RESULTS ADMISSIBLE IN COURT

New DNA machines to help crack unresolved murders

Machines stationed at Government Chemist's laboratories in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa

In Summary

• DNA profiling is a forensic technique in criminal investigations, comparing a suspect's profiles to DNA evidence

• Government Chemist Ali Gakweli says staff ready to work overtime to reduce backlog 

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and other government at the Government Chemist in Nairobi on Thursday, August 29, 2019
FIGHTING CRIME: Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and other government at the Government Chemist in Nairobi on Thursday, August 29, 2019
Image: NICK MAVINDI

The government will no longer send DNA samples abroad for profiling after three modern machines were unveiled on Thursday.

The machines are stationed at the Government Chemist's laboratories in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. 

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i said the Sh40 million Genetic Analyser 3500XL Series will strengthen the criminal justice system, which has become heavily reliant on DNA to nail suspects. 

 
 

"We have many sensitive and unresolved murder cases because of limited capacity," Matiang'i said at the Government Chemist when he commissioned the machines.

DNA profiling is a forensic technique in criminal investigations, comparing a suspect's profiles to DNA evidence to assess the likelihood of their involvement.

In Kenya, it is also widely used in parentage testing to resolve paternity disputes.

Recently, the process was used to resolve the parentage of Kakamega sisters, switched at birth.

The twins – Sharon Mathias and Melon Lutenyo – were raised separately by different parents for 19 years but the DNA analysis confirmed they were, in fact, identical twins.

Matiang'i also promised the capacity of the Government Chemist would be doubled.

Scientists from the agency, under the Ministry of Interior, are often called to present their analyses in court to resolve cases. 

 
 

"But if you keep six to seven scientists in court you lose the time they could spend in the lab," Matiang'i said. "Sometimes the cases don't come up the whole day."

Matiang'i was accompanied by Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ole Ntutu‏ among other officials. 

The Genetic Analyser 3500XL Series launched on Thursday, August 29, 2019
NEW MACHINE: The Genetic Analyser 3500XL Series launched on Thursday, August 29, 2019
Image: NICK MAVINDI

Government Chemist Ali Gakweli said the staff has volunteered to work overtime to reduce the backlog of requests, now in their hundreds.

"We have the best capacity in the region. The Nairobi laboratory is equipped with 84 technical staff and 20 of them are working in forensic biology," Gakweli said.

"We now have protocols that can help us even generate DNA profiles from skeletal remains," said John Mungai, head of forensic services at the Government Chemist.

Although the Government Chemist now has the most advanced technology in Kenya, DNA profiling of less sophistication is also available at the DCI and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, among other institutions.