West Africa: DNAforAfrica Crusader Advocates for Implementation of DNA Laws and Policies in the Region

Mr. Yahaya Sumara Sulley, a senior research assistant from the Department of Forensic Sciences at the University for Development Studies, advocated for the adoption of DNA laws and policies in the West African area at the forensic DNA workshop on November 30-December 1, 2022, at the third workshop in a series of DNAforAfrica activities held all across the African continent. The two-day DNA workshop hosted in Accra, which is the capital city of Ghana, at the Fiesta Royale Hotel, was led by Professor Bruce Budowle, who has lived through the history of forensic DNA technology.

In his presentation, Mr. Yahaya emphasized the need to develop a draft forensic DNA law and policy that can be used throughout West Africa. Mr. Yahaya, a Crusader for DNAforAfrica and founder of the Forensic Science Outreach Ghana (FSOGH), as well as the chairman and curator of forensics, DNA sciences, and SDGs, for “The Confident Scientist” network emphasized the parallels between humanitarian and criminal issues in the region’s nations that call for the use of forensic DNA technologies.

He made it clear that the availability and efficacy of forensic sciences, DNA laws and policies, and DNA databases appear to be uncertain, which calls them into question in the area where gender-based violence, identification of disaster victims and nameless bodies, paternity and claimed biological familial relationships, backlogs in sexual assault cases, wrongful convictions, and exonerations do not appear to be ending anytime soon. Additionally, he listed some sociopolitical problems that over time have impeded the advancement of forensic DNA technologies in the region. These problems include a lack of funding, a lack of funding, a lack of expertise in some countries, the absence of laws and policies, and a lack of understanding of the hope that DNA forensics can bring to societies.

After providing a local perspective on the matter, he outlined various initiatives that, had DNA laws and policies been addressed and executed, would have helped countries in the area. According to Mr. Yahaya, benefits include the passage of a DNA technology bill, which would encourage the use of cutting-edge forensic genomic technologies as well as the creation of regionally connected DNA databases. He added that where it counts, genetic literacy will have been attained and this would greatly improve information accessibility about forensic DNA and DNA regulatory processes within the region.

From the perspective of a cost-benefit analysis, he described the net benefits. It was evident that the implementation would have a significant positive impact on the police and criminal investigations department, the justice services, victims and innocent people, the government, the general public, and the economy of the nations in the West African area.

He suggested certain tactical measures that, in his opinion, will eventually result in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16, which accelerates the achievement of all other SDGs by fostering peace and development both inside the area and outside. He suggested studying international quality standards while factoring in implementation costs. He also alluded to the need to identify pertinent stakeholders and partnerships, as well as the need for maintenance, communication, and education, as crucial factors to consider while making plans for this agenda. He urged regional forensic organizations and academies to cooperate and work toward identifying the best solutions to assist manage the difficulties that are now present. Mr. Yahaya Sumara Sulley, whose research interest is in forensic DNA and forensic policy, concluded by saying;

Photocredit: Bluecraft photos; Source: DNAforAfrica

“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.”