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The Mozambican Defence Ministry on Friday categorically denied that it has anything to do with alleged press-ganging of young men into the armed forces.
Addressing a Maputo press conference, Col. Carlos Mucamisa, the National Director of Civic and Patriotic Education in the Ministry, said reports are circulating in various neighbourhoods of Maputo, the adjacent city of Matola, and the districts of Marracuene and Manhica, as well as on social media such as Facebook and Whatsapp, claiming that compulsory recruitment of young people for military service is under way.
Mucamisa said that unknown individuals are supposedly carrying out this forced recruitment “in order to train youths to strengthen the contingent of the Mozambican armed forces (FADM) in Cabo Delgado province”.
Currently the defence and security forces are fighting against terrorist groups, inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, in several of the northern districts of Cabo Delgado.
Mucamisa did not deny that some form of press-gang might be in operation, but he stressed that it had nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence or with the FADM.
The norms for military recruitment are contained in a law of 2009, and they do not include any form of forcible or clandestine conscription.
Macumisa noted that the reports of forced recruitment coincide with the legitimate military registration campaign now under way. Every year Mozambicans, of both sexes, who reach the age of 18 that year, should register for military service. The Defence Ministry launched the 2020 registration campaign on 10 January, and it is due to conclude on 28 February.
The Defence Ministry, Macumisa said, is now working with the other security forces to discover the origins and motivations of any act of illegal military recruitment. He promised that anyone committing such acts “will be held criminally responsible”.
He called for calm and vigilance, and asked members of the public to collaborate in denouncing any attempted press-gang. Anyone with information, he added, should contact the nearest police station or Provincial Military Recruitment Centre.
“No parent or guardian should allow his son to be carried away by anybody, even if he is wearing a uniform”, Mucamisa said. He noted, however, that in the videos now circulating on Whatsapp, none of the supposed recruiters is wearing a uniform.
Asked if the Cabo Delgado insurgents themselves might not be behind the press-gang reports, Mucamisa declined to speculate, saying it was up to the relevant police bodies to investigate and find out who was responsible.
The only recruitment done by the government, he insisted, was that stipulated in the law, and that recruitment is done openly and never clandestinely
As far as AIM can ascertain, the rumours of forced recruitment began a few days ago with an anonymous message circulating on Whatsapp, which claimed that the target was to recruit 20,000 youths to fight in Cabo Delgado.
The anonymous message said “the soldiers are patrolling at night, and youths found on the streets late at night are recruited by force. Anyone who resists will be beaten”. The message was passed on through social media networks, spreading panic among young people.
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