For whose benefit is the WHO's proposed second probe?
Stephen Ndegwa
WHO expert team visited Wuhan Institute of Virology during its mission investigating the origins of the coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, February 3, 2021. /VCG

WHO expert team visited Wuhan Institute of Virology during its mission investigating the origins of the coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, February 3, 2021. /VCG

Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa is a Nairobi-based communication expert, lecturer-scholar at the United States International University-Africa, author and international affairs columnist. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

It came as a shock, the bombshell, that the World Health Organization (WHO) plans a second investigation into COVID-19's origins focusing on the Wuhan laboratory conspiracy theory.

The WHO's unexpected announcement on Thursday that it would follow leads that several workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill with a viral disease in December 2019 prior to the first documented COVID-19 cases has put not just the target of the probe in a quandary, but the global scientific world as well.

In response, Yuan Zhiming, director of China's National Biosafety Laboratory and professor at the WIV, said at Thursday's media briefing that no employee or student at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was infected with the coronavirus, and no pathogen leakage or human infection occurred in Wuhan's P4 lab since it was put into operation in 2018.

At the end of March, the WHO published a definitive 120-page report stating that an animal vector was the most likely source of the coronavirus, from where it jumped into human beings through a yet to be identified means. Although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that there was still room for more scientific research, it was basically deemed that any further studies would center on the means of animal to human transmission. 

So the new proposal sounds like a fishing expedition, since it leaves much of its agenda open-ended, coming after the case had been largely settled by the same organization and its associate experts. What really prompted this change of heart? 

From media reports, it is rather obvious that the proposed second probe is a result of pressure from the U.S. and its Western allies comprising the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy countries. U.S. President Joe Biden picked up from where his predecessor Donald Trump left off in perpetuating the Wuhan lab theory by ordering the country's intelligence officials to "redouble" their efforts in investigating the Wuhan lab leak.

A couple of weeks later, G7 leaders signed a joint communique demanding for a "timely," "transparent," and "expert-led" investigation into the coronavirus origins. But the clincher was that the probe should include China. These two instances are clues where the WHO is coming from.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. /W.H.O

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. /W.H.O

Well, the carrot and stick strategy seems to be working as the U.S. resumes full funding of the WHO. While there is no denying that Trump's withdrawal from the global body had left a huge funding deficit that affected its operations, the organization should have used the chance to reinvent itself as a non-partisan body on a mission to serve all and sundry.

Indeed, the WHO's double-dealing does not augur well for its mandate, particularly in helping end the current pandemic. It means that the WHO is following the mantra "who pays the piper calls the tune." The organization was level-headed during America's absence. It stood up to Trump's bullying, indicating that it would not be led down the garden path.

But talk is cheap. Right now, no one can tell the kind of arm twisting or other forms of subtle manipulation that have gone on behind the scenes, with the U.S. determined to have its way contrary to its appeal of sticking to science.

Still, China's rejection of a second probe should not be misconstrued as complicity or guilt. It is an insult to the intelligence of the experts who spent months painstakingly trying to get to the bottom of the pandemic. It implies that the team of eminent doctors and scientists who blamed the pandemic on nature were either incompetent or had been compromised to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

Also, China should not be penalized for its efficient disaster policy, which has been borne out of its long experience handling and overcoming adversities over the centuries. While the country foresaw danger from afar and decided to err on the side of caution, the U.S. and its allies took a lackadaisical approach amid warnings that a virus had been identified that portended danger of tragic proportions. 

The proposed probe is also laced with a heavy dose of malice aimed at meddling in the international affairs of their source of envy. It is a case of blaming the victim for untenable reasons. It is also a defense mechanism as China's social and economic indicators rise steadily while those of its detractors either stagnate or dip as a consequence of the pandemic.

But the hoodwinking and distraction will not change the fact that the U.S. and its allies are now exposed. Their inherent weaknesses and contradictions, long hidden by their constant pontifications, are now self-evident. Instead of scapegoating or engaging in a wild goose chase, they would be better off eating humble pie and spend resources for the common good of all mankind.

The pandemic was supposed to teach the rich and powerful some empathy towards the hapless. On the contrary, we are witnessing a case of "the more things change, the more they remain the same." 

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