Darfur: Those Trying to Make a Quick Buck Out of Human Misery

Darfur: Those Trying to Make a Quick Buck Out of Human Misery
Dr. Mohammed Abdu Yamani, Arab News
I pray to Allah to forgive those who caused the Darfur disaster. It is possible they did it with entirely good intentions and didn’t imagine the harmful consequences (the death of thousands of innocent and powerless people) of their actions.

More than four years of conflict in Darfur has left more than 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, many to eastern Chad. No one would have expected that things would deteriorate to the extent that Darfur children will be sold publicly in some European capitals.

Some NGOs and charitable organizations, like the French Children Rescue/Arche de Zoe (Zoe’s Ark), claim that their objective is to save orphans and homeless kids. The fact is they were making a quick buck out of human misery.

Zoe’s Ark says it wanted to rescue children from Darfur but nine French nationals, six of them members of the Zoe’s Ark and three journalists, face jail sentence on charges of kidnapping and extortion, while seven Spanish flight crew are charged with complicity.

For some time, there has been doubts about this nongovernmental organization founded by Eric Breteau, a volunteer fireman from Paris. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called the attempt to separate the 103 kids (21 girls and 82 boys, the youngest being about one-year-old and the oldest about 10) from their parents and then take them to France for adoption as an “illegal and totally irresponsible move.” The UN said the kidnapped kids had families in Chad and Sudan, had been living with family members in villages and were not at all “war orphans” as the group claimed.

Annette Rehl, an officer of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters in the eastern Chadian city of Abeche that, “Those kidnapped kids are not orphans and they were not sitting alone in the desert in Chad. They were living with their families in communities.”

UNICEF spokesperson Veronique Taveau told journalists in Geneva that what happened violated international rules, such as The Hague Convention on International Adoption and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. He said this was not an isolated incident given the large number of children involved. According to one French newspaper, the Europeans offered sweets and biscuits to encourage the children to leave their homes.

Ten-year-old Mariam, who was one of the victims along with her younger sister, said their mother was dead but their father was still alive. “A car came with two white men and one black man who spoke Arabic. The driver said ‘come with me, I’ll give you some money and biscuits and then I’ll take you home,’” she said.

“We were taken to the white people’s house and they gave us medicine, a small white tablet. I was not ill. All the children were given pills. They told us that we would not longer be able to go home,” Mariam said.

Radio Netherlands said that the French government is at a loss as to what to do about the arrest in Chad of French citizens and how to deal with lots of unanswered questions about what has become known as “the Zeo’s Ark affair.”

The French government has condemned the abduction, but its own role in the affair is far from clear. Many observers believe that it is involved in the scandal.

As a result of this grave crime against children, the authorities in the Republic of Congo have suspended the international adoption of children.

It was reported that hundreds of Chadian women hurled abuses at the 16 Europeans accusing them of “child-trafficking”. Protesters threw stones at foreign journalists in the Chadian town of Abeche, shouted slogans accusing the former colonial power of a role in the bid to abduct Sudanese and Chadian children to France to be sold. They chanted, “No to the slave trade! No trafficking in children. We want those responsible to be tried in Abeche”.

Idriss Deby, the Chadian president called the operation “pure and simple abduction” and went on to assert that the children could have ended up being sold to a pedophile ring or used to supply human organs. He was quoted as saying on Chad’s presidency website, “These people.. treat us like animals. So this is the image of the Savior Europe, which gives lessons to our countries. This is the image of Europe which helps Africans.”

French diplomats said they had warned Zoe’s Ark for months against the project, but Christophe Letien, a spokesman for the charity insisted its intentions were humanitarian. This proves that Sarkozy’s government was involved and was aware of the operation. Many European families has each paid the aid group several thousands euros to adopt, not merely host, a child from Darfur as French officials have said. This stands as clear evidence that the French authorizes had knowledge of the operation before it took place.

More important is the fact that the group of aid workers who are convicted in this shameful crime included the president of Zoe’s Ark, a doctor, three journalists and four firefighters who are all French nationals.

The scandal has caused outrage and condemnation across Africa. Many consider it a throwback to the dark history from the colonial era, when slave traders, missionaries and colonial officials blithely separated African families with no regard to their wishes or interests.

Let us pray to Allah that those kids get good care until they are reunited with their families and that the current situation in Chad and Darfur will not affect the trial process of those who are involved in this crime.

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