The issue of fake DNA results that are being peddled around Kampala and other parts of Uganda by money-hungry opportunists has of late raised so much concern amongst several Ugandans, because of their negative impact on the family as an important institution of society.
For starters, DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms and according to scientists, nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.
However, although in the past DNA tests were used to solve controversies especially surrounding the actual biological connection of children with their parents, analysts contend that they have since become a source of quickly amassing wealth for most unscrupulous people, who are reaping off innocent Ugandans by selling them fake results.
This has in turn resulted into several families breaking apart, dreams of numerous Ugandans shattered and in some cases this has caused death through triggering suicide and domestic violence, not forgetting to the trauma most victims live with for the rest of their lives following the revelation of their DNA.
Although most Ugandans have been silent about the issue of fake DNA results, the matter became most prevalent this week, after the media became awash with stories of how city businessman Michael Kasawuli aka Samona had discovered that 10 out of the 25 children he has over the years been raising with his various wives are actually not his biological children.
He reportedly reached the conclusion after taking the children for DNA tests, which proved that only 15 out of 25 are his biological children and the other ten belong to different men.
However, whereas Samona could have a strong case to argue, other Ugandans, among them Human Rights lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, the C.E.O Legal Brains Trust, contend that this could be a ploy hatched by Samona to intentionally disown the children, so as to revenge against his wives for allegedly cheating on him.
Ssemakade and other Ugandans with this school of thought contend that there are some parents who collude with people operating clinics that carry out DNA tests to give them fake results, which in turn they use to victimize their partners with intent to take advantage of the situation.
Ssemakadde says that; “The most pressing danger to ‘The Family’ institution is DNA TESTING, which is nowadays retailed over the counter, at the price of a Techno phone.”
Commenting about the Samona issue, Counsel Ssemakadde notes that; “This is a national scandal. Samona’s capricious use of DNA tests to settle an old score with his desperate housewives has shed light on the widespread abuse of DNA to make life-changing decisions affecting innocent or vulnerable ‘data subjects’.
The lawyer contends that DNA results for a paternity probe don’t bring anyone the elusive ‘Peace Of Mind’, but instead serve to give one party an opportunity to exploit the situation, to the disadvantage of their partner.
“Instead they will compound ‘Problems Of The Mind’ for all sentient parties involved. But for the insentient child, they could be a death sentence enforced through exclusion, vulnerability and poverty,” Ssemakadde warns.
He also argues that some people are using DNA evidence as a sword to exclude children from a given household, as opposed to being a shield for protecting their inclusion, thereby threatening the sanctity of the family unit as the bedrock of society.
Ssemakadde blames this scenario on the mushrooming DNA testing centres and enthusiastically pro-DNA courts, which are ‘nowadays being used to victimize the meek, ignorant and indigent, through the illegitimate and unethical use of DNA evidence.’
What the law says:
Soliciting DNA tests in Uganda is governed under the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and according to Section 7 of this Act, personal data may, with the consent of the data subject, be collected or processed but only for medical purposes, national security, law enforcement and other specific purposes prescribed by law.
This is however subject to the Prior and Informed Consent (PIC), which stipulates that before any samples are taken for DNA testing, the subjects must be informed about it and given enough time to either consent to the test or not.
In addition, Section 35 of the same Act stipulates that a person who unlawfully obtains, discloses or procures the disclosure to another person of personal data held or processed by a data collector, that data controller or data processor commits an offence. The penalty upon conviction is a fine not less than UGX5 million or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both.
In Samona’s case, it is not yet clear whether the subjects (children and their mothers) consented to him taking samples from them for DNA test.
It is also not yet clear whether they consented to him going public about the DNA results and even then, experts in this matter argue that such consent alone is not enough.
In such a scenario, Ssemakadde argues that even a judicial order purportedly approving a DNA test would be illegitimate if it contravenes the Constitution and the law that governs the same.
Confession From Concerned Mother
Actually, Ssemakadde’s argument has since been solidified by a confession from a concerned Ugandan mother (names withheld of request) which is doing rounds on Tik Tok, who confesses about clinics located at Ham Towers building in Wandegeya, Kampala, which are selling fake DNS results to unsuspecting Ugandans.
In the said confession, the Lady, who is an employee of a reputable government agency want the Ministry of Health to get involved in this matter because she contends that she has evidence to prove her allegations.
“These people who are giving Ugandans fake DNA results should be exposed. There are three clinics at Ham Towers that I know which are doing this. Perhaps the one that is directly facing the police could be doing it right, but the other two in the same building give fake DNA results and I have evidence to prove it!” she said.
She adds that; “Because of the fake DNA results, families are getting separated and some parents are raising kids that are not theirs. So, the Ministry of Health should take control of this DNA issue to protect Ugandans from being exploited.”
What’s even more worrying is that although people spend millions of shillings on DNA tests, experts contend that sometimes the process is not 100% effective, as it involves chances of producing results that are not accurate.
It is because of this phenomenon that Ssemakadde contends that; “DNA evidence is not infallible. False positives (matching DNA profiles when there is no biological relationship) and false negatives (failing to detect a biological relationship) can occur due to various factors, including sample quality, laboratory errors, or the presence of rare genetic mutations.”
The lawyer notes that; “These errors can compromise the accuracy of DNA results, leading to inaccurate conclusions about biological relationships and inheritance rights, among other wrongful determinations based on flawed DNA evidence.”
He therefore cautions that interpreting DNA evidence should be done with specialized knowledge and expertise, because it involves complex statistical analysis, population genetics, and understanding of DNA profiles, which are all necessary to accurately interpret results.
“In practice, interpreting DNA evidence should be subject to fair challenges, especially in Uganda, where quality assurance is hardly enforced,” Ssemakadde advises.