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TMCNet:  After decades of civil war Somalians get new identity cards [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]

[February 16, 2014]

After decades of civil war Somalians get new identity cards [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]

(Cihan News Agency (Turkey) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MOGADISU (CIHAN)- For over two decades, getting any form of official identification for Somali citizens was done through the back alleys of the infamous Bakara market, a system known as "Abdallah Shideeye" or the counterfeiter.


Without a functioning government and institutions during the two decades of civil war, many Somalis had to acquire fake identity cards and passports to travel as they sought refugee status in neighboring countries.

The country now has a functional government with institutions working at protecting the Somali identity.

At this centre in Mogadishu, hundreds of Somalis brave the scorching sun, queuing to get their new national identity cards.

Setup up by the regional administration in December last year and with funding from US Aid through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the center sees traffic of between 200 and 500 people each day.

With just 13 workstations and locally trained staff, these men and women are rolling out Somalia's new and improved IDs fitted with a smartcard. The electronic chip contains biometric data collected at the centre and has some of the latest security features to protect against forgery.

The legal age for one to acquire an ID card in Somalia is 15. There are three steps to the process; first one has to get a letter from their district commissioner's office that confirms that they are Somali and are from that particular area. Then they go to Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to have a criminal background check conducted and seek clearance. When that's completed, they head to the bank and pay US$ 17.50 for the card before coming to National ID card Processing Centre.

After filling in their details and giving their bio data, it takes between 4 to 7 days to receive the ID card.

In 2007 the then Transitional Federal Government had tried to implement a similar biometric ID and passport system, but the process was marred by corruption and lacked the checks and balances on who qualifies for documents.

Although the new process is working, the centre is clearly overwhelmed. It's the only centre in the country catering for Mogadishu's estimated 3 million plus people and Somalis in other parts of the country have to travel to the capital to apply for the service. The Somali Federal Government says it will soon open other centres across the city to meet the demand.

Somalia has taken a huge leap with technology and they are among the first five African countries to use the smartcards ID system. The government hopes that with the data collected, it can create a national database of its people, and that will help in the fight against extremism and groups like al Shabaab.

The new ID cards are a prerequisite for getting Somalia's new biometric passports as well, measures the government has put in place to not only safeguard its people but to once again reconnect them as global citizens, and give them an identity lost to years of war.

This is among the many strides that country is taking, as it enjoys relative peace facilitated by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) that have helped liberate major cities of the country from the terror perpetrated by the al Shabaab militants.

SHOTLIST: 01 FEBRUARY 2014, MOGADISHU, SOMALIA Building at Baraka Market Mogadishu People walking on the streets People walking People lining-up at new Nation ID Registration Centre Man counting prayer bids Man waiting with prayer bids Face of man waiting in line Interior of Centre with people registering for Biometric IDs People at the booths Men registering for their ID card Of registration document Mohamed Yusuf, Spokesman of Mogadishu Municipality talking to an attendant at the centre Computer screen as woman registers People waiting inside the centre Woman face Attendant registering two women Identity card on computer screen Printed ID card Traditional elder registering Woman typing Computer screen with blank ID card Elder Lahi Hashi taking a picture Elders ID being processed Finger-printing process Computer screen showing finger-printing People waiting at the centre Woman waiting to collect her ID card Attendant working at their booths Computer screen Zakaria Aweis holding his new ID card Hew biometric ID cards Biometric ID cards Man showing off his new ID card Man holding ID card SOUNDBITE (English) Mohamed Yusuf, Spokesman of Mogadishu Municipality and Office of the Mayor: "In this country we had what they called "Abdallah Shideeye" for the last 23 years. You can find in Bakara Market whatever ID card you would like to have, everyone could take citizenship before; but now we wanted to reach the digital system in the world that's why we brought the latest technology here." SOUNDBITE (English) Mohamed Yusuf, Spokesman of Mogadishu Municipality and Office of the Mayor: "So we are not going to start where we were in 1991, but we are going to start... Today the world is digital, that's why we bring the chip Sim-card for the security issue. It is also a very good idea because not everyone can get it and we have the figure prints of whoever takes it in the database as well as every necessary document. That's why we selected the latest version for the national identity card." SOUNDBITE (Somali)) Ugasa Lahi Hashi, Community Leader: "It has a lot of benefits for me, it verifies who I am and my position in the community and this is written on the ID card. To the rest of the world it's a way of identifying one's nationality and place of birth. With security if something happens with a person, you can get all his details and information from the ID card. So it's very important." SOUNDBITE (Somali) Samiha Jeilani Kasim, Student: "It took me about a month of moving back and forth, but now I am finally here to sign for my ID card. There was a mistake with the spelling of my name on the ID card; where there was single S, they had put a double S. I came back several times but today, thank God, that I have finished the process. Now I want to get my passport so that I can travel with it." SOUNDBITE (English) Zakaria Aweis Sayid, Student: It's the first time, because as we know Somalia, we have been at war for 22 years. Now we are going into development, this is part of the development, so I am so happy." DURATION: 04:19 CIHAN (c) 2014 Cihan News Agency. All right reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info, an Albawaba.com company

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