Commentary | Volume 5, Article 16, 21 Jul 2021 | 10.11604/pamj-oh.2021.5.16.30379

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

Daniel Safari Nteranya, Moise Mbaluku Colombe, Justin Muderhwa Busingo, Baudouin Manwa Budwaga, Pierrot Mulumeoderhwa Kahasha, Désiré Alumeti Munyali, Jean-Berckmans Muhigwa Bahananga

Corresponding author: Daniel Safari Nteranya, Legal Medicine Center, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Received: 16 Jun 2021 - Accepted: 15 Jul 2021 - Published: 21 Jul 2021

Domain: Forensic Medicine,Psychiatry,Health promotion

Keywords: Forensic center, sexual violence, justice, Democratic Republic of Congo

©Daniel Safari Nteranya et al PAMJ - One Health (ISSN: 2707-2800). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Cite this article: Daniel Safari Nteranya et al . The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu. PAMJ - One Health. 2021;5:16. [doi: 10.11604/pamj-oh.2021.5.16.30379]

Available online at: https://www.one-health.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/article/5/16/full

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Commentary

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

Daniel Safari Nteranya1,2,&, Moise Mbaluku Colombe1,3, Justin Muderhwa Busingo1,4, Baudouin Manwa Budwaga1,4, Pierrot Mulumeoderhwa Kahasha1, Désiré Alumeti Munyali1, Jean-Berckmans Muhigwa Bahananga1,5

 

1Legal Medicine Center, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2Surgery Department, University Clinics of Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 3Pediatrics Department, University Clinics of Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 4Internal Medicine Department, University Clinics of Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 5Faculty of Sciences, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

 

 

&Corresponding author
Daniel Safari Nteranya, Legal Medicine Center, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

 

 

Abstract

The Democratic Republic of Congo is bearing a heavy burden of decades of war. This situation coincides with a rapidly growing urbanization with its subsequent sets of problems: e.g. insecurity and urban violence. To effectively overcome this situation, transitional justice and reparation for the victims remain the only possible solution. The authors discuss the importance of erecting a forensic center in the Democratic Republic of Congo and highlight the key role it plays in justice administration using the short experience from the young forensic center at the Official University of Bukavu. Forensic medicine is crucial in justice administration. Efforts towards funding and scholarships could help improve the work of the young forensic center at the Official University of Bukavu. This calls for advocacy and the funding of the center.

 

 

Commentary    Down

Forensic science is the application of scientific techniques to answer questions of legal importance. Although the practice of forensic science has been developed all over the world, its practice remains a subject of great confusion in sub-Saharan Africa [1,2]. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been facing decades of wars and cruelty leading to a huge number of atrocities including sexual violence against women, mass killing, minerals spoliations, territorial conflicts to cite a few among them. The DRC bears a heavy burden of sexual violence; some reports from the country indicate that sexual violence is widespread and includes gang rape, abduction for purposes of sexual slavery, forced participation of family members in rape, and mutilation of women´s genitalia with knives and guns, among other atrocities [3,4]. Additionally, the rapid urbanization of the country has emerged with another set of problems, the most dangerous being urban criminality (sexual violence, drug abuse, consumption of illicit substances, rapt, etc). In a study by Peterman et al. (2011), the authors report that approximately 1.69 to 1.80 million women reported having been raped in their lifetime [4]. Although some international protocols have been applied in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country suffers from the absence of an accredited forensic center and often relies to the UN Commissions to lead investigations on massacres and violence suffered by its citizens [3,5]. Thus, it appeared that having a forensic center in DRC could be beneficial for the people and the country. In that perspective, a project for the creation of a forensic center was designed and submitted to the ministry of justice, the ministry of higher education, and the ministry of health, by the State University of Bukavu, in the vicinities of Lake Kivu. Fortunately, the project was authorized and created (letter no. 0975/MINESU/CAB.MIN/TLL/KMC/JMB/2019 of December 10th, 2019, and has been functioning since then. This paper aims to present the work achieved so far, the challenges encountered by the center, and argues about its usefulness as a public service.

 

Results of the first half-year of The Forensic Center at the State University of Bukavu: in DRC, forensic science is weakly practiced and its practice is considered mysterious, and often looked at as the science of the dead. Created in 2020, this forensic center has been functioning since then. With a board of experts that comprises a forensic specialist, 2 pathologists, an expert in toxicology, and 3 general physicians, the center serves as a referral center for questions related to forensic science in the province and within the country. Although the center is very young and suffers from equipment paucity, it has achieved various forensic activities in the region (Table 1). It has been consulted by the prosecutor on several justice issues (Table 2). Within six months, we have received 7 justice requisitions for expertise, and most of them concerned dead bodies. The majority of victims were young and all of them were living in the urban area. This situation is similar to the reality observed in most African towns. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing various forms and phases of violence upsurge for almost 4 years now. The dynamics of violence is changing passing from heavy fighting and bombing in the aftermath of post-electoral results in Juba and Bujumbura to urban violence in Kinshasa and Goma. The recent events confirm that the urban area is not anymore the green zone it used to be, thus actually, it represents the neuralgic arena where violence occurs [6]. Additionally, in the majority of the cases, the center was consulted by the prosecutor to proceed with death investigation. The results of the investigations showed that for most cases, the death resulted from a violent attack by an exogenous force. Obenson K et al. demonstrate that it requires an investment of money and political will for death investigation to be effective. Moreover, the problem still as for many sub-Saharan countries, the DRC is facing competing public health and financial pressure that affect the disbursement of the scarce funding [7].

 

Challenges and perspectives: despite the efforts made by the University and its clinics to keep the center functional, several challenges are still undermining its development, to cite a few from them: low or inexistent compliance of the Congolese population to forensic services, the lack of a genetic laboratory to address paternity-related problems and issues related to DNA processing; lack of scholarships for the professional development of its workforce, etc. The center lacks a forensic psychiatry specialist and often has to look up the services of other psychiatric centers, something that is costly for the patients. However, from our half-year experience, the results demonstrate a high solicitation of the center, especially by the justice department. Even though the importance of the standard death autopsy has been highlighted in previous studies in death investigation [7], only one of our patients benefitted from an autopsy, due to lack of cash. No policy accompanies the funding of the center. Additionally, there is no scene protection in most of the cases, thus leading the pathologist to deal with manipulated bodies and corrupted crime scenes. This situation is similar to what was described in other African countries by Obenson et al. [7].

 

 

Conclusion Up    Down

Forensic science is a neglected field in Africa. However, the experience from the young center at the State University of Bukavu shows that there is an obvious need to develop and expand the services offered, mainly to meet justice demands. This calls for advocacy and the funding of the center.

 

 

Competing interests Up    Down

The authors declare no competing interests.

 

 

Authors' contributions Up    Down

Conceptualization: DSN, MMC, JMB. Writing-Original Draft: DSN, MMC, JMB, BMB, PMK, DAM, JMB. Revision and editing of the main paper: DSN, MMC, JMB, BMB, PMK DAM, JMB Supervision: JMB. All the authors have read and approved the manuscript.

 

 

Tables Up    Down

Table 1: activities achieved within six months

Table 2: requisitions of expertise and their motivations

 

 

References Up    Down

  1. Amankwaa Aron, Nsiah Emmanuel, Mensah Bonsu Dan, Banyeh Moses. Forensic science in Ghana: a review. Forensic Sci Int Synergy. 2019;1:151-60. Google Scholar

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  4. Peterman Amber, Palermo Tia, Bredenkamp Caryn. Estimates and determinants of sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Am J Public Health. 2011;101(6):1060-7. PubMed | Google Scholar

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Commentary

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

Commentary

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

Commentary

The need of a forensic center in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: results of the first half-year experience at the State University of Bukavu

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Forensic center

Sexual violence

Justice

Democratic Republic of Congo

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