Sudan/Chad: released ICRC worker Laurent Maurice talks about his experience

09-02-2010 Interview

ICRC agronomist Laurent Maurice was freed by his abductors 89 days after he was kidnapped in eastern Chad. Another ICRC staff member, Gauthier Lefèvre, was taken hostage on 22 October 2009 in West Darfur, Sudan, and is still being held captive. The ICRC remains very concerned about Mr Lefèvre and continues to press for his unconditional release. Laurent Maurice spoke to the ICRC’s Saleh Dabbakeh in Khartoum shortly after his release.


©ICRC/S. Dabbakeh 
Laurent Maurice, three days after his release. 

 You were released three days ago. How are you feeling?  

For a start, I can laugh out loud now. Expressing myself during captivity was not easy, as I was not supposed to attract attention. Since my release, I’ve spoken to many friends and colleagues. I was able to talk to my family on the phone and I’ll be able to see them soon. They’re very happy to have spoken to me, but they want to see their son, feel him and see how he’s looking after his kidnapping.

 How did the kidnappers treat you?  

Like a guest, but I kept a distance from them to show respect, in order to win their respect. They generally gave me European food, and at times I got a bit fed up of macaroni twice a day. But even though they treated me well, I was being held against my will.

 Were you aware of what was going on in the world?  

The kidnappers gave me a radio whenever I asked for one, so for instance I listened to the news about the environment conference in Copenhagen. But the radio was more than just a source of news; it was a way for my mind to escape from what I was going through. It was a way to leave the area, to move around outside the setting I was restricted to. Then reality would catch up with me. It was a form of temporary relief.

  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann    
  ICRC director-general Angelo Gnaedinger and several hundred staff welcome Laurent Maurice at the ICRC's Geneva headquarters.    

 How has the kidnapping affected your future plans regarding the ICRC and humanitarian work?  

This is my vocation and my profession. I started in the humanitarian field in 1998 and always wanted to work for the ICRC one day. Now I do, and I want to continue. People affected by armed conflict who need protection and assistance have nothing to do with the kidnappers. They need clean drinking water, better harvests, food, shelter, etc. I chose to work in the humanitarian field in order to help people.

 When did you know that you were going to be released?  

The kidnappers told me the day before. I reckon I only slept for about an hour that night. I lay awake looking at the stars and the moon, wondering whether it was really going to happen, whether I would finally be freed. Then, after all this time in captivity, things seemed to happen suddenly, just like that. You know that you are free when it happens.

I want to thank everyone who contributed to my release and encourage them to continue doing their best to free Gauthier.

 What message do you want to send Gauthier?  

My message is one of hope. I hope that Gauthier will soon be freed. I want to tell him that a mountain of happy things is waiting for him. There is so much love, so much hope, so many friends and tons of messages. I hope that my release will lead to your being released really soon. I know it’s not easy to wait day after day to be set free. But I have no doubt that your freedom will come soon.