Chad: French NGO Adoption Scandal

Zoe's arc, “your love is choking me!”

Le blog du Prési!, written by a French-Cameroonian blogger, comments on a recent scandal involving a French NGO that tried to rescue 103 children from the Chadian-Sudanese border–supposedly Darfurian refugees–from “certain death” by adopting them to France.

Six members of the charity L’Arche de Zoé (Zoe's Arc) were arrested in Chad and charged with “abducting minors for the purpose of changing their civil status,” i.e. giving them new parents. The punishment is five to 20 years of forced labor.

Zoe's Arc has denied wrongdoing, saying that the children were orphans from Sudan. But according to reports, UN officials and French diplomats said that many of the children had parents and were Chadian, not Sudanese. Neither country allows international adoption.

To make matters worse, Chad's president Idriss Déby has been speculating that the charity, which was charging a 2,400 euro adoption fee, planned to sell these children to pedophiles or harvest their organs.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is not pleased. This incident has raised tensions in the two country's relations just before the planned deployment of a French-led EU peacekeeping force in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic.

Le blog du Prési! comments: on the Zoe affair, celebrity adoption, and a love that chokes, whatever its good intentions:

…pour sauver quelques malheureux petits africains de la mort, l'Arche de Zoé (AdZ) a flotté dans les airs, roulé dans le désert pour leur venir au secours, au Tchad. Objectif, ramener un 103 d'enfants et surtout les remettre à destination à des familles en attente. Coût de l'opération, 2400 euros par famille d'adoption en France.

…Zoe's arc soared through the air and rolled over desert to the rescue a few poor African children from death. Objective: to bring 103 children to their destination [in France] where families were waiting. Cost of the operation: 2,400 euros per adoptive family.

Tout était si bien reglé, jusqu'à ce vol retour, mais voilà, les autorités Tchadiennes s'en mêlent, en découvrant le pot-aux-roses et le debut des poursuites pour “enlèvement de mineurs tendant à compromettre leur état civil et escroquerie”. Et bien sur l'indignation des membres de l'ADZ, eux qui voulaient sauver le monde, sauver ces enfants de la mort. Et on apprend que ce n'étaient pas des orphelins, que ce n'étaient pas des ressortissants du Darfour, supercherie sur toute la ligne.

Everything was in order, down to the return trip, but then the Chadian authorities got involved, the plot was uncovered, and so began [ADZ's] prosecution for “fraud and the abduction of minors with intent to compromise their civil status.” Of course the ADZ members were indignant, they who wanted to ave the world, save these infants from death. And then we learn that they were not orphans, that they were not Darfurians, deception from start to finish.

What's the difference between a humanitarian abduction and a for-cash adoption?

Il y a quelques mois, c'était Madonna qui à grand renfort de dollars adoptait -pour ne pas utiliser un autre verbe- des petits Nigerians. J'ai beau cherché, mais je n'arrive pas à trouver de différence entre un enlèvement humanitaire et une adoption bradée. Et donc j'attends, des gens et médias, la même indignation qu'il y a quelques mois. Et ce serait au tour de la très médiatique Paris Hilton d'en faire autant avec des petits rwandais. Que ca se fasse, je suis pour! Au moins comme ca, l'état de délabrement sera vraiment bien établi et on pourra dire “on fait le bordel et on le fait bien!”.

A few months ago it was Madonna who put up the big dollars and adopted–not to use another verb–some Nigerian children Despite all my searching, I cannot find a difference between a humanitarian kidnapping and a for-cash adoption. And so I wait for the same indignation from people and the media that there was a few months ago. And soon it will be paparazzi darling Paris Hilton's turn to do the same with little Rwandans. If that happens, I'm all for it! At least that way the state of collapse would be well established and we could say “we're makeing a mess and we do it well!”.

Deux méthodes, le même resultat, peut-être pas les mêmes buts, mais que d'interrogation! Les familles d'origines ont-elles vraiment besoin de cet humanisme forcé? Et meme cet eldorado promis à ces enfants, est-il si important au point de justifier le mérpris de toutes les structures familiales, d'origine et de destination?

Two methods, the same result, maybe not the same goals, but ! Do the original families really need this imposed humanitarianism? And even this El Dorado promised to these children, is it so important that it justifies the undermining of all the family structures, at the origin and the destination?

Et si une fois arrivé en France, ca se passait mal en terme de procédure d'adoption, ou pire de vie de famille, on aurait peut-être vu déversés dans la rue 103 tchadiens, comme 101 dalmatiens, livrés à la merci de l'Intérieur.

And if upon arriving in France, if things go wrong with the adoption process, or worse yet, the families themselves, we might see 103 Chadians dumped in the streets, like 101 dalmatians, courtesy of the [Ministry of the Interior].

Zoé, ton arche avec, ton amour m'étouffe!

Zoe, with your arc, your love is choking me!


  • As noble Zoe’s Ark intentions might be, isn’t it worth noting that this is a PR exercise designed to attract media attention? If Zoe’s Ark mission is to help people, why don’t they start with the ghettos in Paris and suburbs and make it livable for their own citizens first?

    Another point worth noting is most parents who signed up for the kids, couldn’t afford the money and had to borrow from their communities – in that case, what better life awaits for those poor children? Living hand-to-mouth in Paris and gawking at the rich?

    And Zoe’s Ark has been warned before they undertook this operation by many adopting agencies and still they went ahead with it. I’ll leave with this question – How do you think the French would react if an African charity was caught trying to fly out 100 children from the poorest filthiest part of Paris?

  • I totally agree with New York Punk. Charity should start at home. And isn’t it rich that a French organization is so determined to “rescue” little Africans when they’ve got plenty of Africans already in their country who need a hand?

    Also, it’s interesting to note the coverage, or the lack of coverage, of this astonishing story in the U.S. I was waiting for the NYTimes to weigh in with their report and they finally did today with a rather sedate tone that seemed to say “the whole thing is a terrible misunderstanding” and they really didn’t put the screws to Zoe’s Ark. To me it looks like Zoe’s Ark is an unscruplous organization. But the NYTimes story made it sound like it is a well-meaning but naive and inexperienced NGO. Yeah, right.

  • I find that people are concerned about children and their welfare, well, as long as they are already born or wanted.
    I am concerned about the unwanted.
    Who should care about the unwanted?
    All of us, none of us?
    Maybe we are all unwanted at some stage of our life.
    How would I like people to respond when I become unwanted?

  • Misanga

    Poor Africa! Over 50 years of “political independence” an ex-colonial president can fly in an independent country and negotiate for a few hours and flew back with “liberated” accused “Europeans”! How many does the Chadian and other African Presidents know how many Africans are in French jails for faked cases? Ok! To the subject matter – let us ask ourselves- Why didn’t Zoe’s Ark send their humanitarian gesture to many suffering children in the former Soviet Block countries, like Bulgaria, Albania, Hungary and others to mention e few! Why didn’t they follow legal Chadian laws of the land? Even if Zoe’s Ark was exporting “cassava” to Europe, surely they should have followed “Chadian Export ” Laws or procedures! This is a picture depicting how the “21st Century Slavery” is taking shape! Zoe’s Ark should be scrutinized, is it a legal NGO?


  • Josephine

    As a French person, I am quite torn by the issue. I truly belive that Arche de Zoe’s founder, Eric Breteau had very good intentions. Here’s the situation, there are hundreds of families in France who want and have the money to adopt and on the flip side there are thousands of children from Dafur who are dying everyday due to the genocide. Breteau put the two together and realized that the equation looked that easy. Yet due to his secrecy since he knew very well that his actions were illegal, there were many complications to his actions. It turned that that Chadian officials saw this as a great opportunity to trick the NGO and collected non-orphan children to be taken by the association so that they could have better opporunities in France. Yes, Breteau acted illegally and it is completely wrong to take away children illegally especially if they have parents and without proper procedure but then we have to ask ourselves how else can we help to stop this violence? I mean, the UN security council ins’t doing much in Darfur and there are so many laws protected adoptions rights, should we just wait and let all these children die? Breteau’s mission definitely went wrong, but at least he gave a wake up call saying that while governments are wondering about the next steps to take to stop this genocide, there is is one child who dies every five minutes in Darfur.

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