Country Listing

Angola Table of Contents


Troop Strength, Recruitment, and Conscription

A female member of the People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola
Courtesy United Nations (Y. Nagata)

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. 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 (see Ethnic Groups and Languages , ch. 2). 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.

Data as of February 1989