In late 2007, Chadian authorities nabbed a group of European aid workers for attempting to evacuate 103 children to France. The workers claimed they were rescuing the Sudanese "orphans" from war-mangled Darfur and ushering them to better lives in Europe. There were just a couple snafus: Most of the kids were actually from Chad and had parents.
The French nationals were operating under the banner of L'Arche de Zoe, or Zoe's Ark, a do-gooder NGO formed in the wake of Asia's devastating 2004 tsunami. Sudanese officials alleged that the 103 youngsters were the first of thousands whom Zoe's Ark planned to sell into slavery for up to €8,000 (or $11,000) each. The aid workers cited altruism as their only motive, despite the admission that they planned to circumvent African and European adoption laws in order to transplant the kids.
The Chadian government eventually sentenced six French nationals to eight years "hard labor" for attempted kidnapping, though those sentences were commuted to regular jail time in France and the workers were later released following a pardon by the Chadian president, Idriss Déby.
The U.N. helped reunite most children with their parents over the following months, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the U.N., and other relief agencies that had worked in the area criticized Zoe's Ark, especially for making locals suspicious of other, more straitlaced aid agencies.
Next The Tsunami