The United Nations has issued a reported saying that most of the 103 children offered by a French charity as Darfur orphans ready for adoption were in fact children from Chad with at least one living parent.
Chad has detained 17 Europeans in the case, including journalists covering the adoption effort and the group's Spanish air crew.
Chadean President Idriss Deby has called for the release of the reporters and flight team, but he continues to accuse the French charity, Zoe's Ark, of stealing his nation's young. "Clearly, their goal is to kidnap and steal these kids from their parents, and sell them to pedophile organizations in Europe, or kill them and sell their organs," Deby has said.
The situation threatens to derail France's plans to lead a peacekeeping force on the border of Darfur. "It's a diplomatic crisis," says correspondent Eleanor Beardsley.
Beardsley calls the case "spooky" and reports that it has quickly become a "Kafkaesque drama, your worst nightmare." She says observers are beginning to wonder whether this situation will develop into one similar to that of the Bulgarian nurses who spent several years in a Libyan jail after being accused by that nation of spreading HIV.
In August, the French government warned the charity not to arrange adoptions from the region because it was illegal. Beneath the legal questions of the French charity's intentions and knowledge of the children's true status, she says, is the history of European attitudes toward Africa — particularly the notion that the children would be better off in Europe regardless of their situation back home.
"That's bringing up questions of colonialism, you know, 'the white man rescuing these children,' " Beardsley says. "It's opening up wounds, colonial wounds, between France and Chad about that."
On our blog, an open thread: Are you spooked by this story?