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Cameroon election agency wants huge ID card backlog cleared ahead of polls

Cameroon election agency wants huge ID card backlog cleared ahead of polls

The chairman of Cameroon’s election management body (ELECAM), Abrams Enow Egbe, recently held talks with the delegate general for national security, Martin Mbarga Nguele, on clearing the many blockages that stand in the way of digital ID card issuance in the country.

The national identity card is a compulsory ID credential for those of voting age to participate in the electoral process in Cameroon, but obtaining the ID in the Central African nation has become a nightmare for millions, with many waiting up to two years to get the credential.

The talks, which took place 10 October, were part of a series of consultation meetings that ELECAM has held with different stakeholders in past weeks with the aim of gathering opinions and suggestions on how to better organize the next cycle of elections coming up between 2023 and 2025.

Cameroon has national assembly and presidential elections in 2025, but before then, in 2023, a new senate has to be voted in.

Enow Egbe told reporters that apart from discussing how the ID issuing authority (known by the abbreviation DGSN) can clear the backlog of ID card applications, it is important for Cameroonians who have not withdrawn their cards from police stations to visit such stations to check whether their credentials are already available for collection. People apply for the document at their closest police station accredited within the scheme and then collect the finished card there.

“The main focus of our discussion was on the obtention of the national identity card. Many Cameroonians are complaining that they are unable to obtain their cards. We got clear and precise information from the delegate general who assured us that all will be done for citizens to get the national ID card,” said Enow Egbe.

“However, we want to inform Cameroonians to first go and check out their ID cards from the different police stations where they applied for them. There are many of the cards abandoned there. They have to collect them because they need it to register for elections.”

It is worth mentioning that the national identity card is crucial at two major stages of the electoral process in Cameroon. It is a requirement at the time of enrolling on the electoral register, and then for identity verification at the time of voting at polling stations. Cameroon does not yet use biometrics for voter verification.

The call by ELECAM for the DGSN to rush ID production has been hailed as necessary as it comes at a time when problems with delivery of the cards in the country have reached strange and disturbing proportions.

Recently, many citizens have been expressing their frustration with the process, asking why previously-announced plans to overhaul the current ID system have stalled.

There have also been testimonies in local media, seen by Biometric Update, from citizens confessing to paying bribes from between XAF50,000 (US$74) to XAF 500,000 (US$740) to obtain the document within a few days.

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