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Angola - Military Personnel

Compulsory military service obligation is from 20-45 years of age for male and 18-45 years for voluntary male military service (registration at age 18 is mandatory). Voluntary female service runs from 20-45 years of age. The conscript service obligation is 2 years, with Angolan citizenship required. The Navy (MGA) is entirely staffed with volunteers. As of 2013 about 155,00 men reached militarily significant age annually. Out of a total manpower pool available for military service of about 3,000,000 males ages 16-49, about half, or 1,500,000 were judged fit for military service (2010 est.).

FAPLA relied heavily on conscription to meet its staffing requirements. Voluntary enlistments were important too, especially in FAPA/DAA and MGPA, where greater technical competence was required. Recruitment and conscription were carried out by the General Staff's Directorate for Organization and Mobilization through provincial and local authorities.

Although two-year conscription had been initiated in 1978 pursuant to the Mobilization and Recruitment Law, the First Extraordinary Party Congress held in 1980 decided that increased troops requirements warranted introduction of universal and compulsory military training. Angola thus became the first black state in sub-Saharan Africa to make its citizens subject to compulsory military service.

In the 1908s, of Angola's more than 8.2 million people, males in the fifteen to forty-five age group numbered almost 2 million, half of whom were considered fit for military service. About 87,000 reached the military recruitment age of eighteen each year, but a sizable proportion, perhaps a majority, were unavailable because of rural dislocation and UNITA's control of at least one-third of the country. The Ministry of Defense issued periodic conscription orders for all men born during a given calendar year. Thus, for example, in February 1988 the Ministry of Defense ordered all male Angolan citizens born during calendar year 1970 to report to local registration centers to be recruited and inducted into active military service as of March 1. Separate days were reserved for teachers and students to report, and officials in charge of workplaces and schools were instructed to deny admission to anyone not properly registered for military service. After military service, all personnel were obliged to enroll in the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops.

Particularly in the late 1980s, FAPLA apparently resorted to other means besides conscription to satisfy military requirements; political needs were sometimes also met in the process. For instance, in the 1980s several hundred former FNLA rebels were integrated into FAPLA after accepting amnesty. According to UNITA sources, FAPLA also had begun to organize new recruits into battalions formed along ethnic lines, with Mbundu and Bakongo elite forces kept in the rear while Ovimbundu, Kwanhama (also spelled Kwanyama), Chokwe (also spelled Cokwe), and Nganguela (also spelled Ganguela) were sent to the front lines. Children of government and party leaders were reported to be exempt from conscription or spared service on the front lines. FAPLA was also reported by UNITA to have forcibly conscripted hospital workers, convicts, youth, and old men after suffering heavy losses in the offensive of late 1987.

Women played a definite but poorly documented role in national defense. They too were subject to conscription, but their numbers and terms of service were not reported. FAPLA included women's units and female officers, whose duties included staffing certain schools, particularly in contested areas. Other details on the size, type, and activities of these units were not available.

It was difficult to gauge the conditions of service and morale among FAPLA troops. Little public information was available in the late 1980s, and much of what existed was propagandistic. Nonetheless, service did seem difficult. Conscription was intensive in government-controlled areas, and the spread of the insurgency undermined security everywhere. The constant infusion of raw recruits, the rapid growth of FAPLA, the increasing scope and intensity of military operations, and escalating casualties imposed substantial personal and institutional hardships. The continued dependence on foreign technicians and advisers, many of whom were not deployed in combat zones, had adverse consequences for operations and morale.

Pay and living conditions in garrison were probably adequate but not particularly attractive; in the field, amenities were either sparse or lacking altogether. The expansion of quarters and facilities for troops did not keep pace with the rapid growth of FAPLA, especially in the late 1980s. There were periodic reports of ill-equipped and poorly trained soldiers, as well as breakdowns in administration and services. But given the lack of alternative employment in the war-torn economy, military service at least provided many Angolans with short-term opportunities. UNITA frequently reported incidents of flight to avoid government conscription; demoralization among FAPLA troops from high casualties and deteriorating conditions of service; and battlefield desertions, mutinies, and revolts among FAPLA units. These reports became more frequent during annual FAPLA offensives against UNITA strongholds after 1985.

In early December 1986, the People's Assembly approved new military ranks for the three military services, differentiating those of the army and air force from the navy. FAPLA and FAPA/DAA were authorized to establish the ranks (in descending order) of general, colonel general, major general, and lieutenant general. The MGPA was to have the ranks of admiral, vice admiral, and rear admiral; the ranks of colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major were replaced by captain, commander, and lieutenant commander, respectively. Future navy second lieutenants would be given rank equivalent to that of their counterparts in the army and air force. Later that month, President dos Santos received the rank of general as commander in chief of the armed forces, the minister of defense was appointed colonel general, and ten other senior military officers were promoted to newly established higher ranks.

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