Maputo — The Mozambican Defence Ministry announced on Monday that it has registered 220,211 people for military service, in the registration period that ran from 2 January to 28 February.
The Ministry proclaims this as a victory, because the registration target was only 170,000. But in fact, as has happened every year since conscription was reintroduced in 1997, the vast majority of young Mozambicans did not register.
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 only 39 per cent of those who should have registered did so, and the target was a mere 30 per cent. The figures are even worse, when one considers that all those who failed to register in previous years (provided they are less than 35 years old) should have taken the opportunity to register this time.
Speaking at a Monday press conference, the director of human resources in the Defence Ministry, Edgar Cossa, said that the overall result was a one per cent improvement on last year's figure. He added that 71,890 of those who registered are women.
Several provinces had surpassed their targets, he said. Thus Maputo City had achieved 167 per cent of its target, Zambezia 148 per cent and Maputo province 141 per cent. In Cabo Delgado, the figure was 130 per cent, and Gaza. Tete and Niassa all achieved 126 per cent of their targets.
Definitive figures will only be available at the end of the month, including Mozambicans living abroad , who are supposed to register at Mozambican embassies or consulates.
Registration by no means implies joining the armed forces (FADM). The FADM is a relatively small army, and does not have the resources to recruit and train more than a few thousand people every year. Hence the vast majority of those who registered in January and February will never set foot inside a barracks.