Roger Mbongue has been unable to acquire an original National Identification Card for six years now, despite repeated attempts to obtain the vital document.
The resident of Douala has been forced to use what is commonly called the “laissez passé” — a temporary identification receipt offered to users — for the past six years. But the receipt ID has a short lifespan of just six months, and Mbongue says he cannot use it for serious deals such as bank transactions.
Thousands of Cameroonians are going through a similar ordeal to Mbongue, where they do not know if they will ever touch a copy of their original National Identification Card.
“I have been going for the original version of my ID card for six years today,” Roger Mbongue regrets.
He adds that his temporary ID has been renewed more than 10 times now. The only option left for him is to engage in the process for a new ID card.
Margaret Noumsi, a Buea-based Cameroonian, says obtaining an original national ID card has become a luxury for most Cameroonians.
“I am stuck in so many administrative assignments because I do not have the original copy of my ID card. It is so discouraging,” Margaret told MMI.
Cameroonian law obliges every citizen to obtain an identification card once they turn 18.
New Production Centres
Many Cameroonians like Roger Mbongue and Margaret Noumsi will soon have their worries settled, as the government has announced the imminent opening of a new system that will deliver national ID cards within 48 hours. This announcement comes at the heels of an earlier one in June which indicated that the process will be decentralised.
The Delegate General of National Security, Martin Mbarga Nguélé, announced on September 29 that the new system will be set up in three Regions of the country in the near future.
“The Head of State has just authorised the establishment of a new system for issuing the ID with the same partnership model as that of the issuance of biometric passports,” Mbarga Nguélé said while inaugurating a passport center in Douala last week.
Under the new ID card production system, three autonomous production centres will be built in Yaoundé, Douala, and Garoua in the next few months.
Modern enrollment centres will also be built with a minimum of 15 enrollment posts in each regional capital. The number of identification posts will increase from 280 to 543. More than 700 fixed and 300 mobile kits will be installed at identification points, the Delegate General said.
The new ID card production system was first announced by President Paul Biya in 2021. During a Parliamentary session on June 30 this year, Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, said the system would soon go operational.
He said it was going to operate in a similar way to the biometric passport system launched in 2021.
“The new system envisaged will include an online enrollment platform, the introduction of easier methods for digital payments, an automated system to inform the applicant of the progress of the card production process, the opening of many more identification posts across the country, the availability of mobile enrollment kits, as well as an interoperable digital communication system with other government services,” PM Dion Ngute said.
‘A Very Good Initiative’
News of the imminent establishment of new ID card production centres brought hope to many Cameroonians, who have long been frustrated by the difficulties of obtaining the document.
“This is a very good initiative,” said Tsafack Hugues. “I’ve been trying to get a CNI for months, but it’s been impossible. I’m so glad that the government is finally doing something about this.”
Georges Momo, who lost his ID card recently for the second time, hopes the new system will help him escape the nightmares he has been through.
“I’m very excited about this new system. I’ve lost my CNI twice in the past five years, and it’s been a huge hassle to replace it each time. This new system will make things so much easier.”
Patrick Ngono appears sceptical that the new system might not be as effective as people are being told.
“I’m very excited about this new system. I hope it will really be helpful. Because nothing is sure in this country. I hope this new system will make things so much easier.”
The new system is a welcomed development for most citizens. They hope that it will be implemented soon enough and will also be extended to other Regions of the country.
The government has often blamed the delays in ID card production on double identity and fraud. Factors like corruption within the ID card production establishments also account highly for the delays.