In an effort to fight an ongoing insurgency without depending on private military contractors, Mozambique’s parliament approved a measure raising compulsory military service requirements.
The measure raises the standard draft requirement from two to five years for general service soldiers and six years for special forces. Proponents hope the measure will decrease dependence on foreign fighters and make the army more professional. The extension of military service was passed by lawmakers from the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), which has a parliamentary majority supported by a smaller opposition party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM).
“Our country is currently facing threats of a hybrid and diffuse nature, with connections to transnational organized crime. To combat them, they require greater professionalization,” Defence Minister Cristóvão Chume told parliament. “We will have better soldiers. Currently, they train for a year, are deployed to the field of counter-terrorism operations and only stay there for six months, then leave. With this law, we will allow more experienced people to fight terrorism,” he added.
Situation in Mozambique
Before we discuss the impact, if any, this move will have on private military contractors in Mozambique, we should update the situation there to see what the government is up against.
Like many other African nations, Mozambique is a country full of sharp contrasts. The economy of this nation on the southeast coast of Africa depends heavily on commercial fishing. However, since the northern part of the country is in the pathway of Indian Ocean monsoon winds, severe environmental disruptions are common. Mozambique’s GDP has increased significantly since 2001, but it is near the bottom of most economic indices, such as per capita GDP, human development, economic inequality, and average life expectancy.
Mozambique won its independence from colonial Portugal in 1975, following a protracted war. When the country became a one-party Marxist state, civil war raged in the country until the late 1980s, when strongman Samora Machel died in a mysterious plane crash. His successor, Joaquim Chissano, implemented a number of democratic reforms, paving the way for (mostly) free elections in 1994.
Things were looking up for Mozambique in the late 90s, as evidenced by the growing GDP. It became the only non-British colony to join the Commonwealth of Nations in 1995.
Then, one of the aforementioned environmental disasters struck the country. A terrible cyclone devastated the northern part of the country. Desperation and discontent became open rebellion in 2013 when the Mozambican Civil War briefly re-started. This conflict was largely resolved by 2019.
One insurgency replaced another one. Since 2017, the government has fought a back-and-forth war with various Islamic militants. Not surprisingly, the epicenter of this conflict is in the unstable north.
Contractors in Mozambique
Raising the draft requirement might actually increase the need for private military contractors in Mozambique. These individuals aren’t just fighters for hire. They also train government security forces and maintain the advanced weapons systems that give these forces an edge over militants.
Most conscripts are only in average physical condition, at best. Furthermore, most have never held a rifle before. Military trainers, many of whom are military contractors, address these deficiencies.
Physical training cannot be fun and games, but it cannot be tortuous either. Seasoned private military contractors know how to walk the line between these extremes. Proper PT also builds military discipline, another quality that most conscripts don’t possess.
Trainers do much more than teach conscripts how to point and shoot. They also teach conscripts how to maintain their weapons and some basic military tactics. Many anti-insurgency tactics are not in military textbooks. Only experienced contractors who have actually fought militants know what works and why it works.
Government security forces often have a minimal manpower edge over their militant opponents. But they have a significant firepower edge, which they must fully take advantage of to be successful in the field.
Air power, from helicopters that quickly transport troops to fighter aircraft that pound ground targets, is usually the most important component of this edge. Most militants only have small arms and maybe a few rockets. They are basically defenseless against air attacks.
Mechanical and service contractors keep these machines functioning in top condition. In many cases, contractors worked at the companies that designed and/or built these weapons. So, they have insider knowledge that other mechanics don’t have.
Injury Compensation Available
Governments like Mozambique count on contractors to battle insurgents. Families count on contractors to provide the income they need to survive. When an on-the-job injury strikes a contractor, a financial disaster usually strikes a family. Most families live from hand to mouth.
So, the lost wage replacement benefit of the Defense Base Act might be the most important injury benefit. Several levels of lost wage replacement are available, as follows:
- Temporary Total Disability: TTD victims cannot work at all until their injuries heal. The injury could be a trauma injury, like a fall, or an occupational disease, like repetitive stress disorder. Most TTD victims receive two-thirds of their AWW until their doctors, whom they have a right to choose under the DBA, fully clear them to return to work.
- Temporary Partial Disability: In the latter stages of physical therapy and injury recovery, some victims can accept light-duty assignments or work part-time. The bad news is the light duty assignment could be a “make work” assignment, like a parking lot attendant. The good news is that TPD victims receive two-thirds of the difference between their previous and current incomes.
- Permanent Total Disability: PTD victims cannot work primarily because of their medical conditions but also due to their vocational and educational backgrounds. Not all permanent injuries are permanently disabling for all workers. Most PTD victims receive payments based on their likely future AWW. Roughly the same calculation applies to fatal injury victims.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Frequently, insurance companies use boilerplate tables to determine compensation in these situations. For example, a loss of X limb means Y dollars of compensation. But as mentioned above, some disabilities disproportionately affect some victims. Their DBA benefits should reflect these differences.
The AWW, or average weekly wage, is at the center of all these lost wage replacement calculations. This figure is more than the average of the last few net pay amounts.
Many victims receive non-cash compensation, like housing allowances. Additionally, the AWW must reflect future losses. For example, if a job injury forces John to miss a performance bonus milestone, he deserves compensation for that loss.
For more information about other DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.