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Tackling the African puzzle

Tackling the African puzzle

Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, disrupting social life and affecting economies.

Since its outbreak in December 2019, little success has been registered in terms of containing the spread of the deadly virus.

Recent developments are not making matters better as the new virus variant claims more lives.

New infections and death toll tells more than a sad story. Speculations over the bio-lab experiments which resulted in the outbreak continue to spread around the world.

The hypothesis has people suspecting a connection between the virus and a biological lab-leak.

World Health Organization (WHO) investigation has cleared the Wuhan Lab of virus leak, which only led to more alarming caution.

Countries around the world should be worried about experiments and research activities on biological agents, which if not handled properly, could lead to mass killing.

The use of modified infectious diseases in warfare is not new. In 1981, for example, the Cuban government blamed the US for an outbreak of dengue hemorrhagic fever, a vector-borne disease usually carried by mosquitoes.

The virus affected more than 344,000 people and resulted in 158 deaths, including 101 children. Similar viruses and bacteria were used against the Korean people during the 1950-53 war.

The risk of biological attacks by a foreign country is real and the threats are increasingly growing.

The September-October 2001 biological attacks in the US in which several anthrax spores were discovered is among the cases.

There are countries with advanced capability to develop chemical and biological weapons.

In this case, accusations of biological warfare conspiracies directed against such nations are not new.

Although the veracity of such claims remains murky, prevailing animosity between the two states speaks volumes.

The US has also been blamed for a series of experiments with anthrax, code named Project Bacchus, Project Clear Vision and Project Jefferson in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2000, the US was forced to admit that its “Project 112” program conducted large-scale biological weapons testing throughout the world during the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the areas most affected were Egypt, Liberia, South Korea, Japan, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

According to various media reports, the US operates more than 200 biological laboratories across the world, with more than 30 of such facilities having been exposed.

A report published in 2018, a Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva alleged that the US operates labs in at least 25 countries across the globe, with some located in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and in former Soviet Union countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.

Iraq and Afghanistan are also mentioned. Critics have claimed that American Scientists draw a thin line between the US works on non-lethal agents on one hand and the stance on biological warfare and the use of biological agents on the other hand.

For years, critics have claimed that interpretations differ with protocols of the international community in efforts to control the use of non-lethal biological agents as well as those outlawing biological warfare.

It seems as though the interpretation of what falls under the allowed research range on bio weapons or non-lethal biological agents remains under the jurisdiction of the lab operator.

Intellectuals have also argued that it is widely accepted under the international legal framework and within the context of the law that a biological agent can be understood as “any micro-organism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product that may be engineered as a result of biotechnology, or any naturally occurring or bioengineered component of any such microorganism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product, capable of causing death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism; deterioration of food, water, equipment, supplies, or material of any kind...” Literatures on conventions which prohibit Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons stipulate that all States Parties to such conventions have the same rights and obligations.

For example, under the Biological Weapon Convention States Parties have the right to request a formal investigation of all P3 and P4 labs worldwide through the UN Security Council if they believe that another state has violated the convention. Washington’s unwillingness to support the idea of a protocol to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons in order to create a verification mechanism makes one wonder what goals the US seeks to achieve through its overseas bio-labs.

The one-million dollar question now remains: What’s the true nature and purpose of the US oversea bio-labs and what exactly has been going on under such facilities?

Critics have drawn up a connection between such biological laboratories, their locations as well as epidemic outbreaks in certain parts of the world.

They even went as far to assert that Ebola and AIDS virus were genetically modified organisms developed as biological weapons and delivered to Africa for testing.

But how they were developed, introduced and spread within the areas is still a million dollar question.

Medical experts in Africa have linked epidemic outbreaks to biological laboratories activities.

In West Africa, for example, an outbreak of Ebola fever pathogens happened in regions where the American biological laboratories are located. Frequent outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Dengue fever in Africa have raised widespread concerns about safety and security of the host countries, whose oversight over these labs activities is adequate to protect their public.

Unsurprisingly, unlike what the western funded media did to drive the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis, they were not heard chanting similar speculations when outbreaks of other deadly viral diseases were reported in the vicinity of US bio-lab facilities in some parts of the world.

But instead of initiating an international investigation and putting pressure on the US to be transparent on its bio-lab activities, many countries which host such labs and the international media have opted to remain mum.

It is thus imperative for other countries to worry about what the US is doing in those overseas bio-labs due to frequent reports of outbreak of infectious disease in some areas where medical research has been going on in such facilities.

Such situations connect well with cautions raised in February 2020, by former Tanzanian President, the late John Magufuli, during a public event.

According to him, the commitment of the global vaccine industry to save Africans and the world from diseases begs more questions than answers.

“If they (vaccine developers) were genuine; they would have already brought us vaccines for HIV, cancer, TB and malaria. Be careful with things that are brought from outside; don’t think they love you that much,” he was quoted by the media as saying during the launch of a public forest in Chato, Geita Region.

Several clinical trials for Ebola, HIV/Aids, TB and malaria and other infectious diseases have been carried out for years in Africa with little success in finding the lasting solution to control the diseases.

Some examples are the continued studies conducted by the US epidemiologists in several parts of the continent, including in Uganda, Tanzania, the DRC and in some parts of the West African region.

In Tanzania for instance, medical studies to combat HIV/AIDS are being carried out through PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which its finances and technical support primarily comes from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and the Walter Reed Program Tanzania (WRP-T).

In addition, American epidemiologists continue biological research on various infectious diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Dengue fever, West Nile and Zika viruses – all this within the framework of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). It is unfortunate that these kinds of foreign-Africa health cooperation lack a tight and close monitoring from the host countries.

Africans must be mindful so that we are not used for medical research trials of some doubtful infectious diseases and vaccines which can have serious repercussions on our health.

It is really important that Africans should, as a society, do their due diligence.

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Author: AGENCY

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