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Why DNA testing is on the rise in Rwanda:Read more>>>

It could be for purposes of proving infidelity, a court order, or just curiosity, but based on what we found out recently, DNA testing is on the rise in Rwanda.

According to Lancet Laboratories, a pathology laboratory that, among other services, carries out DNA tests, an average of four clients flock their offices every month to carry out a DNA test, mostly for paternity reasons.

However, within just 15 months of its existence, Rwandans are quickly catching up with the global trend, voluntarily and involuntarily, despite being a costly procedure.

Dr Ahmed Kelebi, the Group Managing Director and a consultant pathologist at Lancet Laboratories, reveals the three main reasons why clients visit the lab.

“Some people carry the tests out of curiosity to know if their parents are truly theirs. Others do it because of a court order for inheritance or child upkeep purposes, and then others because someone died and another one came up with paternity claims,” he says.

The state of paternity tests in Rwanda

Theo Badege, the Police spokesperson, argues that before the emergence of private laboratories, paternity tests were only carried out under the law. Rwanda’s national police under the Forensic Club worked strictly with the judicial system where blood samples were taken to external foreign laboratories for testing.

“The police would work with the Forensic club that has technicians abroad on orders from the judge to carry out investigations in civil cases,” Badege says.

Robert Mugabe, a lawyer based in Kigali, reaffirms Badege’s statement, noting that there were several cases of paternity cases in court, especially during the post Genocide era in Rwanda, with many victims of rape reporting such issues.

They were, however, strictly regulated by the judiciary to avoid family conflict.

“It is the right of every human being to know the truth and find out who their real parents are but the law is also required to protect citizens. Paternity tests were carried out strictly on court order with assurance that family conflicts will be well handled despite the urge by individuals to carry out the tests,” he says.

Times have since changed however. According to sources from the private laboratory, a blood sample, the parents’ identification and the child’s birth certificate are required to do a DNA. The procedure is made easier by doubting partners and their children.

Fuelling family conflict

The Lancet Laboratory told The New Times that one in every four of the people who go for tests is not the father of the child.

Dr Kelebi, however, reveals that although maternity tests can also be carried out, for obvious reasons, paternity tests are the most common ones. He admits that arguments often ensue between the couples with women being accused of infidelity.

Request for a paternity test can also be a daunting issue that may question the trust of the man and would automatically lead to home breakage.

“I would question his trust towards me if such a request came up. I would definitely know who the actual father of the child is but for curiosity’s sake, I would let him have the paternity test, rest assured that my relationship with him afterwards would never be the same, in the negative sense,” Bella Mbabazi, a wife and mother of three, says when asked about what her reaction to a paternity test would be.

Lilliane Umuhoza, a mother of one, agrees with Mbabazi.

“I would be very disappointed. That is a polite way of telling me that he has trust issues. And, it also shows that he has been having extra marital affairs and he is not sure of the children he has fathered,” she says.

For the men, the reason for carrying out paternity tests is mostly to avoid raising a child that is not theirs.

Samuel Gatare, a married man, believes that one cannot ignore the fact that extra marital affairs are rampant. A DNA test will always come to one’s rescue.

“If a woman claims that the baby she is carrying is mine, I would request for a DNA test immediately after it is born to save myself future embarrassment and a waste of time,” he says.

Mugabe, however,says that according to article 256 of the new family law of 2016, every child, whether born out of wedlock or legally, belongs to the married couple in question.

According to him, paternity tests can only be a waste of time for curious citizens, after all, “biological parenthood does not mean being responsible.”

“It is very disappointing and a daunting experience when you discover that parents you initially thought were yours are actually not yours. It is better you stay away from such trauma,” he adds.

Dealing with the news

The need to belong is a necessity. This need might, however, not be all rosy for most victims.

Jackline Iribagiza, a Kigali-based counselor, advises victims of such cases to be tolerant simply because ‘it is part of life.” The truth is sometimes bitter.

“Even before proof from DNA tests, it is right to tell the spouse or child the truth because not only do they deserve it, truth gives one a peace of mind. The earlier they find out, the better. Knowing the truth saves you more trouble than finding out from a third party,” she says.

Due to the possible conflicts such tests bring to families, the Rwandan government under the law that governs families is in the process of regulating laws to avoid conflicting cases, according to Mugabe.

Citizens will be required to carry out the paternity test only with permission from the court.

DNA explained

Scientifically, DNA, known as Deoxyribonucleic acid is a double helix, with sets of nucleotides that contain genetic information. DNA is a molecule that contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live and reproduce.

Dr. Kelebi explains that one’s kind of appearance and how the body is built is determined by their DNA, which has genes in it.

“A person carries a half of their father’s genes and the other half their mother’s, which is why we can carry out maternity, paternity and kinship test,” he says.

According to Dr Kelebi, the latter is only a probability test while the rest are 99.9 per cent certain.

Also, having similar or different physical features from the parents does not guarantee the test of the results.

In Rwanda, only blood samples can be used for testing although testing is still being carried out abroad.

The cost for a DNA test is Rwf 311,900 and it takes two to three weeks to get the results. Lancet laboratories will be opening a branch in Rubavu District in the Western Province to extend services closer to the people.

YOUR VOICE: Should couples carry out DNA tests?

DNA testing should not be about marital issues. It should be about the child’s right to know the truth. In that sense, it should only be carried out when both the child and mother are not sure who the real father is to help the child have a sense of belonging.

Hope Kabera, housewife

For cheating couples, it should be a dire need. You cannot stand living a lie all your life. I think it is fair to tell the truth and let people decide what they want to do instead of trying to hold on to them through falsehood. The lies would eventually kill the marriage, so it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid.

Ritah Kamikazi, businesswoman

The earlier they found out the truth, the better. If DNA helps reveal the truth, then why not go for it. You just can’t risk the chance of him finding out from someone else. That would be so cruel.

Honest Twizeye, entrepreneur

People cannot be trusted these days which is why you cannot question another’s curiosity. DNA can only reveal the truth whether we like it or not because refusing to test is suspicious. I think that the idea of DNA can only reduce cases of extra marital affairs.

Pidson Bemanya, social worker

Other than being irresponsible, why would a man doubt his own child? Couples should let things remain the way they are to avoid conflict because every child, whether yours or not, is a blessing and your responsibility. Why try to bring up trouble when you have peace?

Anna Tumwesigye, banker

Posted by Eddy Muwonge Rwandapaparazzi.rw UG

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