The French foreign ministry has confirmed that the 103 African children at the centre of child trafficking allegations involving a French charity are not all Darphur orphans. It has been proved that they are mostly from Chad, and they claim they have parents in their home villages. “I am ashamed of my countrymen,” said one French aid worker in a Chad orphanage. “And I am sad for the children. I have three children here, two brothers and a sister, who say they want to go back to their village and see their parents.”
Sixteen people have now been charged with kidnap and fraud. They are French charity workers and journalists. A Spanish air crew employed to fly the children to France has apparently been charged with complicity. “Conforming to article 286 of the penal code there is a punishment of forced labour of 5 to 20 years,” explained Ahmat Daoud, the public prosecutor for Abéché, the town where the arrests were made.
The charity, Zoe’s Ark, insists it was saving children from Darfur’s civil war. Officials say they were told all the children came from Darfur and had lost their parents. A Belgian pilot, thought to have flown small groups of children between the border and Abéché has not yet been charged. He is being held in N’Djamena. The other Europeans are expected to be moved there shortly.