Top Rights Lawyer Warns Of DNA Abuse In Uganda

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Last updated on July 5th, 2023 at 08:42 am


Following damning news reports that one of Uganda’s richest businessmen Michael Kasawuli aka Samona found out that some of the children in his household were not biologically fathered by him, a leading human rights attorney in the country has come out to warn of an impending disaster as a result of potential misuse of DNA medical technology.

According to multiple news reports, businessman Samona engaged DNA services to prove whether or not he was the father of the children attributed to him and was shocked to find out that at least two from his first wife were not his.

It is not clear what sparked the businessman’s quest. According to the news reports, his considerably large family is currently embroiled in a tumultuous controversy as the businessman and his first wife fight over a valuable mansion.

In a comprehensive analytical Article published by Uganda’s Observer newspaper on Wednesday, 31st May 2023, Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde, CEO of Legal Brains Trust, a pro-democracy and human rights firm based in Kampala gave guidance on DNA technology warning of its potential misuse and destructive effects on the family – the basic unit of our society.  

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For starters, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the most sensitive piece of information or data about a human being as it constitutes his/her biological or genetic foundations and therefore goes to the core of a person’s very existence.

In recent years, with the advancement of technology and a loosely regulated environment, Uganda has seen an uptake in the number of medical facilities apparently offering affordable DNA testing facilities.

This implies anybody, at any time can engage these services potentially in violation of the Data and Privacy Protection Act which prohibits privacy intrusions. And most importantly at the risk of upsetting family relations in our society.

“ The everywhereness of DNA testing in today’s Uganda is a threat to our cultural understanding of ‘the family’ which, if unchecked, may spark off widespread conflict, insecurity and violence. Using DNA evidence as a sword to exclude children from a given household, as opposed to a shield for protecting their inclusion, threatens the sanctity of the family unit as the bedrock of society. An expansive approach to family relations promotes social cohesion, peace and stability. Family bonds, whether biological or not, are therefore entitled to jealous constitutional protection by society and the State against potentially disruptive technologies like DNA testing.”

Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde wrote.

Lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde/ Courtesy Photo

While acknowledging widespread reliance on DNA as a form of evidence, Ssemakadde criticizes over-reliance on it noting that it is not infallible and its focus on biological relationships is not enough to solve the complexities of family life.

The widespread perception in our society and Courts of law is that DNA evidence is conclusive but research indicates it can be misleading to experts and the unsuspecting Public and court system hence resulting in miscarriages of Justice.

“ Mushrooming DNA testing centres and enthusiastically pro-DNA courts undermine the legitimacy and ethical use of DNA evidence. DNA testing results that challenge established parent-child relationships can have severe emotional and mental health consequences. In Samona’s situation, the scandalous revelation that ten of his children were not biologically related to him highlights the potential strain and emotional distress such discoveries can place on family relationships. Moreover, the reliance on DNA evidence alone may overlook the complexities of emotional bonds and psychological implications for all parties involved in a family dispute.”

Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde wrote

DNA is a sensitive piece of data that requires significant expertise in its analysis and interpretation and preservation as any form of contamination can damage its soundness.

Without proper regulation, the growing number of DNA testing centers in Uganda could spell havoc for “truth-seeking ” Ugandans and their families.

In his 2017 research examining “DNA evidence and the challenges faced by DNA evidence in the Justice Sector of Uganda today,” Mr. Daniel Felix Wangututsi noted that “ DNA is a very complex field characterized by a lot of scientific, chemical and biological knowledge. There are not many individuals well studied and excellent in this field especially in a third world country like Uganda. Uganda has very few DNA experts most of whom are under government employment.”


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