DNA Sequencing to Commence in Sierra Leone


By Jonathan Hindolo Kurabu

In the wake of the spiral and alarming hike in reported cases of rape and other despicable forms of sexual abuse meted out to girls below the age of 18 by mostly men who are old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers, there is need to clampdown on these alleged rapists.

Sadly though, the cumbersome processes in our Judiciary heightened by unnecessary court adjournments during the Preliminary investigation at the Magistrate Courts before committal to the High Court most often than not, leave the victims in agony.

Out of sheer ignorance, the victims most times destroy the evidence even before reporting the cases and often further worsened by some police officers who have shallow knowledge in evidence gathering and protection of incontrovertible evidence which could be classically admissible in the court of law.

Even against the backdrop of a State of Emergency slammed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio months ago with a punishment of life imprisonment upon conviction; the situation remains far worse and seemingly unabated.

For lack of evidence, the alleged perpetrators are discharged and left to roam freely while their alleged victims suffer in silence. With strides made so far by President Bio, plans are now rife for Sierra Leone to commence DNA sequencing for rape and all forensic cases involving ritual murder, murder.

This was disclosed to a cross-section of dignitaries drawn from Njala University, SLARi, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Detective Officers from the Sierra Leone, Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation to name but a few.

Team Lead from Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Iain Macharen-Lee said the DNA sequencing can be used across a multitude of different fields. He underscored that the technology is a new way of reading DNA which he said is fundamentally different from previous technologies and furthered that the MinION Sequencer is a small device, portable and simple device which can be deployed anywhere and can be used by anybody with the requisite skills.

According to Iain Macharen-Le, the MinION MKC1 has developed a method for passing DNA through a pore which protracts an electrical current and it can be interpreted as electrons of genetic code which can fetch the required answer in minutes.  For forensic purposes, it requires a picture sample which can be simply prepared by isolating DNA from the sample, prepared and put on the DNA sequencer which can get the results within few minutes. Using the third generation of DNA sequencing, perpetrators of rape and other crimes can be detected in minutes and will constitute the evidence in court for proceedings.

The MinION MKC1 DNA Sequencer was first handled by President Bio upon their first engagement in Sierra Leone.  According to the Team Lead from Oxford Nanopore Technologies, President Julius Maada Bio is the Third President in the World and the First President in Africa to have had a feel and grip on this modern technology which he referred to as the third generation of DNA Sequencer.

The delegation was lured to come over to Sierra Leone by President Bio during his ‘TED TOK’ in Vancouver courtesy of the Dr. David Monina Senge, Chief Innovator and Director, Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, DSTI.




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