Kenya’s effort to shield its citizens against the deadly Ebola epidemic took a new turn Wednesday after a businessman accused the US government of owning the virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa and caused havoc in the aviation industry.
The sensational claim was made in suit papers supporting businessman Joseph Enock Aura’s quest to have the High Court throw out a case filed by the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) lobby group seeking to compel national carrier Kenya Airways to stop flying to West African nations hit by the Ebola epidemic.
Mr Aura told the court that the United States government had patented the Ebola virus, its vaccine and cure in October 2012 and should be compelled to bring the health crisis to a stop instead of targeting the national carrier.
“Ebola is patented under the United States patent number WO 2010048615 A2 as confirmed by the US patent office and in the same document is an explanation of a cure and vaccine for Ebobun Ebola,” said Harrison Kinyanjui, the lawyer representing Mr Aura.
The World Health Organisation has, however, maintained that there is no licensed cure for the deadly viral disease.
Mr Aura has attached to his suit papers documents showing that the US government tasked Jonathan Towner, Stuart Nichol, James Comer, and Thomas Ksalzek Peirre Rollin, all from the state of Georgia with the job of developing a strain of the virus, a vaccine and a cure for it.
The document further states that the intention of the assignment was to find a scientific method for “detection and treatment of Ebobun infection”.
Mr Aura made the claim as Nigeria, one of the affected West African countries, declined to use an experimental drug from the United States. Nigeria’s Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the drug had failed to meet safety and ethical requirements.
The drug Nano Silver was developed by Natural Solutions Foundation, an American company that claims it is capable of curing not only Ebola, but also other communicable diseases.
High Court judge Isaac Lenaola told Mr Aura to serve Cofek, KQ, the Attorney-General and the cabinet secretaries for the Transport, Health and Interior ministries with his application before close of business Wednesday.
Mr Aura argues that the matter would not have gone before the court had it been put to the public for discussion and determination.
“The story generated by these proceedings has gained notoriety around the globe as an appendage of the information about ‘Ebola’. The impression generated is that the Kenyan consumer is actively backing these proceedings, which is certainly not the case,” the businessman said.
The outbreak of Ebola, a deadly haemorrhagic fever that has so far claimed more than 1200 lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, has left the world with a global health crisis that has paralysed businesses worth billions of shillings worldwide.
The served parties have until Monday to respond to the application before hearing begins on Tuesday.
The matter comes days after the national carrier was forced to refund hundreds of passengers money it had collected from ticket sales following suspension of flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone on Tuesday.
Mr Aura has applied to join a case in which Cofek wants KQ compelled to stop flying to West Africa until the Ebola crisis in contained.
Cofek on Monday told the court that by continuing to fly to Ebola-infested West Africa, the national carrier had put commercial interests before public safety.
It is also seeking a determination as to whether the decision to continue flying to the affected countries should be left entirely to the airline.
Mr Aura has faulted the lobby’s application to have KQ stopped from flying to affected countries, arguing that it is discriminatory as infected people can still enter Kenya even if the flights are suspended.
“The measures targeted at KQ are clearly discriminatory and of a negative economic impact because they cannot prevent the spread of Ebola via public transportation. Infected persons can travel by road from any West African country to any other part of Africa and thereafter take a flight other than KQ to Kenya,” Mr Aura says in his suit papers.
Kenyan media on Tuesday reported that more than 100 West Africans had used the Busia border to either enter or leave Kenya.
Public health officials have asked the national and county governments to tighten security at the country’s borders to reduce the influx of foreigners along unauthorised routes.
Cofek, argues Mr Aura, neither consulted the public nor any frequent KQ flyer before lodging the suit in the High Court.