Tears for children in 'abduction' row

6th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

6 November 2007, ABECHE, Chad (AFP) - The boys fought over the ball before crying in unison while the girls appeared subdued Monday in their colourful dresses at an orphanage in this east Chadian town serving as the temporary home of 103 chidren at the centre of an "abduction" row.

6 November 2007

ABECHE, Chad (AFP) - The boys fought over the ball before crying in unison while the girls appeared subdued Monday in their colourful dresses at an orphanage in this east Chadian town serving as the temporary home of 103 chidren at the centre of an "abduction" row.

Blissfully unaware of what was going on around them, a pair of boys slept in scorching heat on straw mats in wood and straw huts, flies jumping over their faces.

A local worker carried the youngest, 13-month-old Taher, who along with his two brothers was among the 103 children whom the French charity L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) is accused of trying to sneak out of Chad to France before it was stopped on October 25.

"It is theft, pure and simple," said Absita, a social worker, about the French charity, six of whose members have gone on trial in Chad.

A total of 17 Europeans were detained on charges of kidnapping and complicity for trying to fly the children to France and 10 are still in jail in N'Djamena. They face hard labour prison terms if convicted.

Seven others, three French journalists and four Spanish flight crew members, were released on Sunday and flown back to Europe, but the charges against them have not been dropped in Chad itself.

Absita said Taher had a mother, as did other social workers caring for the other children, who said they had at least one parent, an account that contradicts the charity's claim that they were orphans from Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

"I'm Adam," said a six-year-old. "My mother's name is Botul and my father's Yahya," he said, though he said he did not know his mother.

The 81 boys and 22 girls sheltered at an orphanage run by UN agencies under the supervision of the Chadian government appeared somewhat bewildered when a mission from a charity in the Gulf emirate of Dubai came calling with toys to cheer them up.

The mission from "Dubai Cares," a government-sponsored charity campaign which has offered to help reunite the children with their families and pay for their schooling, arrived in Abeche on Monday for meetings with Chadian and UN officials, carrying food, clothes, medicines and toys.

Three doctors and other medical staff accompanying the mission checked on six of the children, three of whom suffered from flu and a fourth from nose bleeding. But there were no serious illnesses.

Unsurprisingly, balls proved favourite with the boys, who fought over the unexpected gifts. But the hints of joy on their faces soon gave way to a sudden chorus of weeping.

Locals caring for the children explained the boys had been scared by the sight of strangers.

"They are afraid they will be taken away" before they are reunited with their family, as almost happened last month, said one.

Greeting the Dubai delegation at the airport, Touka Ramadan Kore, governor of the Ouaddai region that includes Abeche, ruled out sending the French charity workers back to France to be tried there.

"Why not (try them) in Chad? It happened here," he told AFP.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took back with him three French journalists and four Spanish crew members after visiting Chad on Sunday, but Kore said the seven were not to blame for what happened.

He denied the row had created tension with France.

'The problem is between an ill-intentioned organisation and the Chadian people," Kore said.

AFP

Subject: French news

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