ABIDJAN, 30 May 2006 (IRIN) –
Mariam Diomande stood patiently clutching her application papers for a nationality document as she lined up with dozens of other young women in the sun-baked courtyard of the local town hall.
Diomande, a 19-year-old water vendor, is illiterate and has never left Abidjan since her mother handed her over to an aunt at the age of three. To get around the city, she takes one of the overcrowded Sotra state-owned buses that ferry thousands of poor commuters between neighbourhoods.
Like tens of thousands of Ivorians, Diomande has no birth certificate and thus no identity papers. Taking a shared taxi or travelling outside the city is not an option. « I’d end up paying a lot of money and that’s difficult, » she said, referring to the omnipresent roadblocks in this conflict-divided nation, where rebels and security forces alike demand money from drivers and passengers. « But when you take the bus, nobody ever asks for your papers. »
An estimated three million people have no identity papers in Cote d’Ivoire, yet never have there been so many security checkpoints in the West African nation, said Justice Minister Amadou Kone on launching a pilot scheme in seven towns earlier this month to provide disenfranchised Ivorians with a proof of nationality.
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