Mozambique youths oppose conscription

Major concerns with compulsory military service

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

July 19th, 2012

The first analysis of compulsory military service in Mozambique since Independence in 1975 will not make happy reading for the government.

Undertaken by a Mozambican youth organisation, Parlamento Juvenil (Youth Parliament), the study found that young people view conscription as a waste of time – and recommended that the government consider professionalising the army by making it voluntary and investing in civic rather than military service.

Currently, military conscription applies to both male and female youth who have turned 18 years old and who must serve for two years.

The government still believes that conscription provides Mozambican youth with the opportunity to re-affirm their citizenship and allegiance to the country – but perhaps the study will make the authorities think again.

Funded by a grant from OSISA, the study sought to reflect the views of the youth on the nature and relevance of conscription today – as well as their commitment to the process.

The study illustrated not only that youths were opposed to conscription but that they had no idea of the government’s objective in continuing to pursue the policy. Nor did they have any idea about their rights after their conscription period ended due to poor management and communication from the different government departments involved.

Furthermore, the analysis uncovered the extent of the racial and economic discrimination permeating this process as only poor African youths are conscripted since they cannot buy their way out by bribing officials.

Along with these issues, the study also pointed out other concerns – particularly the fact that there is no exemption from military service based on religious or cultural grounds. And if someone cannot face serving in the military and absconds, he or she can be prosecuted and will not be entitled to apply for a passport.

Twenty years after the end of Mozambique’s civil war, this research makes it clear that Mozambican youth are no longer supportive of compulsory military service. It will be interesting to see whether the authorities take their views into account and whether this study helps to change minds in government – and to bring an end to 37 years of conscription.

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