Maputo, 15 Dec (AIM) – The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday passed the second and final reading of a government bill increasing the period of compulsory military service from two to five years.
Only the deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party voted in favour of the bill, while every deputy from the opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), voted against.
The Frelimo parliamentary group painted itself in patriotic colours. Giving the Frelimo “declaration of vote”, Paulo Pataca clamed that extending the period of military service will make the Mozambican armed forces more robust, in order better to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The new law, he said, will guarantee the professionalisation of the military and the retention of trained soldiers in the armed forces (FADM).
Renamo deputy Gerónimo Malagueta pointed out that, during his military service, a citizen interrupts his studies and his economic activities, and so the law should determine “reasonable periods” for service.
Extending the period of military service from two to five years (or six years, in the case of special forces) “is very exaggerated and humanly unacceptable”, said Malagueta.
“This way of legislating is fraudulent, and Renamo will not go along with it”, he declared.
MDM deputy Domingos Manuel noted that, during the 16 years of war between the government and Renamo, the government had never felt it necessary to increase the period of military service.
Those who were conscripted into the FADM, he claimed, were mostly from poor families, while the children of the rich avoided conscription.
“We voted against”, Manuel said, “because we know that the young man who goes into the army, when he comes out has no reintegration and no assistance”.
The new law makes it obligatory for citizens to show proof of registration for military service when they apply for employment, in either the public or private sector, for a driving licence or for a place in an institution of higher education.
Young Mozambicans, of both sexes, are supposed to register for military service in the year of their 18th birthday. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), the projections from the 2017 census show that in 2024, 723,000 Mozambicans will reach the age of 18.
Yet, given the shortage of barracks and training facilities, only a few thousand can possibly be recruited into the FADM.
So, under the law, hundreds of thousands of young Mozambicans should register for military service, even though most of them will never set foot inside a barracks.
This is not a new problem. Even under the existing law, with a two year period of military service, the majority of 18 years olds never registered.