In Summary
  • A court in Belgium is investigating an orphanage for alleged abduction and trafficking of children from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • In May 2015 four families sent children away to Kinshasa on what they thought was a holiday camp.

  • When the story broke in Belgium, four children were involved. Now, the adoptive parents of a further 15 children are awaiting the outcome of DNA tests.

A court in Belgium is investigating an orphanage for alleged abduction and trafficking of children from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Children were brought to Belgium and adopted by families who had been told they were orphans. Years later, DNA tests have proved that in some cases they were not.

GEMENA

Hundreds of miles north of DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, is the village of Gemena. Most people make a living from agriculture or fishing; others are carpenters or shopkeepers.

Abdula Libenge, a 34-year-old tailor, is the father of one of four families in the area who in May 2015 sent a child away to Kinshasa on what they thought was a holiday camp.

Their children never came back. Without access to legal representation or assistance from local authorities, all they could do was wait.

About two years after Mr Libenge's daughter disappeared, he received an unexpected visit that would finally shed light on what happened.

Belgian journalists Kurt Wertelaers and Benoit de Freine had got wind of an inquiry beginning into adoption fraud in their country.

UNCOVERING THE SCANDAL

The Belgian public prosecutor had strong indications that the biological parents of a number of Congolese children adopted in Belgium were still alive, and the pair had set out to find them.

Their search led them from Brussels to Abdula Libenge's workshop in Gemena.

He took them inside and produced a picture of his daughter.

"Taken on the day she left for Kinshasa," he told them. "She was so happy. We'll never get the chance to go to Kinshasa. We can't afford the plane ticket. But she got the chance, and it made us proud."

It was one of several photos of the group of three girls and one boy, then aged between two and four.

One photo shows them with a young man from a youth organisation, their chaperone to the so-called holiday camp.

"All we have left is this picture and a shoe," Mr Libenge continued, producing a tiny, white ballet pump for the journalists.

Outside another home Suriya Moyumbe was waiting in tears, clutching a picture of her daughter, who was a toddler when she left and could not yet talk.

"My husband's family blames me for giving her away for that holiday. I should never have done that. But we all thought it was a great opportunity," she told the reporters.

EVIDENCE

Wertelaers and De Freine returned to Brussels to present their evidence and the public prosecutor then travelled to Gemena to gather DNA.

Everything added up.

The Tumaini orphanage in Kinshasa has since been shut down.

Belgian-Congolese lawyer Julienne Mpemba is under house arrest and facing criminal charges for her role as head of the orphanage.

Her lawyer, George Balon Perin, has said she "challenges in the clearest way the charges against her", adding that she is not being prosecuted in DR Congo, where the alleged events took place.

Other people have been indicted both in Belgium and DR Congo, the lawyer has told the BBC.

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