How a charity almost got away with kidnapping 103 African children

There are times when one single story makes us clearly understand the meaning of evil. This is an account about how a French charity group, supposed to care for child victims of a genocide, were caught moments before boarding a plane with 103 little boys and girls they had kidnapped in order to sell them in France for lots of cash.

Zoë’s Arch was founded in 2005 by a group of French four-wheel-drive community who were lured to charity work by the large sums of money donated for the thousands of victims of the Darfur (Sudan) genocide (2003 – ongoing)*. Zoë’s Arc was supposed to provide aid to Sudanese orphans usually under the age of five years old and look for French families to place these children with. So far so good.

In November 2007 Zoë Arc attempts to fly out of Chad (Sudan’s neighbor to the east) with 103 children aged 1-10 to France. The plane was however stopped moments before it was to take off after authorities somehow were alerted. It turned out that these children were not from Darfur and neither were they Sudanese. They were Chadians. They were not orphans either, but kidnapped from their families. The members of the Zoë Arc involved with this scheme are promptly arrested and the children are returned to their loved ones.

In court it becomes clear that some French families paid large sums of money to adopt “the orphans” the French charity had kidnapped. They are sentenced to 8 years hard labor. In a stunning move, Chadian president Idriss Déby (killed this weekend apparently by Chadian rebels) and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy (jailed last month for corruption) reached a deal: the kidnappers are pardoned and sent to France. Clearly a political deal since Idriss Déby earlier had accused the French organization of “selling (the children) to pedophile organizations in Europe, and even perhaps to kill them and sell their organs.” Déby became a favorite of the Élysée until his demise this weekend. As for the main culprits of the kidnapping, they opened a popular café in Cape Town, South Africa. The Big Box Café is especially popular with kids. According to its website, “here you can play different board games, as many as you want.”

Willemstad, Curaçao

*Author used to work in Chad for the United Nations. In 2007 he set up a “Save Darfur campaign” which was managed by Red Cross Curaçao.

Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

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