US military experts help East Africa wipe out infectious diseases

08Nov 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
US military experts help East Africa wipe out infectious diseases

Following over a decade of East Africa dynamic cooperation with the US governmental and non-governmental organizations, the most countries of the region have gradually become home to a network of research labs whose initial purpose was to prevent infectious diseases from spreading in the country.

Following over a decade of East Africa dynamic cooperation with the US governmental and non-governmental organizations, the most countries of the region have gradually become home to a network of research labs whose initial purpose was to prevent infectious diseases from spreading in the country. One example is the continued studies conducted by the US military medical staff, based on the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), in Mbeya region (Tanzania).

The objective of the research is to combat HIV/AIDS through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The financial and technical support for PEPFAR primarily comes from the US Military Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and the Walter Reed Program Tanzania (WRP-T).

In addition, American military 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 Tanzania President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).

Such activities carried out by research labs under the guidance of the American military are deeply disturbing for the common man. Alarmingly, most of the abovementioned American structures are handled by the US Department of Defense and its subdivisions that carry out highly hazardous epidemiological research with potentially unpredictable consequences.

To what extent are national authorities and medical structures informed of the experiments involving biologically dangerous viruses and infections? What does society at large know of the objectives and scope of this research? The local counterparts are quite likely to be generally unaware of what is going on – or that the American side has chosen to stay tight-lipped on the real nature of these experiments.

With all this in mind, both governmental structures and ordinary East Africans have fallen prey to the knowledge vacuum, being used by Pentagon as guinea pigs for its bacteriological experiments. No one can guarantee that US military experts, while observing strictly their own national legislation, will abide by national laws of the host countries rather than disregard them “because what happens in the Third World, stays in the Third World.”

There is more to it than merely considerations of ethics and morality. All the Americans employed at the said laboratories in East Africa, including the US military and private contractors, are protected by diplomatic immunities, which, for one, relieves them of any liability to their host country. Besides, as “diplomats “per say they are cleared of any taxes, which inflicts additional burden on the national budget.

It is an open secret that in addition to vaccine development, the US military are working on biological weapons, including lethal viruses and bacteria – in violation of the UN Biological Weapons Convention. Article 8 of The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) catalogues all biological experiments as war crimes.

These illegal and oftentimes shadowy activities carried out in American laboratories have led to outbreaks of infectious diseases uncharacteristic of the region where they took place. Since Lugar Centre opened near Tbilisi, Georgia, epidemics of tularemia and anthrax have been regularly recorded in the area.

A similar situation is at play in West Africa, which sees frequent outbreaks of Ebola virus in the same locations that host US military laboratories. Take the Sierra Leone labs, which operate through Pentagon’s Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP), coordinated by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Similar laboratories are stationed in Uganda and Tanzania, according to local authorities dealing with Ebola and other tropical viruses.

There have been many cases of tuberculosis in Arusha and Manyara regions from January till March this year alone. Outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever have been increasingly frequent as well. And there are still more threats looming ahead.

Recently, the US military epidemiologists have displayed an increasing interest in biological research at the request of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DAPRA). The research focuses on CRISPR (Clustered Regular Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a technology that involves the Cas9 protein.

Now, there are plans by Pentagon to move these research projects abroad – mainly to Africa. This breakthrough technology has, however, unpredictable side effects stemming from selective genetic editing of various organisms, including humans.

In addition to these areas of US-East Africa “healthcare cooperation,” the activities of multiple American government and private institutions working under the umbrella of USAID/WRP in combating HIV/AIDS and malaria remains largely a mystery. It is only known that under the guise of “joint experiments” US doctors collect blood samples from the ordinary Tanzanians. These samples are later sent to the US for purposes of “further research.”

Right now the situation in East Africa is alarmingly similar to the countries of the West of the continent, where hundreds, even thousands of representatives of American NGOs are mostly Pentagon employees. What these “healthcare experts” do is carry out doubtful tests and experiments in the highly hazardous area of infectious diseases without any control of the official authorities.

The citizens have little to no idea just how and for what purposes the results of these tests will be used in Pentagon. Given the ultimate unpredictability of the current US administration, it is worth considering the futility of carrying out all this research by foreign experts in deadly viruses and bacteria. The situation may become even more unpredictable, should the US military launch biological experiments in CRISPR in African countries, including Tanzania.