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aid workers arrested in Chad
Submitted by jcravens42 on October 30, 2007 - 3:49pm.
As you may know, a group of aid workers, most of them French and many of them volunteers, have been charged with kidnapping, per their attempt to fly from Chad with 103 children a charity said were orphans from Sudan's Darfur region. Journalists covering the action were also arrested.
L'Arche de Zoe, or Zoe's Ark, said it had arranged French host families for the children to save them from possible death in Sudan's western Darfur region.
If they are found guilty, the aid workers will face many years in prison and hard labor in Chad.
At minimum, the group leadership did not go through the proper channels in order for this airlift and these "hostings" to take place, and did a very poor job regarding communicating with everyone inside the government. But the infractions could go well beyond that: French diplomats said they had warned Zoe's Ark for months not to go through with its plans. French authorities have condemned the charity's plans and, in France, police searched the charity's offices as well as the apartment of its founder as part of an inquiry into whether the group broke adoption laws. UNICEF's representative in Chad, Mariam Coulibaly Ndiaye, said authorities were interviewing the children Monday to learn more about their origins and whether they were really orphans.
And then there is the very nasty turn that the allegations have taken: Chad officials are suggesting the children were going to be sold as sex slaves or human transplant donors.
I'm very concerned at these more serious rumors spiralling out of control. As many of you know, I try to track stories about how rumor and myth interfere with aid efforts, and the situation in Chad is turning into a classic example. Indeed, this French organization is guilty of a lot, and even the most minimum charges will harm the image of foreign aid workers. But these other much more serious rumors -- which are being made without substantiation -- will do a lot more than dent reputations. All aid workers in the field that work with children need to be following this story closely.