Maputo — The Mozambican Defence Ministry on Friday formally launched the 2017 military registration campaign at a ceremony in Michangulene, in Namaacha district, on the border with Swaziland.
The target is to register 170,000 young Mozambicans, of both sexes, by the end of February, when the campaign ends. This is the same target as last year, when the target was surpassed and 214,000 people were registered.
But the target is very low. For, under Mozambican legislation, all Mozambicans should register for military service in the year of their 18th birthday. Thanks to the projections from the 2007 population census, we know that this year 565,000 Mozambicans will celebrate their 18th birthday.
Thus the Defence Ministry target is a mere 30 per cent of 18 year olds. Even if the number who register reaches the same figure as last year, that will still be only 38 per cent of those who legally should register.
The Ministry thus fully expects that the great majority of 18 year olds will not register - just as most youngsters have failed to register in all preceding years since the re-introduction of conscription in 1998.
In order to register, citizens must show their identity card, a document proving their academic qualifications (if any), and a residence declaration issued by the local administrative structures.
Ministry officials told AIM they are well aware that there are many more 18 year olds in the country than 170,000, but have to use that target because it was included in the government's Economic and Social Plan for 2017 approved by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in December.
The officials are also confident that they will exceed the target, largely because they intend to set up, in addition to the provincial recruitment centres, fixed and mobile registration posts that will allow young Mozambicans to register without walking for long distances.
Deputy Defence Minister Patricio Jose told the ceremony that young people should register in order to contribute to the defence of national integrity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. He regarded military registration as a “sacred duty” and an honour for all Mozambicans.
“Military registration provides an opportunity for peace and unity for all Mozambicans”, he said, “so that we may exercise our civic duties in favour of our communities and collectives”.
He urged parents, guardians and teachers to ensure that the young people in their care registered in due time and did not leave everything to the last minute.
Jose stressed that during military service young people are trained so that they can develop knowledge and skills that will be useful to the Mozambican state, and will enable them to participate in the fight against modern forms of organized crime, such as drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings, maritime piracy and terrorism.
Military registration does not necessarily imply joining the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM). The FADM remains a relatively small army, and can only recruit a few thousand conscripts a year. The vast majority of those who register will thus never be called up.
There is no punishment stipulated for failing to register. But people who cannot show that they have registered may find it difficult to obtain documents such as passports, or to obtain jobs in the public sector.