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The international programs training Mozambique's armed forces

After a June 2020 security brief criticised Mozambique's armed forces, Maputo went looking for support

From Cabo Ligado Monthly: October 2021, published 15 November 2021

The insurgency in Cabo Delgado exposed the fact that Mozambican armed forces were not prepared for counterinsurgency. A June 2020 security brief from the Centro de Estudos Estratégicos Internacionais (CEEI) at the Joaquim Chissano University set out a frank critique of the limitations of Mozambican security services, calling for a comprehensive restructuring, ranging from addressing equipment shortfalls to improving training through to the development of enhanced strategy and tactics to deal with evolving terrorism and insurgency threats.

Maputo has been on the search for such support. An array of training programs have been provided by private contractors, neighbouring countries, and the international community. With the European Union Training Mission standing up in October, it is worth looking back at past and present training programs in Mozambique to understand whether they have been effective and coherent in their response to the challenges faced by Mozambican security services.

The earliest publicised training programs set up in response to the conflict were run by the South African private military company Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), which provided training for a 120-man team of Mozambican police (PRM) in the latter half of 2020. The training was meant to promote the development of a “fire force” capacity within the PRM, which would combine ground and rotary wing assets to conduct offensive operations against insurgents. With the Mozambican government shifting control over the counterinsurgency effort from the PRM to the Mozambican military (FADM) in early 2021, however, the “fire force” concept was effectively retired. Only one component of this PRM unit saw any action in the wake of the March 2021 Palma attack. It is unclear whether this trained team has been kept together or is now split up within the PRM’s structures.

In February 2021, Mozambique contracted the  South African arms manufacturer Paramount Group to provide air assets and armoured vehicles as well as associated training through its newly established Advanced Training and Support Division with its Dubai-based partners Burnham Global. This included training pilots and ground support crews for newly acquired helicopter gunships, and training for a batch of newly purchased armoured personnel carriers.

Training of two FADM companies was provided by Zimbabwean forces ahead of the SADC Standby Force Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) agreement, although it is not clear what the training involved. Zimbabwe has offered training as its primary contribution to SAMIM. In August 2021, Zimbabwe’s defence minister announced that it would be deploying more than 300 trainers to this effect. However, as of the end of October, this had still not happened. No official explanation has been provided beyond the claim that a bespoke additional status of forces agreement (SOFA) is pending. This has been outstanding since early August, despite the fact that the existing SAMIM SOFA already makes provision for training (See Article 3, Section 1(e)). No specific mention was made of a bilateral training commitment in the communiqué of the 12th Session of the Mozambique-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security meeting convened in Maputo in mid-October.

Rwandan support includes a commitment to provide a training and capacity-building component, but as with the general agreement over security cooperation, publicly available details of what this will comprise has been limited, beyond the general focus on civil-military cooperation and community policing. One recent publication suggests that this will only occur after the Rwandan force has wrapped up its operational role. In early November, PRM Commander Bernadino Rafael announced the beginning of a six-month mixed force training provided by Rwanda, focusing on kidnapping, terrorism, and human and drug trafficking. The programs will also include counterintelligence training, which will take place outside Mozambique.

The price tag for Mozambique on new equipment and training by private contractors and others, such as that provided by Rwanda and Zimbabwe, is unknown. Researchers from civil society organisations estimate training costs by private contractors alone have been more than $40 million. How Rwanda’s mission is being financed is still unknown, although Rwandan president Paul Kagame has indicated several times it is being done without external financing.

Other training is paid for by those providing it, as part of international support packages. Since 2020, the United States has provided two short-term training modules focused on building specialist capacities for FADM’s elite fighting units. This Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program focuses on training by and for special operations forces. One JCET course for Mozambican marines was conducted between March and May 2021; 100 FADM commandos completed another six-week training course in early September. In addition to the JCETs, another US training mission in June and July 2021 provided a Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Combat Livesaver course designed to improve the survival rate of troops in combat situations for 60 FADM members. Further training modules have not been announced, but can be expected.

The EUTM is the most comprehensive training component currently in play. Off the back of an EU Council decision in July 2021, it was officially launched on 15 October as part of the EU’s commitment “to support a more efficient and effective response by the Mozambican armed forces to the crisis in Cabo Delgado province.” It is a two-year mission that will train eleven companies — approximately 2,000 troops — into a Quick Reaction Force within the FADM. It will build on the Portuguese training mission — a four-month training program staffed with 60 trainers that began in May 2021. Indeed, Portugal will maintain the lead role in the program, which will be commanded by Portugal’s Brigadier General Nuno Lemos Pires. Training will also be provided by instructors from Finland, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Romania, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Estonia.

The training will include a focus on “operational preparation, specialised training including on counter-terrorism, and training and education on compliance with human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, and on respect for the rule of law.” It will also “support the development of command and control structures and mechanisms of the [Quick Reaction Force].” By mid-December, 140 trainers will be in situ, divided between two training bases — one for commandos and one for marines.

The initial price tag of almost $22.7m is expected to increase at least four-fold once further spending on equipment is authorized by Brussels. Training will be staggered over the two years, in part to allow time for qualified trainees to be identified. Those who have already undertaken training with Portuguese instructors will be included in the EUTM training pool. It is unclear if PRM members trained by DAG will also be eligible.

The EUTM has a specific mandate to “coordinate its activities” with other international actors, and a proactive stance in that regard may enhance prospects for greater coherence. However, the efficacy of this will depend on Mozambique’s willingness to promote such an approach. No effective coordination between the various international training programs in Mozambique will be possible without clarity between the training entities and Maputo about the overall strategic goals of Mozambican forces.

The EU can bring lessons learned from the challenges of its other training missions in Mali, the Central African Republic, and perhaps most significantly, Somalia. The EU mission in Somalia has been in place since 2010, and the effectiveness of EU support there has been hampered by the lack of an agreed strategic vision for Somalia’s security architecture.

Both EU and US training missions have emphasised the centrality of human rights standards and the importance of building civil-military relations. The EUTM, specifically, has agreed to a monitoring mechanism that will assess trainees’ compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law. This focus will be bolstered by building an integrated gender and human rights policy approach in support of the mission with multilateral intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies.

However, the EU and US training does not provide in-the-field mentoring, an issue of concern raised in a December 2020 assessment of the EU mission in Somalia. Given the limited combat field experience of Mozambican commanders, this is a critical component that might be provided by other training options. DAG training had envisaged a field mentoring role and some analysts believe Zimbabwean trainers could be well suited to play this role.

While operational forces have recognised the importance of improved coordination, communications, and intelligence sharing in the field, this will remain a huge challenge with respect to the various training programs in play. Mozambique retains point responsibility for maximising coherence between these training programs, to ensure that they complement and reinforce one another. The long-term efficacy of the programs will depend on Maputo’s ability to incorporate the training programs into an overall strategic concept for its security forces.


On 5 October, SADC’s Organ Troika (for Politics, Defence and Security) agreed to extend the SAMIM deployment by a further 90 days. This decision did not expand the mission beyond the existing numbers deployed, though, due to a lack of available funds to support the mission, with troop contributing countries having to scrounge within domestic budgets to fund their contributions. A further extension is expected in January, as the security situation will not have been fully consolidated. SAMIM head, Professor Mpho Molomo, has already indicated that ongoing security challenges have influenced SADC’s intention to deploy more ground troops into areas of Cabo Delgado where SAMIM offensives have pushed out insurgents. An expansion of operations will, however, be contingent on available funding. SADC has called on the international community to support the mission but has not provided details of what it is specifically asking for. Much will depend on what role Mozambique prefers for SAMIM. To date, its attitude toward regional intervention has remained lukewarm, and there is a lingering impression in some quarters that the regional bloc’s involvement would not be welcome by Maputo over a longer period.