Identity cards, passports and proof of nationality

Not all African countries require their citizens to carry a national identity card, but the number is rapidly increasing. ECOWAS Member States have committed to introduce a common-form biometric identity card by 2017.  The introduction of these new systems may be based on concerns for national security or to improve delivery of public services: but for these aims to be achieved, law and procedures must ensure that people are not arbitrarily excluded from acquiring these documents.

Every citizen should have the right to a passport, enabling international travel, which should not be removed except following due process of law (for example, from a person accused of a serious crime).

Only some African countries establish an independent judicial procedure for a person to obtain a “certificate of nationality” or alternative document that is conclusive proof that a person is a national.

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