Monday, January 14, 2008

Stolen car, stolen baby

A most horrible thing happened this weekend.

On Saturday night, our neighbour Jmackie sent a message saying that an expat woman in Zinder had had her car stolen, with their baby inside! I called her up for the details and was devastated when I heard that the woman in question was none other than the French doctor who cared for my mother at the time when she was evacuated in 2006. She and her husband had stopped by a restaurant for take-away just a block away from Eden’s office (and just two blocks away from where Anette and I live). When the husband went inside the restaurant, two young unarmed men passed by. Before she knew it, they opened the car door and pulled her out of the car, grabbing the car keys and droving off; leaving her screaming that the baby was still inside.

We gathered at the French consul’s office and people came by to see if there was anything they could do. It was a very long night. We had no idea where the car was being taken or what the driver would do with the baby once he realized he had not only stolen a car but also kidnapped a four month old baby boy. Would it be dropped off in the bush where no one is out in the cold nights? Would it be left in an abandoned car (which by then was sought by both police and army)? Would it be handed over to some villagers, who would care for it during the night? We had no idea. Different accounts were coming in but it was impossible to know if the car was being taken up north towards the Agadez (which is currently a very unstable zone) or south to Nigeria. My dad drove all the way to Tanout and back to coordinate with Eden’s field worker team manager and have all our villages on alert. No one had seen or heard anything, which was good news. He came back at three at night, when the two of us went home and made flyers for the coming search. At six o’clock, twelve NGOs vehicles drove out on different routes, in order to search the country side and ask all villagers if they had seen a speeding white car or heard of a left baby somewhere. Luckily, the drama ended an hour later, when the police called to inform that the car had been found in the outskirts of Zinder, with the baby still inside. He was hungry and cold (but not freezing; his mother was so thankful she had “overdressed” him that day, something she normally never did…) but very happy to see people again!

I am so happy it ended well. In the evening, we all gathered at their house for a little Baby Home Coming Party and it was so nice to see the whole family reunited again:


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