Ebola crisis in Africa: Cuba sends health care workers, U.S. sends troops

Eight experts and journalists visiting the West African state of Guinea were found dead in Nzerekore on Sept. 20. They went there to educate about preventing the spread of Ebola. Reports from Guinea say the delegation met with community elders, then was later attacked by youths.

Guinea is the first country identified in the latest spread of the disease, which has periodically struck in Central and West Africa over the last three decades.

Although the motives are not known for the killings, many people mistrust the motivations of foreign aid workers responding to the crisis. Doctors Without Borders reported in April that their teams had to withdraw from Macenta in Guinea after being stoned by youths who said the teams were there to spread the disease.

In fact, mistrust surrounds Ebola’s spread in some West African states impacted by the epidemic. Newspaper articles and rumors say the outbreak results from ­biological warfare waged by imperialist countries against the African ­continent.

Bio-weapons and economic

The most controversial article related to Ebola’s spread was published by Liberia’s leading newspaper, The Observer on Sept. 9. Dr. Cyril Broderick, a former plant pathology professor at the university there, asserted that the disease’s spread stems from U.S. Department of Defense bio-warfare against Africa.

Broderick’s article stated, “Africa must not relegate the Continent to become the locality for disposal … of hazardous chemicals, dangerous drugs, and … biological agents of emerging diseases. There is urgent need for affirmative action in protecting the less affluent of poorer countries, especially African citizens, whose countries are not as scientifically and industrially endowed as the United States and most Western countries, sources of most viral or bacterial GMOs that are strategically designed as biological weapons. It is most disturbing that the U. S. Government has been operating a viral hemorrhagic fever bioterrorism research laboratory in Sierra Leone.”

This author asks if there are others, then “it is time to terminate them. If any ­other sites exist, it is advisable to follow the delayed but essential step: Sierra Leone closed the U.S. bioweapons lab and stopped Tulane University [from] further testing.”

Broderick has been criticized by “western pro-pharma media,” which say “that such an inflammatory piece of writing is ‘irresponsible’ since so many Africans” already distrust Western medicine. “They see western medicine as the answer to Africa’s deadly diseases such as Ebola, while Dr. Broderick sees it as the cause. [He] states, ‘African people are not ignorant and gullible, as is being implicated.’” (Health Impact News, Sept. 22)

While U.S. deploys more troops …

President Barack Obama announced on Sept. 16 that the U.S. would deploy 3,000 troops to the affected West African states to combat the disease. He said, “The United States will leverage the unique capabilities of the U.S. military and broader uniformed services to help bring the epidemic under control. These efforts will entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support.” (White House press statement)

Washington is already involved militarily in Africa. Several thousand Pentagon troops, Central Intelligence Agency operatives and State Department functionaries are there with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). This intervention since 2008 has created more instability and underdevelopment in Africa — in Egypt, Mali, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria — where the ostensible partnerships aimed at curbing “terrorism” have intensified conflict, dislocation and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Pentagon and CIA drones have carried out targeted assassinations in Somalia. In Mali, a U.S.-trained military officer staged a coup providing a rationale for internal destabilization and France’s ongoing occupation.

Cuba offers medical solidarity

Meanwhile, revolutionary Cuba pledged to send medical personnel to help fight Ebola. Cuba has a profound history of providing unconditional solidarity on the African continent. Cuba has built up considerable trust there due to its consistent policy of international solidarity. This approach contrasts sharply with that of the White House and Pentagon.

Cuba’s Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Abelardo Moreno told the U.N. Security Council emergency session on Ebola on Sept. 18, “Cuba’s response is part of our solidarity with Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the last 55 years we have collaborated in more than 158 countries, with … 325,710 health workers. [Some] 76,744 collaborators have worked in 39 African countries. Today, in this sector, 4,048 Cubans are serving in 32 African nations; 2,269 of whom are doctors.” (granma.cu, Sept. 19)

Moreno reported, “The medical brigades [going] to Africa to fight against Ebola form part of the ‘Henry Reeve International Contingent,’ created in 2005. [It is] composed of doctors specializing in combating disasters and large-scale epidemics. Cuba’s response confirms the values of solidarity which have guided the Cuban Revolution … to share what we have.”

At least three countries report improvements in fighting Ebola and its proliferation. In Nigeria, the federal government reopened schools on Sept. 22 despite opposition from sections of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.

In Sierra Leone, a state of emergency restricted movements for three days. The government announced on Sept. 22 that the situation was under control. Similar announcements were made in Senegal where at least one case has been reported.

Nonetheless, 3,000 deaths have been attributed to the disease. There are still questions about the conditions under which the disease is spread and the most effective means to treat and eradicate the epidemic. (WHO Update, Sept. 22)

This outbreak shows the need for genuine independence and development on the African continent. The training of medical personnel and scientific researchers would contribute immensely to preventing future health care crises.

Cuban revolutionary foreign policy exemplifies how underdeveloped states — which have a legacy of slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism — can transform through class struggle and self-reliance. Despite more than five decades of hostility from the U.S., Cuba has been able to significantly contribute to African liberation — whether in the past fight against settler-colonialism in Southern Africa — or through today’s challenges involving the Ebola outbreak, the training of African medical personnel and other health care issues.