, “they only resist the army’s firepower for 30 or 40 minutes. What we are seeing today is that the alleged Mai-Mai are resisting for one or two or three hours and plan attacks on three, four, or five locations within a month. This suggests a supply of munitions and heavy weapons.” However, government spokesman Lambert Mende told IRIN the attacks claimed by MNR are the work of bandits. “They are only there to loot people and our natural resources. That’s why we take this opportunity to warn them. Whatever their demands, whatever their origins, whatever internal or external support they have, there is no more time for negotiation,” said Mende. “Just as we defeated the M23 [rebels in 2013], we will also meet them with arms. Our forces are there for that. Those guilty of crimes will find themselves up against their natural judges.” But Pulaku, North Kivu governor for 10[...]

"People are dying every day" – CAR refugees fleeing war suffer in Congo

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:15:02 +0000

The camps of ramshackle mud-brick shelters line the banks of the River Ubangi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Inside, refugees from Central African Republic are suffering: from heat, from hunger, from disease. At a registration centre in Lembo, a small village in Congo’s Nord-Ubangi province, Esther Youkov’s son was the latest victim. Just one and a half years old, he fell sick with malaria last week. First came the vomiting, then the diarrhoea, then the fever. Youkov approached a local clinic for medicine but couldn’t afford the treatment. Her son died shortly after midnight on the morning she spoke to IRIN. His name was Jean Akalozo. “He died because I am a refugee,” Youkov whispered, struggling for words just a few hours after the funeral. “Here, we have nothing.” After four years of conflict, refugees are once again pouring across CAR’s borders. In five months, 64,000 have fled from towns and villages in southeast CAR to isolated river communities in neighbouring Congo. They are fleeing a country reaching levels of violence not seen since 2013 and 2014, when a coalition of largely Muslim rebel groups called the Séléka took power in a coup, triggering a backlash from a network of Christian self-defence militias called anti-balaka. “The crisis right now has reached the same level as before,” said Balkissa Ide Siddo, Central Africa researcher for Amnesty International. The latest fighting has its roots in the splintering of the Séléka coalition. It began when the group’s leader, Michel Djotodia, stepped down as president and its fighters left CAR’s capital, Bangui, in January 2014. It escalated in late 2016 when a coalition led by one ex-Séléka faction – the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic, or FPRC, began fighting another: the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic, a predominantly Fulani rebel group that refused to join the coalition.                                             The revenge of Ali Darassa Both sides have since committed atrocities against civilians, but in Nord-Ubangi most refugees have fled attacks by the latter, the UPC. Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN Fabrice Nzongba stares across the river to the village of Mobaye, where his son was killed                                                                                     Louis Ndagbia, 58, was sitting outside his house early in the morning on 17 May when UPC fighters arrived in the village of Yama Makimbou. A bullet fizzed past his chest and hit his neighbour, Dieudonne Balekouzou, in the side. He died instantly. In nearby Mobaye, Alexis Panda also fled on 17 May when UPC combatants stormed his village, burned down houses and executed fleeing civilians. He said he saw roughly 100 bodies scattered on the ground that day, and lost two members of his family: his younger brother, Saturnnain Ndagbia, and his cousin, Gaby Agbada. Now “there is nobody left in Mobaye to mourn the bodies,” he said. The conflict spread to southeast CAR after the UN’s peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, negotiated the removal of the UPC and its leader, Ali Darassa, from its headquarters in Bambari. The idea was to create an “armed group-free zone” in CAR’s second largest city. Dislodged from its stronghold, the UPC reorganised in the southeast, an area with no MINUSCA presence that had also been recently vacated by American and Ugandan troops deployed on a mission against Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). “MINUSCA should have made sure that wherever Darassa went after Bambari the population was safe,” said Siddo. “As far as I'm aware, no measures were taken.” As the UPC moved south it was pursued by the FPRC, working alongside anti-balaka groups it once fought against. A pattern of reprisal killings emerged where coalition fighters targeted ethnic Fulani and the UPC targ[...]

Congo, chemical weapons, and sex work in crisis settings: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 16:13:12 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   The worst kind of club   The Democratic Republic of Congo has joined a club no country wants to join: It has been named a "Level 3" emergency by the international relief community. The "L3" designation is meant to galvanise a more ambitious and urgent response from the UN, NGOs, and donors. An OCHA spokesperson confirmed the decision to IRIN, saying the measure will last for an initial six months and is focused on the situation in the greater Kasai region, as well as Tanganyika and South Kivu, where conflict and displacement have soared this year. OCHA says only 30 percent of this year's humanitarian appeal was funded – a 10-year low. Informed sources say a new UN humanitarian coordinator, Canadian Kim Bolduc, will be deployed. Decisions to declare an L3 come from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which includes the major UN agencies and international NGO groups. Congo is the fourth current L3 response. The others are for operations in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Previous L3s have at one time been declared for Central African Republic, the Philippines and South Sudan.    How to negotiate with armed groups   Staying in similar territory, what do members of armed groups really think of humanitarian workers? It’s an important question when it comes to safety and operational effectiveness, so the International NGO Safety Organisation asked groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They concluded that the gunmen generally wanted to appear respectful of International Humanitarian Law. But while the presence of aid workers was generally welcomed, there were some sharp criticisms of the humanitarian response. These were based on the supposed incompetence of the NGOs, a perception of skewed recruitment practices, corruption, and the failure to consult with local people leading to poor programming. There was also suspicion of “political behaviour” by some NGOs, including spying. Recommendations by INSO based on the study included: keep talking to the armed groups; keep that messaging consistent; avoid establishing too-personal links that could be misconstrued as bias; don’t ignore the rank-and-file; and be transparent by managing breeches of humanitarian and operational principles rather than ignoring them. The study was conducted in 2014, but only released this week.   Last act for UN chemical weapons probe?   The results are in: A UN investigative panel announced Thursday that the Syrian government’s air force was responsible for an April sarin gas attack that killed dozens in the village of Khan Sheikhoun. This should not come as a surprise – evidence, including a declassified US intelligence report, pointed in that direction early on, although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the whole thing a “fabrication” and Russia said it was caused by a bomb on the ground. The US responded with a cruise missile strike on a Syrian military base, in what appeared to be a return of the chemical weapons “red line”. But this investigation may be the last for the panel (full name: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism), at least in its current form. Just days before the results were announced, Russia, saying it was waiting to see the panel’s Khan Sheikhoun findings, used its Security Council veto to stop a one-year extension of the body’s mandate. The council has until 17 November to renew the JIM, and Russia’s ambassador to the UN has said: “we will return to [the issue].” What that means for independent investigations of a conflict rife with wrongdoing remains to be seen.   No “end to radicalisation”   After five months of fierce clashes demolished parts of the city and raised questions over a new breed of Islamist insurgency, officials in the Philippines this week declared an end to fightin[...]

UN Myanmar overhaul, Congo crisis economics, and a humanitarian handbook: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 13:04:47 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   Congo – follow the money   The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s presidential poll won’t happen until mid-2019, the country’s electoral authority said this week. That’s well beyond the agreed end of year deadline for President Joseph Kabila to step down. What to do? There will be much international deliberation on that. But the Congo Research Group points out that what’s rarely discussed are the economic enablers that influence and shape the current crisis. Large multinational companies are implicated in questionable mining deals, which have included big contracts to members of Kabila’s family. Any substantial financial support to the government by the IMF and World Bank should be conditioned on far greater transparency, the CRG argues. That goes for the election as well. The enormous cost of the exercise – at between $800m and $1.8 billion it’s more than 20 percent of Congo’s annual budget – should give donors pause, the group notes. Not only does the process provide an opportunity for lucrative kickbacks, but also the potential skewing of the final result at this initial registration phase. We’ve been running early warning stories on this topic for a while but look out for our upcoming report on unrest in eastern Congo and an in-depth page dedicated to the crisis, complete with timeline.   What next for UN leadership in Myanmar?   The UN’s resident coordinator in Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, will finish her assignment by the end of October, the UN announced this week amid a refugee crisis that has seen more than 536,000 Rohingya surge into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since 25 August. Lok-Dessallien’s time as the UN’s top official in Myanmar has been controversial, with accusations that she has overseen and contributed to a divided and dysfunctional mission. In July, IRIN reported on a growing schism in the UN system in Myanmar, with accusations that Lok-Dessallien had prioritised a development-focused agenda over one that stressed human rights first – particularly when it came to the Rohingya, who have long faced marginalisation and persecution. So who will replace Lok-Dessallien, and how will that person interact with a Myanmar government that has bristled against international condemnation over the Rohingya issue? The UN plans to convert the resident coordinator role into that of an assistant secretary-general, who would report directly to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. But Myanmar has previously objected to the plan, and Lok-Dessallien’s departure, announced earlier this year, was reportedly delayed because the UN and Myanmar could not agree on a replacement. The UN’s under-secretary-general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is scheduled to be in Myanmar until 17 October. Perhaps this visit will yield the answer about who will replace Lok-Dessallien.   Pacific leaders prepare for COP23   Senior ministers and climate change officials from across the Pacific Islands are meeting next week in Fiji – a last chance for Pacific nations to solidify their priorities ahead of key global climate talks in November. Pacific Island nations are among the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to the effects of climate change. With Fiji chairing November’s UN Climate Change Conference, or COP23, countries in the Pacific Islands  – including several that are facing debilitating drought or recovering from the impacts of tropical cyclones – are hoping to bring a sense of urgency to the yearly meetings. Pacific Island nations are expected to renew calls to push forward with implementing global commitments made under 2015’s Paris Agreement, while also calling for greater access to adaptation and mitigation funds promised as part of the accord. In particular, Pacific Island nations hope [...]

Can Congo’s new child-free army bring lasting change?

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:57:18 +0000

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s military has been removed from the UN’s ‘list of shame’ of armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers – only the second ever delisting after Chad in 2014. It’s a hugely positive step. The UN’s annual Children and Armed Conflict report, released last week, is a key document in highlighting the militaries and armed groups that recruit and commit grave violations against children. This year, 56 state forces and armed groups from 14 countries were named. However, the progress made by the Congolese armed forces, the FARDC, has been a long time coming, and serious concerns remain over sexual violence committed by its soldiers. History of abuse and recruitment Officially formed in 2003, the current national army has for much of its existence been mired in conflicts with Congo’s multiple militias. Violence has long scarred the country, as national and foreign armed groups vie for power and survival in the mineral-rich east. These conflicts have left a trail of death, sexual abuse, and child recruitment across the region. For many years during the 2000s, FARDC forces were among the perpetrators. Exact figures on child recruitment by the army since 2003 are not known. But international observers and human rights groups believe it’s in the thousands, with minors exploited as fighters alongside less official roles as look-outs, porters, messengers, cooks, and sexual slaves – often referred to as “wives”. One of the most significant enabling factors in the army’s use of children has been the fractured and disorganised way it has integrated disparate armed groups into its ranks as part of various peace settlements. In 2009, 12,000 fighters from the National Congress for the Defence of the People and many local self-defence ‘Mai-Mai’ groups surrendered and joined the Congolese army. It was envisaged as a way to stem the deadly conflict – at this point 800,000 civilians had been displaced and thousands more killed in the east. The integration process resulted in hundreds of children being integrated alongside adult fighters. It also led to senior militia commanders maintaining power bases, only now as members of the armed forces, and still continuing to recruit and use children. A 2012-2013 recruitment campaign by the FARDC targeting 18 to 25 year olds also permitted hundreds more children to enrol due to lack of robust screening procedures. UN action plan The signing of a 2012 UN action plan by President Joseph Kabila’s government and the UN marked a major step forward. Between 2009 and 2015, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, and the FARDC assisted with the release of 8,546 children associated with Congo’s armed groups, including from within the army itself. The training of the army and other security forces on child protection issues, and the creation of standard operating procedures on age verification have all helped eliminate the recruitment of children by the armed forces; as has the appointment, in 2014, of Jeanine Mabunda Lioko as special advisor to the president on sexual violence and child recruitment, and the systematic screening and separation of children in the ranks of the armed forces. Culture of impunity remains However, an end to the sexual violence committed by the FARDC and others is yet to materialise. Significantly, the UN report still lists the FARDC as committing “rape and other forms of sexual violence against children”. High-ranking officers of the FARDC, the national police, and leaders of armed groups have been arrested and convicted of sexual violence against children. Members of the FARDC have also been charged with child recruitment, but there have been no convictions to date. Further, in contravention to the action plan and a 2013 Ministry of Defence directive prohibiting the practice, the detention by government forces of children formerly associated with armed groups persists. MONUSCO has note[...]

Angry anglophones, cholera contrast, and a Vanuatu volcano: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 16:38:39 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   A tale of two choleras As if their plight was not desperate enough, the more than 507,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the past six weeks are now facing disease – measles, diphtheria, dysentery and cholera – thanks to serious concerns about the sanitation in sites where they are sheltering (see our report from Cox’s Bazaar this week for the gritty details). In one way (and only one, really), the refugees may be in luck: the World Health Organisation plus other agencies – together calling themselves the Global Task Force on Cholera Control – have just rolled out what they call an “ambitious strategy to reduce deaths from cholera by 90 percent” by 2030. The plan to reduce the estimated 95,000 deaths from cholera each year includes the deployment of vaccines, and 900,000 doses are on their way to Bangladesh to prevent a major outbreak among the Rohingya. But what about Yemen, where the International Committee of the Red Cross fears suspected cholera cases could hit one million by the year-end? A vaccine was on its way back in June, then it wasn’t. The key word to watch here is “suspected” in the cholera numbers – data collection is not easy in Yemen, but it matters for how an outbreak is handled. Check back with IRIN in the coming days for an update on response plans for Yemen: a country in dire need.   Moving beyond crisis in Cameroon   As the so-called “anglophone crisis” in Cameroon continues to escalate, Washington has weighed in with criticism and the UN’s human rights wing today called for political dialogue. On Wednesday, a US State Department spokesman said the Cameroon government’s “use of force to restrict free expression and peaceful assembly, and violence by protestors, are unacceptable.” According to Amnesty International, at least 17 people in English-speaking regions of the northwest and southwest of the country were shot dead and 50 wounded last weekend when they gathered to mark a symbolic declaration of independence. For years, Cameroon’s English speakers, who make up one in five of the country’s inhabitants, have complained of discrimination and marginalisation. These grievances recently hardened from calls for a return to federalism to demands for a fully independent state. Anglophone activists have used improvised bombs and arson attacks and kept many schools closed for more than a year. The African Union today issued its first statement on the crisis since January, saying it was “deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation” and calling on all parties “to exercise restraint" in their pronouncements and to refrain from further acts of violence. The UN and the African Union could perhaps have applied more pressure sooner, but the real responsibility for calming things down lies with the government in Yaoundé. A first step, according to the International Crisis Group’s Richard Moncrieff, would be to acknowledge anglophones’ deep-seated grievances. Next, decentralisation measures outlined in a 1996 constitution – such as the election of regional presidents and councils – should be dusted off and put into practice. This would benefit the whole country, said Moncrieff, generating “a reinvigorated sense of national purpose and cohesiveness, and less risk of renewed violence in anglophone areas.”   In volcano response, Vanuatu keeps it local   Authorities in Vanuatu have evacuated the entire population of Ambae Island after alert levels for the simmering Monaro volcano reached the country’s second-highest stage in late September, putting some 11,600 Ambae residents in danger. A convoy of privately owned boats, commercial vessels, and small planes have shuttled residents to the safety of neighbouring islands. In[...]

Kabila sits tight as Congo crumbles

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 11:30:29 +0000

Violent prison breaks, militiamen attacking the city, a plummeting economy. For the Kinois, residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, they are all symptoms of the same crisis and the fault of the same man: President Joseph Kabila and his refusal to let go of power.                                                                               After 16 years at the helm, Kabila was supposed to hold elections and leave office last year when his second and – under the constitution – final term expired. Instead, he stayed put.   On 31 December, with the country on a knife-edge, an agreement was struck between the government and an opposition coalition known as the Rassemblement. It said elections would be held by the end of 2017 and that Kabila would not stand for a third term.   But with three months until the accord expires, a date for elections is yet to be set and Kabila remains in power, hunkered down in his presidential mansion above the Congo River, as the country – wracked by civil wars in the 90s and early 2000s – crumbles around him.   “The Congolese are living like animals in our own country,” said 34-year-old motorbike taxi driver Freddy Mulume, during a recent general strike called by opposition parties. “We are suffering so much.” Kabila sits tight as Congo crumbles kasai_idps.jpg Philip Kleinfeld Investigations Conflict Politics and Economics KINSHASA IRIN Africa DRC Kabila yet to set election date after term expired in 2016 Election commission stalling in front of numerous hurdles Irregularities already cited in the vote registration process Violence on the rise in several regions of Congo Weakened opposition calls for disobedience campaign Fears of political unrest grow as economy declines Kicking the can down the road (and into the Congo River) At the heart of Kabila’s current strategy to stay in power is control over the Independent National Electoral Commission, or CENI, the body tasked with organising elections that experts say is independent in name alone.   “CENI is considered a big player in driving delays and executing Kabila’s strategy,” said Stephanie Wolters, Congo analyst at the Institute for Security Studies.   In his office in Kinshasa’s gilded district of Gombe, CENI spokesman Jean-Pierre Kalamba disagreed. “CENI is the independent national electoral commission according to the Congolese constitution,” he said. “Those that doubt it, we put down to ignorance.”   But to date the commission has failed to publish an electoral calendar and faces a truly daunting workload, which several Kinshasa-based election experts and observers – all of whom requested anonymity – told IRIN could keep Kabila in power for years to come.   First, CENI must complete the electoral register. While most voters have now been enrolled, registration has only just begun in the conflict-torn provinces of Kasai and Kasai-Central. Kalamba said this is likely to finish in January, already taking Kabila beyond the 31 December deadline and sending Congo back into the political unknown.    A plan for how to organise the registration of Congolese voters living abroad is also yet to be decided, despite biometric kits for the diaspora being ready for months. “The kits are just sitting there in boxes,” said one expert. “For CENI, it is an extra way of buying time.”   After the registration process is complete, data must be brought to Kinshasa for analysis. This will involve removing cases where citizens have enrolled on more than one occasion and could take several months, depending on the resources CENI dedicates and the capacity of its servers.   This “should have started at the very beginning of the [...]

Evicting Kabila, rebuilding Dominica, and liberating Hawija: The Cheat Sheet

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:34:13 +0000

IRIN’s specialist editors have scanned the humanitarian horizon to keep you up to speed with this forward-looking weekly news digest:   Kabila unbowed   The Congolese opposition is adamant – no more talking: President Joseph Kabila must go by the end of the year, when the extension of his mandate brokered by the Catholic Church expires. But, asks the Congo Research Group, does the opposition really have the leverage? At the UN meeting this week on Congo’s delayed elections, “the sentiment expressed by African delegates was almost unanimous: Kabila has engaged in good-faith efforts to negotiate with the opposition, the electoral process should be given time.” There was no talk, even by Western donors, of Kabila stepping down at the end of 2017. According to CRG, donors think that sooner or later Kabila will be forced to hold elections, as was supposed to have happened at the end of his second term in December 2016. What the donors want to avoid is for Kabila to change the constitution and run for a third term, or rig the ballot. Those are big asks: in the meantime, Kabila appears to have the upper hand. Look out for IRIN’s upcoming report on the unfolding political crisis.   Liberating Hawija   Hawija is, in many ways, a forgotten siege. The city has been under control of so-called Islamic State since 2014, and while it was once thought to be ahead of Mosul in the queue for liberation, as IRIN pointed out back in July, the operation was complicated by competing but allied anti-IS forces laying siege to the city. It’s never garnered the headlines of a Mosul, even though 100,000 people are believed to have fled the city, but now Hawija will have its turn. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Thursday that an assault had begun, while the UN warned of an estimated 85,000 people still in Hawija and nearby east Shirqat – Save the Children pointed out this may include as many as 35,000 children. It is likely to be some time before Iraqi and coalition forces get to the city itself and we understand the fate of its civilians, which will be further complicated by Monday’s planned independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. Oil-rich Kirkuk is one of the disputed territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. What does that really mean when a vote plus guns and political and battlefield rivalries are in the mix? We're about to find out.   Disaster follow-up   Back-to-back Cat-5 hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed the Caribbean, testing disaster management systems and human resilience to the limit. IRIN is covering the impact and response and, with a longer perspective, the context. Aboard the first fixed-wing aid flight into Dominica, today we bring you scenes of stunned survivors, aerial footage from overflights, and detailed reportage from the capital city relief operations centre. The prime minister said the country has to come back "from zero". Will the country be swamped by the wrong kind of "aid"? Will donors and the UN get behind a regionally-led response? Will the rest of the world pay attention? Can innovations and solutions such as disaster insurance offer any hope? From the deserted backyards of Barbuda to the operations centre in Roseau, Dominica's capital, we will continue coverage of operations as they unfold. Let us know what you think at Check our Facebook and Twitter feeds for additional photos and video clips.   Did you miss it?   Lessons learnt? Not in Afghanistan   Ill-prepared, understaffed, and poorly organised: A new report by the US government watchdog on reconstruction in Afghanistan offers a sobering summary of efforts to rebuild and train Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces. The “lessons learned” report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which reports to Congress on how US reconstruct[...]