Source: Biometric Update
By Ayang Macdonald
Isidore O., a 25-year-old Cameroonian living in the town of Bangem in the South West Region of the country applied for the national digital identity card in early 2018.
By December 2021, Isidore had become extremely frustrated because his ID card had not been issued. What he has been using on a temporary basis is the application receipt that was issued at the time he applied for the biometric ID document.
Brandishing the now old and dirty-looking receipt, Isidore tells Biometric Update: “I am really frustrated because each time I go to the centre where I applied for the card, I am told it has not been produced. I have gone there innumerable times without success. I have also had an extension stamp on this receipt for as long as I can’t even remember.”
The receipt has become so old that most of the text on it is now illegible.
“The risk of traveling without an ID card especially in the crisis-hit North West and South West Regions is enormous. Even with this application receipt, security forces will still disturb you and force you to pay money,” he narrates.
Cameroon is into the fifth year of a lingering armed conflict which has rendered the security situation in the English-speaking regions of the country quite precarious. Travelling without an ID card, or having just the application receipt in these regions, means you will have to contend with security forces each time you arrive at a checkpoint.
Isidore says he has had to apply for another card because he is not sure the previous one will ever be produced.
Clearly, Isidore’s case is not an isolated one. Many like him have been going through the ordeal of not being able to get hold of the ID card they apply for in a timely manner.
Cameroon currently faces a huge problem with its biometric ID card production and issuance system. While the statutory wait time for the card to be issued after it is applied for is three months, thousands of citizens are often forced to wait for far beyond that time. In some cases, the cards are never delivered at all. It is estimated that of the population of 26 million people (per the World Bank estimates), just about a quarter have a valid national ID card.