'South Sudan children swapping guns for books' writes the BBC on January 27 2014.
As much as I would love to see children in Pibor County in Jonglei State in South Sudan hand in guns for books, I'm in doubt about the full message of this article.
First of all, it gives more information about guns than it gives about the books (UNICEF school kits?) handed out. And how to win peace by handing out books, especially if your children don't know how to read? And this is likely to be the case in Pibor County, which has not only been hard hit for years by conflict, also by a general lack of development, like education.
It may contribute to some immidiate relief and joy, but then what?
Intervention - and education - is definitely needed. And yes, chldren do have a right to all of that, including love, care and comfort. But the article doesn't really say exactly what will happen now..It talks about how children will be demobilised and reunited with families. But that is in fact a rather complex procedure.
Reading the article there are few critical concerns mentioned - like what does experience say, what does it take from UN and other actors to succeeed here, etc.? The fact is that conflict is still on in South Sudan, and I'm sorry to state that the sensational tone of the article mixed with absence of critical questiosn only makes me think that this exercise is for show. Disarmament of children is part of the peace process, and this is great storytelling material and photo opportunity - but we need more articles about what happens in between demobilisation exercises like this.
Photo from Konyo Konyo Market in Juba in South Sudan.