DNAforAfrica hosts a Forensic DNA workshop for The West African Region in Ghana

Author: Yahaya Sumara Sulley

Department of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana

DNAforAfrica held its first event in the West African region in Ghana from November 30–December 1, 2022. The event, a forensic DNA workshop, was the third in the series of DNAforAfrica events launched across the African continent. The workshop was hosted in Accra, which is the capital city of Ghana, at the Fiesta Royale Hotel. The workshop provided a platform for forensic specialists, respected international and local forensic experts, students, and activists from both the public and private sectors within the West African region to learn and connect.

The two-day DNA workshop was led by Professor Bruce Budowle, who has lived through the history of forensic DNA technology. Prof. Budowle gave an introduction to forensic DNA lectures, DNA 101, on day 1 of the workshop for a Liberian delegation that has recently received support towards setting up their national forensic science laboratory.

Other delegates were from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which co-sponsored the event, and an FBI legal attaché for Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Niger. On the second day, Prof. Budowle again led high-level scientific lectures on DNA mixture interpretation, presentation of DNA evidence, DNA laboratory workflow, and other relevant aspects of the implementation of DNA processes and standard operating procedures.

Dr. Susan Hitchin from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) joined the workshop virtually and gave a lecture on the INTERPOL DNA database, the I-Familia database, and DNA exchange tools. She also highlighted other training opportunities that INTERPOL offers to people who are working within the security services and pointed out that INTERPOL is open to communication from all over the world from member countries, so individuals should make good use of the international notice systems whenever there is a related issue.

Mr. Yahaya Sumara Sulley, a senior research assistant from the Department of Forensic Sciences at the University for Development Studies, and DNAforAfrica Crusader gave a presentation on DNA laws and policies where he focused on working towards a draft law and policy that can be implemented in the west African region. Mr. Yahaya, who is also the founder of the Forensic Science Outreach Ghana (FSOGH), highlighted the similarities between humanitarian and criminal issues that require support from forensic DNA technologies within the region.

He also stated some sociopolitical issues that have hampered the development of forensic DNA technologies within the region over the years. He proposed a roadmap that he believes will eventually lead to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16, which is an accelerator of all other SDGs to promote peace and development within the region and beyond. Mr. Yahaya Sumara Sulley, whose research interest is in forensic DNA and policy, concluded by saying;

“I am optimistic about the benefits of the DNA revolution.” “I believe the establishment of DNA laws and policies and a proper regulatory framework will bring renewed hope to victims and their relatives in special cases of violent crimes, sexual assault and gender-based violence cases, recidivism, missing and anonymous person cases, ancestry, phenotype, identity, and kinship applications within the West African Subregion.”

There were a series of questions and interactions that went on during the workshop. The workshop, aside from being highly scientific, also brought invaluable networking opportunities to attendees from across the region.

Also present were: Dr. Vanessa Lynch, Director, DNAforAfrica; Dr. Ibeh Batholomew, Assistant Director of Medical Biotechnology Department, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja-Nigeria; Dr. Benedict Kolee, Liberia; Marcelle A. Bebbe-Ramish, FBI; Dr. Lydia Quansah, Head of Forensic Science Department, University for Development Studies, Tamale-Ghana; DSP Alexander Badu-Boateng, Ghana Police Service Forensic Science Laboratory; and Dr. Pet-Paul Wapebe, Ghana Academy of Forensic Sciences; and other faculty and students from University for Development Studies, Tamale-Ghana and University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Photo credit: Bluecraft photos; Source: DNAforAfrica