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Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Anybody remember a major TV story about how a French aid agency had had been taking children from villages in Chad, calling them orphans from Darfur, & taking them back to France where childless middle class families were snapping them up? Hit all the right emotional buttons.

Six members of the Paris-based L'Arche de Zoe, or Zoe's Ark, were waiting to hear last night whether they would face kidnapping charges. The group maintains that its members, accompanied by three French journalists and seven Spanish air crew due to fly the children to Rheims in France, had acted with the best of intentions and with the knowledge of the Chad government. They claimed the children were orphans fleeing hostilities in Darfur.

However, several of the children were found to have at least one parent and to be from Chad, not Darfur, and that, allegedly, no parental permission had been sought by Zoe's Ark to put them up for adoption in France.........

The organisers of Zoe's Ark are said to be volunteers with no background in running major humanitarian groups. More than 100 would-be foster families in France paid the group between £1,400 and £4,200 as an initial "goodwill" fee to look after the children.

Well today as a very small item I read in the Scotsman

CHAD'S president has pardoned six French aid workers convicted of kidnapping.

The six tried to take 103 children to France claiming humanitarian concern for orphans from Sudan, but investigations showed the children were local and most had at least one parent or close adult relative.

I suppose it was inevitable that this is how it would end. It doesn't say whether local employees are also being released & I don't suppose the French government, or the Chadean, cares. Have all the children been returned to their parents or has it been impossible to find many of them - my guess would be it hasn't? Has the President of Chad become richer - almost certainly? Would the children have had longer happier lives if the kidnapping worked, as previous ones seem to - almost certainly? Did the French parents want the kids more than the African (where large families, many of whom die or disappear, are common - probably?

I don't know what the right thing at any stage would have been but every adult here has behaved immorally. It also says something, not nasty but somewhat sick, about our society's use of money to satisfy the need to be able to give love & the way we put off having children until we can "afford them" unlike the Africans. Something ugly about the disparity in wealth between Europe & sub Saharan Africa. And current non-coverage says a lot about the way the media handle stories for emotional content not to understand.

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