EXCLUSIVE: US envoy to UN speaks out on neutrality, sanctions and labs

Monday March 21 2022
Linda pic

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaking during virtual interview with The Citizen.

By Paul Owere

Dar es Salaam. US ambassador to the United Nations and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield has spoken out on the allegations that America has a host of bio-labs across the world including Tanzania.

In an exclusive virtual interview with The Citizen which comes just days after US undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland told the world that there were research facilities in Ukraine, Ms Thomas-Greenfield confirmed that there were such facilities across Africa but with a sole purpose of research and not otherwise.

“What we are supporting is research that will support countries including Tanzania and I explained that very clearly at the Security Council when I spoke about these issues and that we are doing research that will help these countries address pandemics in the future,” she said.

She also added: “If you don’t do it then we cannot be prepared for such pandemics in the future; this is not about biological war or using chemicals. Why would Tanzania want to be engaged in something like that with the United States?”


Research collaborations

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Documents available to The Citizen show that the US government has been providing a broad range of laboratory support to Tanzania for many years, through the US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The support is said to have started in 1999, with the US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research partnering with the National Institute of Research (NIMR) to conduct HIV and Ebola vaccine studies as well as to conduct research to improve the outcomes for HIV infected Tanzanians.

Although it does not show the exact places where the researches have been held in over two decades, the document shows that the Walter Reed-NMRI partnership has produced several HIV vaccine studies that have advanced understanding of HIV disease progression in the region.

In Mbeya Region, the partnership has established what they have called first-rate HIV clinical services.

The Walter Reed - Tanzania has also since 2004, been working with hospitals in the southern highland regions and in clinics operated by the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces - providing HIV drugs and a range of clinical and social services, including Covid-19 vaccination.

On the other hand the CDC has worked with the government of Tanzania since 2008 to scale-up laboratory capacity, quality assurance, and diagnostics in the country.


Neutrality

During the interview, Ms Thomas-Greenfield also touched on the recent voting patterns at the United Nations Security Council where certain countries chose to abstain from voting against Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine saying there was no room for neutrality.

“Neutrality in the face of atrocities is not acceptable, silence in the face of atrocities is unacceptable, I cannot imagine that anyone in Tanzania seeing a hospital attacked and a pregnant woman being wheeled out bleeding is acceptable,” the US envoy to the UN.

She added that to be neutral basically says you don’t care and I know that people in Tanzania and the entire continent of Africa care, so it is important that we condemn these actions in no uncertain terms.

“Russia should not see any divisions within the international community, our values and our support for the UN Charter; we have to all speak up against this war.”

Tanzania was among the countries that abstained from the vote at the UN Security Council alongside her neighbours Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.


US military missions

Despite the US and its allies having conducted such similar missions in several parts of the world such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yugoslavia, the envoy insists that these missions were justified and were carried out with blessings of the UN Security Council.

“I don’t think there is any evidence of the United States loading up its military and going into a country without having a justified reason for doing that, but it still doesn’t change the fact that what we are seeing in the Ukraine is unacceptable,” she said.


Effects of sanctions

The US government and its European allies have imposed a slew of sanctions against the Russian government but the outcome has been disastrous for both ends with pundits saying it is set to hit developing economies even harder.

With many yet to heal from the effects of the global pandemic, petroleum products and gas prices have hit record high prices across the world with many pointing at the sanctions as the cause for this; however, the US diplomat does not see it that way.

She says supply of essential goods such as oil and gas is not reaching people because of the war and not the sanctions.

“The American people are suffering as well, the administration and our European colleagues have done everything possible to mitigate the impact of the sanctions but the main fear lies with the Russians. Russia is the aggressor, therefore responsible for what is happening,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield.

“I know that a large number of African countries depend on wheat from Ukraine. That wheat cannot move because of the war not because of the sanctions and so for the oil.

“The sanctions were meant to apply pressure on the Russians to encourage Putin to stop this war and everything is being done to support those feeling the impact of the war,” she added.