At last,the long-awaited National Forensic Laboratory was inaugurated yesterday. It has been in the pipeline for as far as one can remember, but it kept being put off due to some unforeseen circumstances.
The previous police laboratory performed rudimentary analysis such as fingerprints and document authentication. Other more complex tests such as DNA or toxicology analysis were sent to Germany at a very high cost. To ship just one sample cost more than a thousand dollars. Last year, 93 DNA samples were sent. But now that is history.
The new facility will be able to obtain forensic evidence from DNA tests, ballistics and toxicology analysis for, say, in case of suspected poisoning or gender-based violence.
With the creation of Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) the lab comes at the right time. From what has been announced, it is equipped with the latest equipment and personnel have had time to train.
While costs to carry out tests are expected to reduce drastically, authorities should make sure it is affordable to all without compromising efficiency. They should also strive to turn it into a regional centre of excellence in order to get a piece of the forensic analysis pie that has been enjoyed by South Africa and Europe.
It has been a long journey with lots of pitfalls but perseverance and the need to have an independent state-of-the-art criminal forensic capacity won the day.
Now what remains is for the police, RIB or judicial authorities to carry out wide forensic awareness campaigns among the public. In case of crime, they should be taught to preserve the crime scene and avoid contaminating it. That will be the first step to bring them on board.