16 Nov, 2017

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Commissioner of Police Innocent Botomani, LUANAR Vice Chancellor Proffessor George Kanyama Phiri and EU representative Fabrice Basile during a press conference after the opening ceremony
The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) has partnered with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) in training the latter’s investigators, victim support officers and prosecutors on how to use DNA in their investigation and prosecution work.

The partnership would enable police to start using human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) as part of the physical evidence in investigating and prosecuting complex cases.

The European Union is financing the capacity building training programme under the Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme.

Speaking at the official opening ceremony of the DNA forensics training for police officers at Bunda college in Lilongwe on Wednesday the 15th November, LUANAR Vice Chancellor Professor George Kanyama Phiri, said as criminals get sophisticated in their dealings, it is imperative that science-oriented institutions should play a key role in providing solutions to such challenges by providing science-based solutions.

The Vice Chancellor said that the union of the two institutions is, therefore, unique in respect to law enforcement and fighting crime as DNA will be used to solve very complex criminal cases that said cannot be solved with conventional methods.

“As a university, we are excited to be part and parcel of the leap into the future criminal investigations using DNA and associated biological material to combat crime. Even though other countries, in particular Europe and America, have advanced greatly in this field, we are saying it is not too late to join the bandwagon,” he said.

In his remarks, Commissioner of Police (Director of Finance and Administration) Innocent Bottomani described the technology as a milestone in policing and justice administration as it is the first time the MPS has taken such an initiative.

“Time has come for Malawi to start using DNA to support investigations as many countries within the region and beyond are using it to solve crime thereby increasing access to justice to all people, more especially the vulnerable groups such as girls, women, children and people living with albinism,” Bottomani said.

He said all along, the need to use DNA in crime investigations has been there, but the police lacked individual and institutional capacities to embrace the technology.

Bottomani confessed that there have been instances when the MPS could have done better had it been that officers had knowledge and skills to collect, preserve and submit DNA samples for analysis, but could not do so because of lack of technical knowledge and skill.

“By nature, DNA has been used in solving serious crimes such as murder, defilement, rape, molestation, grievous harm and other cases of public interest such as paternity test. In many cases, these crimes affect vulnerable groups, particularly women, children and persons with albinism,” Bottomani said.

European Union Head of Political Section, Fabrice Basile, said under the newly approved Chilungamo Programme, they are supporting the police in various ways.

“Furthermore, we will continue to build the capacity of criminal investigators and prosecutors who prosecute approximately 90 percent of the criminal cases in Malawi,” he said.

The EU funded training, which is taking place at LUANAR Bunda Campus and facilitated by biotechnology experts with PhDs at LUANAR , is expected to provide the theoretical aspects of DNA as well as practical aspects of the procedures involved in the process of collecting DNA evidence from the scene of crime to the laboratory.

Written by Isaac Songola