Mozambican Defence minister Filipe Nyussi has laid the foundation stone of the Mozambican Armed Forces’ first Communication School, beginning construction in the southern city of Matola.
Addressing guests and the media at the ceremony, Nyussi said top of the range communication tools and a big pool of skilled military communications personnel are central to the success of the army in both civilian and military operations. Nyussi said the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM) needed to transform and adapt to new technologies, which would help with modernising military communication skills and capabilities in the face of increasing security threats, especially that of piracy in the Mozambique Channel.
The new school, which is set to admit its first intake in April next year, is sponsored by mobile telephone operator Movitel. Movitel is a trading division of Viettel, a Vietnamese telecommunications company which is wholly owned by the Vietnamese Defence Ministry. With a seed capital of US$1.5 million, Nyussi said the army communications school would receive further funding from Vietnam. He said co-operation on the building of Mozambique’s first centre of military excellence was an affirmation of growing military relations between the countries.
The school, which will accommodate 130 students per intake, will be open to active duty soldiers, members of the police, the intelligence services and interested civilians who have experience in the security services sector. It will be built by a Vietnamese contractor and its first lecturers and specialists will be supplied by Vietnam and sponsored by Movitel. Due to its vulnerability to piracy and the limited capabilities of its police, intelligence and defence forces, Mozambique has received international assistance to hone its 10 000 strong armed forces into a fighting force capable of dealing with modern security threats.
Dozens of Mozambican navy specialist personnel have also been trained under the US Army Naval School of Ordnance Disposal’s international military student programme between 2010 and this year. In line with increasing the Mozambican navy’s capabilities to deal with the piracy threat, the students were trained in working with ordnance on board ships and aircraft.
Last year, Mozambique received US$3 million worth of military aid and training from China as part of a deal signed between the two countries in September 2010. Last month the two countries signed another agreement, which will see China will provide Mozambique with US$25 million in aid, although it is not clear how much of this will go to the military. China has also supplied equipment to the Maputo military hospital and assisted in the construction of new barracks for the FADM.
According to a Jane’s military and intelligence country risk profile, the Mozambican defence forces still face a serious shortage of manpower, largely due to suspicion and mistrust between government troops and former Renamo rebels. Following the signing of the Rome peace accords which ended the civil war in 1992, Mozambique had envisaged the creation of an army of 35 000, but the South Africa-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS) estimates that FADM had a membership of between 9 000 and 10 000 as of November 2011.
This includes seven infantry battalions, three Special Forces battalions, two artillery batteries, two battalions of engineers, and one logistics battalion. Mozambique is estimated to have a naval force of 2 000 and about 25 vessels, most of them in a state of disrepair. Two of the functional vessels are Namacurra class harbour patrols boats supplied by South Africa between 2004 and 2005.
The FADM’s air arm has an estimated 4 000 members but is largely inactive because most of the Soviet-era and Portuguese built aircraft it relied on are in a state of disrepair. Only nine of its aircraft are believed to be flight-worthy at the moment.