An inside look at why the US has deployed its military to fight Ebola and Western media coverage of this “rescue mission”
Over the last month, efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa,
especially Liberia, have dominated the news on all international cable
and satellite television. United States President Barack Obama has even
deployed the American military to save Liberians from the scourge of
this disease. The Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives
daily press briefings about its efforts to save the people of West
Africa from this epidemic. Missing in the big Ebola story are efforts by
West Africans (and other Africans) to save themselves.
The story is depressing because one wonders what the governments
there are doing themselves to save their citizens. This is especially so
because Liberia and Sierra Leone are often praised for being
“democratic,” managed by responsible governments that care about their
citizens. It is possible there are many efforts by these governments to
save their people but the avalanche of self-congratulatory news-reports
by Western journalists and their media outlets obscures these efforts.
However, that Ebola has lasted this long and has claimed well over 4,000
lives is very revealing.
This is not the first time Ebola has struck. Uganda has been hit by
Ebola four times over the last 14 years. The first time was in Gulu,
northern Uganda in October 2000 (where 393 people got infected) and it
spread to Mbarara (five infections) and Masindi (27 infections) making a
total of 425 infections. There were 224 deaths and the epidemic was
declared over within three months. In December 2007, Ebola struck again
in Bundibugyo, infecting 149 people with 37 deaths but it was done away
with in two months. Ebola struck a third time in Kibale, infecting 24
people and killing 17 but was over within a month. The last time Ebola
hit Uganda was in November 2012 and it infected only 15 people, killed
four and was over in a month.
There are many problems with the Uganda healthcare system but we can
give our corrupt and incompetent government credit for containing Ebola.
The spectacle of the American military being deployed to save Ugandans
from Ebola has been avoided. The efforts to save Africans, which are
favoured by sections of Western governments and populations, usually
compound rather than remove the problem.
For example, Liberia was saved from civil war by American troops,
Sierra Leone by the British army. Since then these two countries have
been managed as trusteeships by the “international community” through
the United Nations, the World Bank, the EU and other Western agencies.
If such foreign interventions work, how come there is limited
governmental ability to contain the epidemic?
Indeed, over the last 15 years, Western media, academia and
governments have been singing praises of the democratic character of the
governments in Sierra Leone and Liberia. They have said that these are
liberal multiparty democracies, holding free and fair regular elections,
enjoying a free press, having effective checks and balances on the
exercise of power and hence high government responsiveness to the
interests of ordinary citizens. However, my friends from these
countries, especially award winning Sierra Leonean journalist, Sorious
Samora, has been telling me that Western tales of accountable government
in Sierra Leone are bogus.
Sierra Leone and Liberia are experimental labs for outsiders seeking
to prove that the best efforts to save Africans have to come from
outside. Western governments train their armies, run their
bureaucracies, guard their presidents etc. Their leaders are thus
celebrities in London and Washington DC where they are given Nobel
prizes for peace. Meanwhile, back home, their citizens wallow in poverty
and misery and there is little trace of government on the ground. That
is why Ebola has devastated them.
The failure in Liberia and Sierra Leone to contain Ebola is largely a
product of inability by these so-called “liberal democracies” to build
effective governments that can serve their citizens and thereby win
their confidence and support. Their elected leaders are a cabal of
elites involved in anarchical grabbing of public resources. Rather than
serve their people, the leaders of these nations have been keen to
please those in London and Washington who keep them in power and
therefore whose interests they serve. Consequently, ordinary people in
Liberia and Sierra Leone were going to hospitals and removing their
sick, taking them back home for treatment. Others are refusing to take
the sick to hospital all together. In Liberia many people think public
announcements about Ebola are a trick by the government to cause a
stampede in order to get foreign aid dollars from abroad. The presence
of American troops saving Liberians is exactly what Western media want –
to show their nations off as caring and prove that Africa doesn’t work.
These lessons came to me last week when I watched a BBC documentary
titled Rwanda: the untold story. When Rwanda faced a major disaster of
genocidal proportions, these saviors ran away. Rwandans rose to the
occasion and liberated themselves. Since then Rwanda has pursued an
independent project of reconstructing the state and economy and
reconciling its people. This project has been successful beyond measure.
But sections of Western society don’t want an African-led success
story. They have grown increasingly angry because President Paul Kagame
is setting a wrong example.
Just imagine if it was the American troops that ended the genocide in
Rwanda in 1994! The American general commanding the war would have won a
Nobel peace prize; Hollywood would have acted more than 100 movies
telling of his heroic exploits and those of gallant Americans troops.
Kagame and his soldiers destabilised this consensus by stepping unto the
plate and saving Rwanda from self-destruction. Many well-meaning people
in the West appreciate this. But sections of Western society have never
accepted that this example should stand, hence documentaries and
“academic” research to prove that RPF did not actually stop the genocide
but that it actually perpetrated it.
Recently there was a story in the Wall Street Journal explaining how
CDC had helped Uganda learn how to contain Ebola. It went to great
length to explain the role of America in helping Uganda. There was not a
single sentence on the efforts of Ugandan doctors, nurses, and
political leaders who mobilised resources, organised people and
conducted mass sensitisation campaigns to contain the virus. The message
was simple but fundamental: every failure in Africa is African and
every solution must be Western. Welcome to the world!