Cameroon: The new national identity card, including the authority that issues the card, the conditions and documents required to obtain the card, and a detailed description of the card and its use; whether it may be applied for from abroad; whether the former paper cards are still valid (2014-September 2016) [CMR105627.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. The New National Identity Card and its Objective

In Decree No. 2016/375 of 4 August 2016, which defines the characteristics and method of preparing and issuing the national identity card (Décret no 2016/375 du 4 août 2016 fixant les caractéristiques et les modalités d’établissement et de délivrance de la carte nationale d’identité), the President of Cameroon announces the coming into force of a new national identity card, which is [translation] “computerized, biometric, personal and contains an electronic chip” (Cameroon 2016, Art. 2). According to several sources, this innovation is part of a reform to secure the status of Cameroonian nationality (APA 5 Aug. 2016; Le Jour 5 Aug. 2016; Cameroon Tribune 9 Aug. 2016; AFP 10 Aug. 2016) and the country’s identification system (ibid.; Le Jour 8 Aug. 2016). According to some sources, it became necessary with the increase in counterfeiting and forgeries of national identity cards (News du Cameroun 9 Aug. 2016; CRTV 10 Aug. 2016). Others report problems of corruption among public servants who allegedly permitted individuals to obtain these cards fraudulently in the past (APA 5 Aug. 2016; Le Jour 5 Aug. 2016; AFP 10 Aug. 2016). For further information on fraud in relation to national identity cards in Cameroon, see Response to Information Request CMR104811 published in April 2014.

An article in the Cameroonian news daily Le Jour, citing the vicepresident of Gemalto [the company making the new card (Gemalto 7 Sept. 2016; AFP 10 Aug. 2016)], explains that it is made of a material that increases its reliability and security, that it is designed to prevent counterfeiting and that it contains security features that are [translation] “visible and invisible, physical and electronic” (La Nouvelle Expression 10 Aug. 2016b). According to a government source, it enables police to have improved control over citizenship, to conduct research on individuals, to manage criminal identities and to produce criminality statistics (ibid.; AFP 10 Aug. 2016). In addition, since the identification posts are interconnected and the information is shared, it is impossible for an individual to have various cards made at different places (Le Jour 12 Aug. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1.1 Implementation of New System

Following the signing of Decree No. 2016/375, the inauguration of the production centre for the new card took place on 9 August 2016 in Yaoundé (The Cameroon Daily Journal 10 Aug. 2016; Africa Presse 11 Aug. 2016). According to certain sources, the cards began being issued on 9 August 2016 in certain districts of the citiy of Douala (La Nouvelle Expression 22 Aug. 2016) and of Yaoundé (Cameroononline 23 Aug. 2016), as well as on 10 August in the region of Adamaoua (Cameroon Tribune 2 Sept. 2016). According to some of these sources, identification posts were opened in police stations (Cameroononline 23 Aug. 2016; Cameroon Tribune 2 Sept. 2016). In the city of Bélél, in the region of Adamaoua, mobile enrolment posts were tested (ibid.). A local daily reports that, according to the police, on 12 August 2016, the card began being issued in the administrative centres of ten regions (Le Jour 12 Aug. 2016). Lastly, a consular officer from the High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon in Canada also indicated in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, that the new card was already in circulation in some parts of the country (Cameroon 9 Sept. 2016). However, documentary sources report system slowness issues and limitations to the system’s capacity in issuing the card (La Nouvelle Expression 22 Aug. 2016; Camer.be 24 Aug. 2016).

2. Legislative Provisions

The new national identity card of Cameroon is governed by Decree No 2016/375, which is attached to this Response (Cameroon 2016). It sets out the following:

[translation]

This decree, which repeals any previous contrary provisions, especially those of Decree No. 2007/254 of 04 September 2007, will be registered, published according to the emergency procedure and then inserted in the Offical Journal in French and in English. (ibid., Art. 12)

It also states that the card is mandatory for all citizens 18 years old or older (ibid., Art. 5(2)), it is valid for ten years (ibid., Art. 4) and a duplicate may not be obtained (ibid., Art. 9).

3. Physical and Electronic Characteristics of the Card (Format and Content)
3.1 Physical Characteristics

According to Decree No. 2016/375, the new national identity card is [translation] “polycarbonate, plastic and secure, set on a substrate that is pre-printed according to ISO/CEI 7810 under the ID-1 format” (ibid., Art. 2). The cardholder’s personal information listed and the format (illustrations and electronic features) of the card are outlined in Article 3 of the same decree (ibid., Art. 3). The photograph of the holder is in colour, laser engraved inside the body of the card and not simply on the surface (Gemalto 7 Sept. 2016; Camer.be 9 Aug. 2016; CRTV 10 Aug. 2016). It is therefore more difficult to scratch or falsify it (Africa Presse 11 Aug. 2016).

3.2 Electronic Characteristics

One of the innovations on the new card is the electronic chip, in which is recorded the photograph and fingerprint of the holder (Gemalto 7 Sept. 2016; Africa Presse 11 Aug. 2016). This technology means that a unique identifier is attributed to each citizen (ibid.; La Nouvelle Expression 22 Aug. 2016). In this respect, sources state that controlling the new cards will no longer be carried out by the naked eye but that mobile electronic devices that can verify that the cardholder is actually the owner of the card, will be used at various places around the country (ibid. 10 Aug. 2016b; Le Jour 12 Aug. 2016), such as airports, hotels and other public places (ibid.).

A sample of the new card could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Validity of Former Card

Decree No. 2016/375 states that national identity cards issued prior to the coming into force of the new card remain valid until their expiry date, unless their holder decides to renew it (Cameroon 2016, Art. 11(2)). For further information on the former national identity card, consult Response to Information Request CMR104813 published in April 2014.

5. Procedure to Obtain the New Card
5.1 In Cameroon

Decree No. 2016/375 establishes that the national identity card is issued by the General Delegation for National Security (Délégué général à la Sûreté nationale, DGSN) (Cameroon 2016, Art. 5(1)). Its production is ensured by the National Identity Document Production Centre (Centre national de production des titres identitaires, CNPTI) (Cameroon Tribune 8 Aug. 2016; Le Jour 8 Aug. 2016).

To obtain the card, citizens may register at one of the 350 identification posts established, which will be spread out across the country, or at one of the 50 mobile posts; however, sources do not state when these centres and mobile posts will be operational (Cameroon Tribune 9 Aug. 2016; News du Cameroun 9 Aug. 2016; CRTV 10 Aug. 2016; Le Jour 10 Aug. 2016a).

The procedure to obtain a national identity card is set out in articles 5 to 10 of Decree No. 2016/375 (Cameroon 2016). Seven scenarios are presented:

  • initial application
  • lost, stolen or deteriorated
  • expired
  • correction or change of name
  • of parentage
  • reintegration
  • naturalized foreigners (ibid., Art. 6).

In all cases, the applicant must first pay application fees (ibid.). They must then obtain four 4x4 photographs and attach various documents to the application, depending on the case (ibid.). For a complete list of these documents, depending on the applicable scenario, consult articles 5 to 10 of the attached decree.

Once the application is registered, the applicant obtains a temporary identity document that shows their photograph, parentage, height, scanned signature, identification post, date of registration, signature of approving unit chief, identification stamp, receipt number, type and category of stamp (ibid., Art. 8). This document constitutes proof of identity, has a validity period of three months and is renewable once (ibid.). Once the applicant’s national identity card is ready, they must pick it up at the identification post where they registered and may obtain it upon returning the temporary identity document (ibid., Art. 10).

5.2 From Abroad

The consular officer at the High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon in Canada explained that a national identity card may not be requested from abroad (Cameroon 9 Sept. 2016). The application must be made in person (ibid.). Cameroonian nationals abroad who do not have the card or whose card has expired must therefore wait until they return to Cameroon to obtain a new card (ibid.). According to the consular officer, a national abroad may not be penalized for not having an identity card or because it expired following their departure from the country (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Africa Presse. 11 August 2016. “Société : La nouvelle carte d’identité est ‘ce qui se fait de mieux dans le monde’, affirme Lionel Jean, Vice-président du groupe Gemalto.” [Accessed 2 Sept. 2016]

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 10 August 2016. “Cameroun : une carte d’identité biométrique à puce face ‘aux défis sécuritaires’.” [Accessed 18 Aug. 2016]

Agence de presse africaine (APA). 5 August 2016. “Cameroun : La carte nationale d’identité disposera désormais d’une puce électronique.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

Camer.be. 24 August 2016. “Nouvelle Cni : la difficile obtention du sésame à Yaoundé.” [Accessed 21 Sept. 2016]

Camer.be. 9 August 2016. Darren Lambo Ebelle. “Inauguration ce 09 août 2016 à Yaoundé du nouveau système identitaire sécurisé - 600 cartes/h pour les deux machines.” [Accessed 20 Sept. 2016]

Cameroon. 9 September 2016. High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon in Canada. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a consular officer.

Cameroon. 2016. Décret no 2016/375 du 4 août 2016 fixant les caractéristiques et les modalités d’établissement et de délivrance de la carte nationale d’identité. [Accessed17 Aug. 2016]

The Cameroon Daily Journal. 10 August 2016. Amindeh Blaise Atabong. “Cameroon Launches New ‘Secured’ ID Cards.” Accessed 8 Sept. 2016]

Cameroononline. 23 August 2016. “New National Identity Cards: Hundreds of Requests Daily.” [Accessed 7 Sept. 2016]

Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV). 10 August 2016. Eliane Marcelle Matsingoum. “Début officiel de réalisation des nouvelles cartes d’identité du Cameroun.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

Cameroon Tribune. 2 September 2016. Alain Mazda. “Cameroun : nouvelle carte nationale d’identité - branle-bas dans les postes de l’Adamaoua.” [Accessed 8 Sept. 2016]

Cameroon Tribune. 9 August 2016. Jean Francis Belibi. “Nouveau système d’identification : C’est sécurisé.” (Factiva)

Cameroon Tribune. 8 August 2016. “Cameroun : Les contours de la réforme de la carte nationale d’identité.” [Accessed 17 Aug. 2016]

Gemalto. 7 September 2016. “Le Cameroun lutte contre la fraude à l’identité avec la nouvelle solution eID de Gemalto.” [Accessed 7 Sept. 2016]

Le Jour. 12 August 2016. Assongmo Necdem and Aurélien Kanouo. “Cameroun : identification : la nouvelle Cni annoncée la semaine prochaine.” [Accessed 18 Aug. 2016]

Le Jour. 8 August 2016. Assongmo Necdem. “Cameroun : identification : les nouvelles caractéristiques de la CNI.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

Le Jour. 5 August 2016. Younoussa Ben Moussa. “Cameroun : Carte nationale d’identité : ce qui fait problème.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

News du Cameroun. 9 August 2016. Vera Mete. “Identification : des nouvelles cartes d’identité au Cameroun.” [Accessed 17 Aug. 2016]

La Nouvelle Expression. 22 August 2016. Amélie Dita. “Douala : effectivité des nouvelles CNI.” [Accessed 7 Sept. 2016]

La Nouvelle Expression. 10 August 2016a. Ben Christy Moudio. “Documents d’identité sécurisés : Comment le gouvernement entend mener le processus.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

La Nouvelle Expression. 10 August 2016b. Ben Christy Moudio. “Sécurité : la nouvelle CNI entre en vigueur.” [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Abeng Law Firm; Cameroon – Consulate General of the Republic of Cameroon in Paris, Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union; Muna Muna & Associates; Nico Halle & Co. Law Firm.

Internet sites, including: Cameroon – Délégation générale à la Sûreté nationale (DGSN), Présidence de la République; ecoi.net; European Union – Public Register of Authentic Travel and Identity Documents Online; Keesing Reference Systems; United Nations – Refworld.

Attachment

Cameroon. 2016. Décret no 2016/375 du 4 août 2016 fixant les caractéristiques et les modalités d’établissement et de délivrance de la carte nationale d’identité. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2016]