|International panel of experts|
The Medical Research Council (MRC) established in The Gambia in 1947 is being threatened with expulsion from the country by Yaya Jammeh.
MRC is UK-government funded representing the single largest medical research investment in a developing country. The MRC compound in Fajara was part of the British Army Hospital during WWII which was handed over to the MRC at the end of the war.
The Council's research focus is on communicable diseases that are particular to The Gambia and Africa. Malaria research has been a major activity of the unit in addition to the basic scientific research, clinical trials and various types of surveys. The unit has also been involved in the studies of tuberculosis and the HIV/AIDS virus.
The MRC Mission is thus in direct conflict with the herbal treatment of the Gambian dictator which has interfered with the efforts of the international and donor communities, and thus, a great source of frustration.
Although the HIV/AIDS treatment offered by the Gambian dictator has become the butt of jokes worldwide, it raises great concern in medical circles because the program uses coercive means to siphon off patients from medically-sound retroviral treatment programs into Jammeh's treatment program, assisted by Dr. Mbow.
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is added potential source of conflict between the MRC and the Jammeh regime. The international mobilization effort is led by the US, with the full support of the UK government, and the rest of the international community. The seriousness of the effort in containing the virus - an outbreak of the virus that has now reached the United States and may have infected some Europeans who were transiting airline passengers at the Brussels airport.
The outbreak has become very real in the eyes of many, except Jammeh who is insisting on organizing a big gathering in Banjul and Kanilai to celebrate what he calls the 20th Anniversary of the July Revolution.
Finally, the ownership of the present location of the British High Commission (now British Embassy) Compound has never been an issue of contention until Jammeh claimed that the premises legally belonged to the State and not the British government. Legal documents in the custody of the British government proves the contrary.
The MRC premises at Fajara may now be a target by a regime whose anti-British is a matter of public record. We will continue to monitor events as "negotiations" between MRC and the dictatorship continue with the hope that the issue is resolved amicable.
If Jammeh succeeds in expelling the Medical Research Council both the Gambia and the world who benefit from the world-class medical research conducted at the various units will be the losers.