Country report and updates: Mozambique

Last revision: 31 Jul 1998
31 Jul 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Since achieving independence in 1975, there has been conscription. It is believed that following the 1992 peace agreement between the government and the armed opposition RENAMO, conscription has not been enforced.

However, conscription was reintroduced on 3 November 1997, when a 124 against 103 majority in the Mozambican parliament voted in favour of a new conscription law. Details of the new law are not available, but according to opposition leader Raul Domingos the law is a carbon copy of the previous 'Portuguese' law on military service. [15]

These previous conscription laws are Law No. 4/78 (Lei do Servicio Militar Obrigatorio) and Decree No. 3/86 (Regulamento basico do Militar nas Forces Armadas de Mocambique). [1]

military service

All men and women aged 18 to 30 are liable for military service. [15]

Under the new law also women are conscripted. The proposed law only envisaged conscripting men, but as this was thought to be unconstitutional, an amendment to extend conscription to women too went through without any debate. [15]

The length of military service is not known. Before 1992 military service lasted for two years, but there have been complaints of conscripts who had to serve longer for up to three years. [1]

postponement and exemption

No information available.


It is not known whether the government has begun to call up conscripts under the new conscription law.

Until 1992, when conscription was enforced, all men, in the year they would turn 20, were obliged to present themselves to recruitment centres of the Mozambique Army (FAM). [2]

In the past the government has experienced many difficulties in recruiting soldiers. This has led to cases of illegal recruitment and recruitment by force. There have been various reports of forced recruitment of conscripts, sometimes by just picking up youth as they emerge from schools, cinemas etc. [2]

2 Conscientious objection

It is not known whether the new 1997 conscription law includes a provision for conscientious objection. According to Amnesty International, the proposed law included such provision. [14]

The previous conscription law did not include a provision for conscientious objection. [1]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Under previous legislation, refusal to perform military service was punishable by imprisonment. [1]


Until 1992, as a consequence of forced recruitment, desertion took place on a mass scale. In 1992 Human Rights Watch noted that from an army camp three to five soldiers deserted every day. [2]

4 Forced recruitment by RENAMO

RENAMO was created in 1977 by the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Office. The first recruits came essentially from groups of Mozambicans in South Africa and Portugal. They also came from ranks of escaped criminals. RENAMO's recruiting methods became its 'trade mark': attacks to villages were usually followed by the kidnapping of local young men and women. Old people, small children, the sick and wounded or anyone who refused to follow them, were often killed on the spot - extrajudicial executions were commonplace. These ended with the General Peace Agreement between RENAMO and the government on 4 October 1992. [4] [2]

RENAMO suffered from mass desertion. A message from a general of RENAMO indicated an average of five deserting recruits per day. [2]

5 History

The 1992 peace agreement envisaged the formation of a 30,000 strong Mozambique Armed Defence Force (FADM), composed of demobilised forces of the government forces and RENAMO, each contributing 15,000 'volunteers'. The formation of the FADM was not completed before the deadline of August 15, when all demobilisation had to end. Problems arose because RENAMO seemed unable to deliver the 15,000 recruits and the government forces had not been demobilised sufficiently to decrease its size from 64,500 to 15,000. [4]

The troops that are being demobilised and sent home present specific problems. Many of those fighting for RENAMO were forcibly recruited. Some were made soldiers when they were only children. The government soldiers now being demobilised have, in most cases, been 'forgotten' during the conflict. They were not mobilised on schedule and were left to fend for themselves in conflict areas, often without food, clothing or command. Some have been in the army for eight or more years. Like RENAMO troops they often had to steal their food for survival. In many instances they have terrorised and abused the population. [4]

6 Annual statistics

According to the Institute for Strategic Studies in 1997, the armed forces comprise some 5,100 to 6,100 troops - approximately 0.03 percent of the population. [12]

Another source states that the size of the armed forces has decreased from 50,000 in 1993 to 12,000 in 1995. [13]

In 1991 the two warring armies were estimated to comprise a total of 135,000 soldiers. 107,000 of these registered for demobilisation after the 1992 peace accords, 95,000 were demobilised, and 12,000 integrated into the new FADM. [6]

Every year approximately 350,000 men and women reach conscription age. [12]


[1] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [2] Human Rights Watch 1992. Conspicuous Destruction: war, famine and the reform process in Mozambique. HRW, New York. [3] Woods, D.E. 1993. Child Soldiers, the recruitment of children into the armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Quaker Peace and Service, London, UK. [4] Honwana-Welch, G. 1994. Mozambique: feasibility study. Report of a Factfinding Mission. International Alert, London, UK. [5] Carver, Richard 1995. What future for Mozambique? Writenet (UK). [6] Ministry of Coordination of Social Action 1996. The situation of the child soldier in Mozambique. Study for the Grace Machel project. [8] Brett, R. & M. McCallin 1996. Children, the invisible soldiers. Rädda Barnen, Stockholm, Sweden. [9] Cawthra, G. et al. (ed.) 1994. War and resistance: Southern African reports, the struggle for Southern africa as documented by Resister magazine. Macmillan, London/Basingstoke, UK. [10] Human Rights Watch 1996. Children in combat. HRW, New York. [11] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [12] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [13] U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 1997. World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (WMEAT) 1996. US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Washington DC. [14] Amnesty International 1997. Amnesty International Report 1996. AI, London, UK. [15] Panafrican News Agency, 3 November 1997.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Mozambique

02 Aug 2012

A study by the Mozambican youth organisation Parlamento Juvenil found that young people in the country see conscription as a waste of time. The study also recommended professionalising the country's military, and making military service voluntary.

According to the military service law, conscription in Mozambique is obligatory for men and women between 18 and 35 years, and military service lasts for two years.

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