There are sometimes where you have to stand back, look at a situation, and go WTF? What the hell is going on here? Some things just don’t pass the SMELL test.

Hat Tip: Booker Rising and Prometheus 6

As per

African Orphans Weren’t, U.N. Says
Published: November 2, 2007

DAKAR, Senegal, Nov. 1 — Virtually all of the children a French aid group tried to fly out of Chad last week had been living with family members in villages and were not orphans of the Darfur conflict, as the group claimed, the United Nations said Thursday.

That finding was based on interviews conducted with some of the 103 children as the government and aid groups try to figure out where they came from and how to reunite them with their families. The plane carrying the children was stopped moments before it was scheduled to take off from Abéché, a small, dust-choked city that is the base of operations for dozens of aid groups working in eastern Chad.

“These were not orphans in the desert,” said Annette Rehrl, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency. “They were living with their families.”

A French aid organization, Zoé’s Ark, had claimed that the children were sick, hungry and abandoned, and had raised money from European families to rescue the children and place them temporarily in French homes. But checkups showed the children to be in good condition, Ms. Rehrl said.

“In the context of Chad these are healthy, well-fed children,” she said.

Six French aid workers and seven Spaniards serving as crew members of the plane that was to take the children to France on Oct. 25 have been arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping and fraud. Interviews were conducted with those children old enough to talk, and many were able to give basic information about where they had come from and with whom they lived, Ms. Rehrl said. But because the children are so young — they range between 1 and 10 years old — gathering specific information has proved difficult.

“When you ask a child what is his father’s name, he will say Daddy, not Robert or Muhammad,” said Inah Kaloga of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Using photographs and information in interviews the organization hopes to find the children’s families and reunite them, Ms. Kaloga said.

The majority of the children came from Chadian villages along the border with Sudan, but aid officials were not able to say if the children were Chadians or Sudanese. The border is long and porous, and the violence in Darfur, in western Sudan, and in eastern Chad has pushed residents of both countries into each other’s territory.

For now the children are staying at Abéché’s orphanage, where they are attended to by health and social workers, Ms. Rehrl said. She was quick to add that the children were there not because they are orphans, but because it was the only “child-friendly space available, with a courtyard and toys and places for them to sleep.”

The children had been asked about how they came to be in the custody of Zoé’s Ark, but Ms. Rehrl declined to describe their stories, citing confidentiality.

The scandal has caused outrage and brought condemnation across Africa, where it has a deep resonance from the colonial era, when slave traders, missionaries and colonial officials blithely separated African families with little regard for their wishes. In Congo, officials have suspended all adoptions by foreigners to examine their procedures more carefully, The Associated Press reported, and protesters angry about the actions of the French charity took to the streets in Chad.

The scandal has also raised tensions between Chad and France just as the European Union begins deploying a peacekeeping force in the region aimed at shoring up Chad, which has been increasingly drawn into the four-year-old conflict in neighboring Darfur.

In the close-knit world of aid organizations operating out of Abéché, the bizarre tale has brought a mixture of apprehension and anger. The Chadian government said this week that it planned to tighten its procedures for aid groups. The hullabaloo has proved a burden on already stretched aid workers, Ms. Rehrl said. Figuring out who these children are, where they are from and uniting them with relatives “will take several weeks, if not months,” she said.

Put on that tinfoil hat and tell me what reason you have for this happening. All the places where my mind can go to make ‘sense’ of this are very dark, and I just don’t want to believe that sort of evil exists in the world. So, if you have a sane, not-so-dark explanation of what was going to happen here, please tell me.

Related Articles:
French Charity in Dispute Over African Children

Chad Holds French Citizens Who Took 103 Darfur Children

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