February 2023: Week one disinformation summary

Eritrean troops are still in Tigray

The peace agreement between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF in November 2022 concluded the war that broke out exactly two years ago.

The Eritrea Defence Forces, Amhara regional militia, and other armed forces had been involved in the war alongside the federal government of Ethiopia against TPLF forces.

The peace agreement signed in Pretoria, South Africa asserts that TPLF forces shall surrender their weapons and foreign and non-ENDF armed forces to leave the regional state of Tigray.

The Ethiopian government and the TPLF agreed that the disarmament of heavy weapons of the TPLF should be done concurrently with the withdrawal of Eritrean and non-ENDF forces from the Tigray.

Recent news reports indicate that Eritrean soldiers started withdrawing from Tigray last month. They left the towns of Aksum, Adwa, and Shire. Additionally, Amhara regional armed forces also reportedly left Shire town.

Yet, it is still unknown whether the non-ENDF and Eritrean troops have fully withdrawn from the Tigray regional state.

Against this backdrop, a Facebook post emerged on Feb 3, 2023, sharing an image with a claim that Eritrean soldiers had not fully withdrawn and were still in northeastern parts of Tigray.

Yet, the image was old and taken from a publication made in May 2021. The picture was first published along with a news story by CNN.

Therefore, HaqCheck rendered the post False.

Celebration over the appointment of new bishops in Oromia

On Jan 22, 2023, Abune Sawiros, Archbishop of South West Shoa, along with two archbishops appointed 26 bishops without the recognition of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. Seventy of the bishops appointed by Abune Sawiros were announced to be dispatched to churches in the Oromia regional state.

Following this appointment, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church denounced the act. The Church also excommunicated Abune Sawiros and other bishops who co-organized the appointment.

A few days later, the breakaway archbishops announced that nominee bishops would soon be dispatched to various parishes in Oromia.

Social media reports indicate that the newly appointed bishops were sent to their respective domains and were warmly received by residents.

In this context, the Facebook page followed by over two million accounts shared three images on Jan 27, 2023, claiming that residents of many towns in the Oromia region were celebrating the appointment of new bishops.

The images, however, do not support the claim. The first two images in the post were taken from a YouTube video published in February 2020.

The third picture depicts Abune Sawiros who appointed the new bishops. The image was recently posted on Facebook.

Recommendations

Social media users are recommended to be skeptical of potentially misleading and fraudulent posts. They should look for additional information before reacting.

HaqCheck urges public offices and other institutions to offer sufficient and timely updates regarding ongoing issues that are of public interest.

The government should secure the right of citizens and the media to access information.

We recommend social media content creators be responsible and avoid circulating false and misleading information.

January week four disinformation summary

Almost all the social media false claims debunked by HaqCheck last week were related to an ongoing conflict in the Oromo Special and North Shewa zones of the Amhara regional state.

The Ethiopian social media landscape is always dominated by posts related to ongoing incidents. Media reports indicate that there was an ongoing conflict in the North Shewa and the Oromo Special zones of the Amhara regional state.

Thus, the claims and controversies during the week were mostly related to the looming conflict in the areas of the two zones which are characterized by ethnic and religious diversity.

HaqCheck did three fact-checking articles last week. A summary of the issues is presented below.

A video of torched Oromo houses

On Jan 23, 2023, a video was shared by a Facebook page with more than six thousand followers claiming that houses belonging to ethnic Oromos were torched in an ongoing conflict in the Oromo Special Zone of the Amhara region.

The claim emerged amid surfacing social media reports that there was an ongoing conflict in areas of the two volatile zones. The post claimed that the video shows Oromo houses being burnt in an ongoing conflict in the Amhara region.

The video, however, does not support the claim. The video was made up of images by converting a picture into a moving image or video.

The original image was taken from an old publication made on Dec 23, 2020. The original image was published along with a report that many civilians were massacred in the Metekel zone of Benishangul Gumuz.

Therefore, the post was rated False.

A false image of a recent conflict in Ataye town, Amhara region

An image was shared on Facebook with a claim that the picture shows an ongoing violent conflict in the town of Ataye, Amhara regional state. The image was posted along with two others on Facebook on Jan 24, 2023, by a page that has over five thousand followers.

The same image was also shared in another Facebook post with the same claim that it shows an ongoing conflict in Ataye.

The posts by the Facebook pages with over five thousand followers each are expected to reach many audiences.

Yet, HaqCheck confirmed that the image was old and doesn’t show an ongoing conflict in the area. However, HaqCheck investigated the claim and confirmed that the image was old.

The original picture was first published on Facebook in April 2019 with a caption that the image shows a church destroyed by fire in the town of Ataye at that time.

Therefore, the claim was rated False.

OLA militants attacked police officers in Jewha, Amhara regional state

Oromo Liberation Army militants opened a sudden attack on a camp and killed more than 20 police officers during an ongoing conflict in Jewha town, Amhara regional state, claimed a Facebook post made on Jan 22, 2023. The claim was backed with an image.

The claim was made in the context of the ongoing conflict in the area. However, HaqCheck investigated the image and confirmed that the image used to support the claim was old.

The image was originally published on a website on  March 20, 2021, along with a short news story.

Thus, HaqCheck rated the post as False.

Recommendations

HaqCheck urges social media content creators and influencers to be responsible and avoid disseminating false information.

We recommend social media users be cautious and look for additional sources for misleading and controversial claims.

The government and public offices are recommended to provide updates and sufficient information about ongoing public matters.

January week three summary

HaqCheck did not debunk claims during the third week of January 2023. However, we observed controversies looming across the Ethiopian social media landscape.

Below are some of the controversies that appeared last week.

Withdrawal of Eritrean soldiers from Tigray

One of the controversies that emerged last week was the status of Eritrean soldiers in the Tigray region. Controversy about whether Eritrean troops were leaving Tigray was observed on the Ethiopian social media landscape.

International media outlets such as the Associated Press reported that Eritrean troops started withdrawing from Tigray.

The peace deal between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF says that foreign and non-ENDF forces should withdraw from Tigray concurrently with the disarmament of TPLF’s heavy weapons.

The United States and some European countries repeatedly said that Eritrean troops should leave the Tigray region.

Last week, Olusegun Obasanjo told the Financial Times that Eritrean soldiers were at the border. TPLF leaders, Getachew Reda and Kindeya Gebrehiwot wrote on their Twitter pages that Eritrean troops had not left the regional state and were still in Tigray. 

Later, the news that Eritrean soldiers were seen leaving Tigray regional state towns such as Shire and Aksum came out at the end of last week.

Controversy followed the information. Many social media posts appeared claiming that the information was false and that Eritrean soldiers were still in Tigray.

HaqCheck observed many social media posts mainly written in Tigrinya that Eritrean soldiers had not started leaving the Tigray regional state.

TPLF suspended top party leaders

A Facebook page with over one million and seven hundred thousand followers published a news article stating that the TPLF suspended five Executive Committee members during a recent meeting. The Facebook post attracted thousands of engagements and controversy across social media platforms.

According to the information, the top party leaders who were suspended were Debretsion Gebremichael, Fetlewerk Gebregziabher, Getachew Assefa, Alem Gebrewahd, and Getachew Reda.

The claim prompted social media controversy. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a member of the TPLF Executive Committee denied the claim on his Twitter page.

Recommendations

We urge social media users to be skeptical and cross-check potentially misleading claims. They should look for additional sources for claims before reacting or before sharing them with others.

HaqCheck recommends social media content creators and influencers be responsible and refrain from circulating false and misleading information on social media.

Government offices and other eligible entities are recommended to offer timely information to the media and the public.

We urge the government and civil organizations to help realize the right of citizens to have access to information.

January week two summary

Ethiopia to launch a second earth observation satellite into orbit

One of the false claims HaqCheck debunked during the week was a news story published by state-affiliated media outlets that Ethiopia was preparing to launch its ‘second’ satellite into orbit.

The Facebook posts by the two pages were shared half a thousand times and got close to ten thousand reactions.

However, Ethiopia launched the second satellite into orbit two years ago.

The second Ethiopian satellite named ET-Smart-RSS was launched from China’s Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in December 2020.

The first remote-sensing satellite was constructed and launched from China in December 2019.

Yeshurun Alemayehu (PhD), Deputy Director of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) told HaqCheck that the country already launched two satellites and will launch a third soon.

Properties recently looted from Tigray

A claim sharing images was made on Twitter that Eritrean soldiers were looting properties in Tigray.

The tweet was viral and shared many times on the platform.

Yet, the image used to support the claim was old. The picture was first published on Facebook on April 21, 2022. The description of the original image states that the picture shows looted properties being transported from Humera to Gondar at the time.

Thus, the post was rendered as False.

PM Abiy appointed a new Foreign Affairs Minister

HaqCheck came across a Facebook post claiming that former ambassador Mesganu Arega was appointed as Ethiopian Foreign Minister by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replacing incumbent Demeke Mekonnen.

The post was later edited and stated that the former ambassador was appointed as Ethiopia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

However, Ambassador Mesganu Arega was appointed neither a Minister of Foreign Affairs nor a Deputy of Foreign Affairs Minister.

He was named by the Prime Minister as a state minister of the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

HaqCheck rated the post as False.

Recommendations

We urge social media users to be attentive and cross-check the authenticity of the information they encounter before they share it with others.

Social media influencers and content creators are recommended to abstain from disseminating false and controversial information on social media platforms.

HaqCheck recommends public offices provide timely updates to the public and the media. Disinformation is intensified when there is a lack of sufficient information.

The media and the general public should enjoy the right to access information.

January 2023: Week one disinformation summary

The trend of the Ethiopian social media landscape was dominated by claims related to conflict and violence in Oromia regional state during the first week of January.

HaqCheck observed many images with claims that houses were being demolished in Addis Ababa. But we couldn’t confirm any of the images.

Below are the false claims that circulated on the Ethiopian social media landscape during the week.

An altered image that the Oromo Liberation Army preparing to attack Amhara civilians in Wollega

Two Facebook pages shared an image on Dec 10, 2022, claiming that the Oromo Liberation Front [Army] along with the Oromia Special Police Force was preparing to attack Amhara civilians in Wollega.

The Facebook posts went viral on the platform and gained many reactions. They were shared over two hundred fifty times on Facebook.

The Facebook posts used a fabricated image that is made up of two different images. An image that allegedly shows Kumsa Diriba, the commander of the OLA was amalgamated and photoshopped into another image.

However, HaqCheck couldn’t confirm whether the second image was true or false.

A false image of Amharas recently executed in Oromia

A photo was shared on Facebook on Dec 5, 2022, with a claim that the picture shows ethnic Amharas recently executed in the Oromia region. The post claimed that genocide was being committed against ethnic Amharas in Wollega of the Oromia region.

Yet, HaqCheck confirmed that the picture was old and was previously published in August 2020.

The image was first published by a Somali news website. The description of the original picture states that the image shows two Somali soldiers publicly executed for allegedly raping a 10-years old boy in Baidoa, a city in the South West region of Somalia.

Therefore, HaqCheck rated the post False for using an inaccurate image to support the claim.

Recommendations

HaqCheck recommends social media users be skeptical and always look for additional information for a potentially misleading claim. They should cross-check controversial claims they encounter on social media platforms.

Government authorities and other agencies are urged to provide timely and sufficient information regarding ongoing public affairs.

The lack of access to information is among the main factors behind disinformation dissemination. Government and other organizations should guarantee the right of citizens and the media to have access to information.

Prebunking potential controversies on the peace deal between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF

In case of potential controversies regarding the peace agreement signed between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government in South Africa at the beginning of November 2022, HaqCheck has done an analysis of the terms of the peace deal and its ongoing status.

Background

Since 1991, the TPLF had been a dominant political force in Ethiopia ruling the country with an iron fist till 2018. Ethiopia had witnessed a widespread popular protest against the ruling party, EPRDF. The then prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn was forced to resign amid the massive unrest.

The public uprising culminated when the TPLF-dominated EPRDF elected a new party chairman and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The new Prime Minister soon introduced drastic reforms within the ruling party including changing its program and organizational structures. The coalition EPRDF party was then dismantled and transformed into a more unified and liberal Prosperity Party.

The relationship between the TPLF and the other regional parties particularly with the then Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) began to sour.

Contention between the TPLF and the federal government reigned between 2018 and 2020.

In June 2020 the Ethiopian House of Federation approved the decision of the electoral board and the lower house to postpone the sixth national election due to the coronavirus.

The TPLF denounced the postponement of the election by the parliament and proceed with holding a regional election in September 2020. It was reported that the TPLF won the regional election 100 percent.

Soon after, the TPLF announced that the federal government was not elected and was illegitimate.

In October 2020, the Ethiopian House of Federation ruled that federal authorities should cut off contact with the Tigray regional legislative and executive bodies.

The federal government cut a subsidy budget to the regional state of Tigray and order government offices to cut any ties with the TPLF-led regional authority.

Armed Conflict

The tension culminated in a war that broke out on the evening of November 3, 2020.

The TPLF said that it had conducted a preemptive strike against the ENDF units based in Tigray.

The Ethiopian army along with the Eritrean counterpart and other regional forces quashed the TPLF forces and took control of the regional capital Mekelle within three weeks.

However, the insurgency continued in the regional state. The Ethiopian government with a request from the then Tigray Interim administration declared a humanitarian ceasefire and pulled its armed forces from Mekelle and many areas of the region.

After the TPLF forces controlled Mekelle in June 2021, they marched toward the Amhara and Afar regional states and seized many towns such as Woldia, Kombolcha, Dessie, and Debre Tabor.

Yet, the overstretched TPLF armed forces were driven out of the Afar and Amhara regions after a coordinated offensive by the Ethiopian government and its allied forces.

Cessation of Hostilities

Thereafter, the Ethiopian government declared a cessation of hostilities with the TPLF on Mar 24, 2022. The unilaterally declared truce was immediately adopted by the TPLF.

Informal talks to settle the armed conflict were initiated by the African Union. The organization assigned former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to lead and facilitate talks between the belligerents.

The Ethiopian government established a negotiating team to look for a peaceful settlement to the war. 

In August 2022, the TPLF announced preconditions such as the restoration of basic public services in the regional state to kickstart negotiation.

The federal government ignored TPLF preconditions and said that it was ready to start negotiation with no preconditions.

Resumption of Conflict

The TPLF announced on Aug 16, 2022, that the armed forces of the federal government attacked its forces with artillery and tanks violating the cessation of hostilities.

The federal government and the TPLF forces blamed each other for launching attacks violating the bilaterally-embraced truce.

The TPLF forces advanced southward and seized the town of Kobo. The federal government and allied forces soon rapidly marched in the TPLF-controlled areas in the northwestern parts of Tigray.

Major towns in the Tigray regional state including Shire, Aksum, Adwa, Korem, and Alamata took control by the Ethiopian government.

Pretoria Peace Agreement

On Nov 2, 2022, the federal government and the TPLF signed a peace agreement in South Africa, Pretoria. The peace deal dubbed ‘Agreement for lasting peace through a permanent cessation of hostilities between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’ was signed under the auspices of the African Union.

What is the Pretoria Peace Agreement about?

According to the deal, the TPLF agreed to surrender its weapons within a month and disarm, demobilize and reintegrate its armed combatants into the Ethiopian defense force.

The federal government agreed to list the terrorist designation of the TPLF and restore essential services.

The parties to the deal agreed to establish an interim government within a week after the listing of the terrorist designation of the TPLF.

The Nairobi Declaration

On Nov 12, 2022, the senior commanders of the Ethiopian armed forces and the TPLF armed combatants met in  Nairobi, Kenya, and crafted a modality on the further implementation of the Pretoria agreement.

Article two of the Nairobi declaration stated that the parties agreed that disarmament of heavy weapons should be done concurrently with the withdrawal of foreign and non-ENDF forces from the region.

The deal and the later declaration also asserted that a monitoring and verification committee should be established by the parties and shall be assisted by an expert team appointed by the African Union.

The current status of the implementation of the agreement

Reports indicate that humanitarian aid delivery and essential services such as transportation, telephone, and Internet connection have commenced in the regional state.

On Dec 3, 2022, the commander-in-chief of the TPLF armed forces said that 65% of the TPLF combatants were already withdrawn from the frontlines.

The Eritrean soldiers reportedly withdrew from the town of Aksum and Shire at the end of last month.

Controversies regarding a border dispute

The Tigray and Amhara regional states have been in a border dispute.

Article 10 of the Pretoria deal states that the parties agreed to solve the land dispute in accordance with the Ethiopian constitution.

The current Ethiopian constitution, article 39, sub-article 3, says that every nation, nationality, and people in Ethiopia has the right to self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government. Article 47 of the constitution also asserts groups can establish their state.

The request to form a self-government is accepted when the demand is approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of the legislative council of the administration (kebele, woreda, zone, region) in question.

For instance, in July 2018, the Sidama Zone Council decided to establish a Sidama regional state and the request was sent to the Southern Nations, Nationality, and Peoples Regional Council. The regional council in return voted in favor of the decision and allowed the zone to pursue statehood. The Ethiopian National Electoral Board arranged a referendum.

But this constitutional arrangement is applied when an administration wants to separate from a bigger administration and establish higher self-government.

The constitution has no explicit statement regarding the settlement of the border dispute between regional states.

December week three disinformation summary

The Ethiopian social media landscape during the third week of December was dominated by three main issues and related claims.

The first issue was related to ongoing conflict and violence in the Oromia regional state of Ethiopia. Social media platforms, particularly Telegram was characterized by disturbing graphic videos and images.

Videos and images showing decapitated human heads, a man guillotining a person’s head, etc were shared across social media platforms.

There were controversial claims regarding these horrific videos and images. HaqCheck saw claims that the people shown in the videos beheading were Fano militias.

Whereas, others shared videos that show many corpses and claimed that the dead bodies belong to armed fighters of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) who were killed in recent engagements.

Yet, we couldn’t verify whether the claims were true or false.

The other two issues that flamed information controversy on social media were Ethiopia’s status in relation to the recently announced Chinese tariff-free privilege for African products and regarding what Ethiopia did and didn’t achieve during the 2022 US-Africa Leaders Summit.

HaqCheck came across controversial claims regarding the issues. However, HaqCheck hasn’t reached a conclusion yet.

Moroccans displayed the ONLF flag at the Qatar World Cup

HaqCheck observed a social media post sharing an image that the picture shows the Moroccan national team displaying the flag of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and rejoicing after a match.

The Moroccan national football team has reached the Qatar FIFA World Cup semi-final as the first African Arab country. After their victory against Spain, the Moroccan squad raised the Palestinian flag.

The image presented by the Facebook post to support the claim that Morrocans raised the ONLF flag in the Qatar World Cup was taken from another publication. Also, the image was altered to make the flag seem like the claimed one.

The original image shows the Moroccan team raising the Palestinian flag after a match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar.

Thus, HaqCheck confirmed that the image doesn’t support the claim and rated the image Altered.

Recommendations

We recommend social media users be cautious of potentially misleading and controversial information. They should look for additional information before they accept or share the claim.

HaqCheck urges public offices and other agencies to offer timely updates about ongoing issues. The lack of sufficing information has been observed to be one of the main factors behind disinformation dissemination.

Government and other organizations are recommended to ensure the right of citizens and the media to access information.

December week two disinformation summary

All the false claims HaqCheck debunked during the second week of December this year were related to conflict and resultant violence.

The armed conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) whom the government called Shene has been raging.

Recurrent conflicts and resultant violence for the past few years now have been reported. Many civilians, including Oromos and Amharas, were killed by government forces and non-state armed entities.

Amid the armed conflict, aerial and ground attacks were undergoing targeting civilians in the process or intentionally.

Conflict broke out recently in the Oromia regional state, mainly in the Wollega zones. Violence and civilian killings came out, particularly on social media.

We observed two fronts circulating social media posts that dominated the social media landscape. The one front seemed to claim that the government along with Amhara regional forces targeted Oromo civilians and the victims of the latest conflict were ethnic Oromos.

The other front alleged that armed forces in Oromia were targeting and mass killing ethnic Amharas who live in Wollega of the Oromia region.

Viral claims and rumors of massacres slaughters, violence, mass displacement, and immolation were making rounds across the Ethiopian social media landscape.

Many images allegedly proving these claims were greatly disseminated on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Ethiopian social media landscape was overwhelmed by false and controversial claims that are related to an ongoing conflict in the Oromia regional state of Ethiopia. These claims were mostly supported by images and videos. HaqCheck came across many image-backed claims. While we figured out that some of them were old and false, we could not confirm many images whether were authentic or not.

Nevertheless, below is a summary of the false claims debunked by HaqCheck throughout the second week of the last month of 2022.

A false picture claimed to show people killed in the latest conflict in Oromia

An image was posted on Facebook and Twitter supporting a claim that it shows dead bodies of recently killed people in Wollega, Oromia. The Facebook post claimed that the victims were ethnic Amharas who live in Wollega. In contrast, the Twitter post alleged that the victims were Oromo farmers killed by Amhara armed forces in Wollega.

But, HaqCheck found out that the image doesn’t show ethnic Amhara or Oromos recently killed in Wollega.

The image used to back the opposing claims was old and taken from a social media post made on Sep 20, 2022. It was published along with a short article that alleges ethnic Amharas were being killed in Wollega.

A video allegedly showing Amhara civilians recently killed in Oromia

A viral video emerged on Facebook on Dec 4, 2022, allegedly showing ethnic Amharas who were killed in Wollega, Oromia. The video shows people transporting dead bodies with stretchers.

However, HaqCheck confirmed that the video was previously published on Mar 5, 2021, on the Facebook page of the Amhara Prosperity Party (APP). The video was shared with a short Amharic caption that ethnic Amharas were massacred by the TPLF in the Mai Kadra town.

A false image of an alleged airstrike in Wollega

A Facebook page with over 120 thousand followers posted an image on Dec 5, 2022, claiming that an aerial attack by the Ethiopian government in the town of Begi, Oromia killed many civilians. Additionally, it claimed that Oromia Special Police Force members were also attacked in the air strike.

Nonetheless, the image doesn’t support the claim civilians were killed during a recent air attack in the town of Begi.

The image was taken from an article published on a website in November 2015. Therefore, HaqCheck concluded that the image doesn’t prove the claim and rated the post as False.

A person being immolated in a recent conflict in Ethiopia

An image allegedly showing a person being immolated in a recent conflict in Ethiopia was shared on Facebook on Dec 5, 2022.

However, HaqCheck inspected the claim and confirmed that the picture doesn’t show people burning a person during a recent conflict in Ethiopia.

The image was first published on Twitter on Oct 6, 2014, with an English caption, “Mob Justice is just bad. Where is the rule of law?”.

Recommendations

HaqCheck recommends social media users be skeptical about misleading and controversial information they encounter. They should look for original source of the claim. They should quest for additional information such as fact-checks for potential false claims.

We urge government bodies and other agencies to offer timely updates regarding ongoing matters. The lack of sufficing information always prompts information disorder. The public and the media sector should be provided with sufficient information concerning public affairs.

We recommend the government and other organizations guarantee the right to open and secure access to information.

December week one summary

HaqCheck investigated and debunked three viral social media claims during the first week of the month. Below are the false claims HaqCheck cross-checked throughout the week.

An alleged video of Debretsion Gebremichael’s recent interview

HaqCheck observed a viral video circulating across social media platforms, mainly Facebook and Twitter, with a claim that the video was of a recent interview with TPLF chairman, Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) about the peace agreement and he made good remarks on the deal and PM Abiy Ahmed (PhD).

The claim came out after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government signed a peace agreement last month to end the two-year war that erupted in November 2020.

The TPLF chairman, Debretsion Gebremichael is heard in the clip saying, “our Prime Minister [Abiy Ahmed] opened a new chapter [of peace]”.

But, the video clip was not new. The clip was taken from an old interview made with the TPLF chairman in 2018 regarding the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea that ended the two-decade no-peace-no-war situation.

The original video was published on YouTube on Jul 15, 2018. HaqCheck confirmed that the recent video was extracted from the old one and was edited to make it look like a recent interview.

A 25-meter-tall human skeleton discovered in Gojjam

Another false claim HaqCheck looked into was an image-backed claim that a 25-meter-tall human skeleton was recently discovered in a small village in the West Gojjam zone of the Amhara regional state.

Two Facebook posts with the same claim and the same image emerged and were shared multiple times.

We inquired into the claim and the image presented to support the claim. However, HaqCheck confirmed that the picture doesn’t show a 25-meter tall giant human skeleton recently found in Gojjam, Amhara region.

The image was taken from an old publication made in September 2013 and it shows a giant prehistoric human skeleton excavated in the Sahara Desert in Niger. It was also used in a documentary film named Skeletons Of The Sahara, produced by National Geographic Television.

Amhara regional government presented Emperor Haile Selassie’s photograph as a gift to President Isaias

An image showing Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki receiving a gift from Amhara regional state government delegates was posted on Facebook on Nov 30, 2022.

The gift being presented to the President was a photograph of Emperor Haile Selassie I. The post used the picture to criticize the supporters of the Eritrean ruling party saying “you are supporting this [President Isaias]” implicitly stating that the President was working with Eritrea’s historical enemies.

It is true that delegates of the Amhara regional state government, led by Worksemu Mamo, speaker of the regional State Council traveled to Eritrea for a five-day visit in September 2018. The delegation presented a gift to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

However, HaqCheck confirmed that the image shared by the Facebook account was altered. 

The original picture shows that the delegation presented to the President an image that contains the Geez alphabet, the Castles of Gondar,  the Obelisk of Axum, and the rock-hewn Church of Lalibela.

Thus, the post was rated False.

Recommendations

As always, HaqCheck recommends social media users be cautious about misleading and controversial claims. They should look for additional information such as fact-checks for potential false claims.

Disinformation and information disorder, in general, become intensified when sufficient information about ongoing issues is unavailable. We urge government offices and other entities to provide timely updates to the public.

We recommend the government to guarantee the right of citizens and the media to an open and secure access to information.

November monthly analysis

The settlement of the war lowered the disinformation dissemination rate

The phenomenal event that changed the course of the disinformation trend that had been in place for the last two years was the settlement of the war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government at the beginning of the month.

The parties signed an ‘Agreement for lasting peace through a permanent cessation of hostilities between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’ in South Africa on Nov 2, 2022.

Before the signing of the peace agreement to resolve the two years war, the overwhelming majority of the false social media claims were related to the war. Seemingly organized groups had been orchestrating social media campaigns circulating false information.

The belligerents and affiliated entities had manufactured disinforming and toxic propaganda outputs. These propaganda outputs prompted false social media posts.

The disinformation trend was significantly decreasing immediately after the peace pact was stroke in Pretoria. 

Later on, the issue of false information transitioned from the war in the northern parts of the country to other different issues such as armed conflict and violence in Oromia.

New issues dominated the course of the disinformation trend

Few false claims related to the war in Tigray appeared, despite the main topics of false information being other that the armed conflict.

Since a peaceful settlement was reached to the armed conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government other issues or topics of information disorder emerged.

HaqCheck observed three main topics of information disorder during the month. They were false claims regarding the alleged satellite town to be built in Addis Ababa, an ongoing armed conflict and violence in Wollaga, and post-war situations in the Tigray regional state.

False images of the alleged to-be-built satellite town

There were reports that the Ethiopian government was planning the construction of a new palace with one billion US dollars. During a parliamentary session on Nov 15, 2022, Prime Minister Abiy (PhD) confirmed that his government was constructing a modern satellite town that will cost billions of dollars.

False images of the design of the alleged satellite town were shared on social media platforms and virally circulated.

The images were old and taken from other places.

Armed conflict and violence in Wollega

As soon as the war in Tigray ended with the peace deal, social media posts related to conflicts and violence in Oromia started popping up.

Such social media posts were not new. HaqCheck had been debunking false claims regarding conflict and violence in the region. But the attention that had been given to the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government seems to shift to conflicts and attacks in Ormia, particularly Wollega.

Reports indicated that there had been armed conflict and attacks on civilians in Wollaga.

Granted this, false images were circulating on the Ethiopian social media landscape to support claims that recent government aerial and ground attacks targeted civilians in Wollega, Oromia.

Post-war situations in Tigray

HaqCheck came across a few social media claims regarding ongoing post-war situations in Tigray such as a public protest in Mekelle, TPLF hiding firearms, and TPLF combatants begun surrendering their weapons. These claims were accompanied by false images.

The peace agreement signed between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government asserts that the TPLF shall disarm and demobilize its armed combatants.

In this context, two social media posts supported by false images emerged. Four false images were shared on Facebook claiming that the TPLF was burying [hiding] weapons and ammunition.

The other debunked claim related to the issues was that a Tweet containing four images was made alleging TPLF militants in Maytsemri surrendered their weapons to local authorities and gathered in temporary camps.

However, the images presented to back the claim were old and taken from publications made two years ago.

A claim was also made on Twitter on Nov 20, 2022, sharing three false images alleging that Mekelle residents protested against [TPLF] armed forces for hindering the delivery of food aid to the city.

Change and consistency in the information disorder trend

HaqCheck figured out a change and continuity in the course of information disorder across the Ethiopian social media landscape.

The visible change we observed is that the main issue, the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government which was behind the disinformation trend is no longer the major topic. The issues of information disorder are now diversified.

HaqCheck spotted two continuity in the trend. One consistency was the application of false images. All the false claims HaqCheck debunked during the month of November were accompanied by images.

Besides, Facebook and Twitter continue to be the dominant pipelines of false claims. The two social media platforms, particularly the former, were the main grounds for false-image-backed information dissemination. All the false claims across-checked by HaqCheck in November were found on these platforms.

Recommendations

HaqCheck recommends social media users be skeptical of misleading and controversial information. They should look for original sources and additional details regarding potentially false claims.

Public authorities and other bodies should offer timely information about ongoing issues. Disinformation dissemination aggravates where information is limited.

Social media content creators are advised to be responsible and avoid circulating false information. They are one of the main factors for disinformation dissemination at a large scale.

Open access to information would greatly improve the availability of sufficient and accurate information reducing disinformation in the process. Governmental and non-governmental agencies should work towards the realization of the right to access information.

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