The false claims and controversies during the week were regarding the schism within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and related conflict.
HaqCheck observed that the trend of disinformation had intensified during the week. Many false images were shared to support claims. Most of the claims accompanied by false images and debunked by HaqCheck were regarding the holding and discovery of smuggled weapons at Church leaders’ houses.
Below are the claims HaqCheck debunked in the second week of February 2023.
A church destroyed in Tigray during the war
On Feb 6, 2023, a Facebook post shared an image claiming that the picture shows a church destroyed in Tigray during the war between the Ethiopian government and TPLF forces. The Facebook claim alleged that the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church was a collaborator when churches were destroyed in Tigray during the war.
Days after the war broke out between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church expressed its support for the Ethiopian armed forces on Nov 17, 2020.
News reports indicate that churches were damaged in Tigray regional state during the armed conflict.
The Facebook post emerged amid intense tension within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after Abune Sawiros, Archbishop of South West Shoa, ordained and appointed 26 bishops without the recognition of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church on Jan 22, 2023.
Yet, HaqCheck confirmed that the image was old and doesn’t support the claim that it shows a church destroyed in Tigray during the recent war.
The image shows a church destroyed in the town of Adi Keyh, Eritrea during the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The picture was taken from a video published by Reuters in April 1999.
Weapons found at an Orthodox church in Shashemene
HaqCheck came across a Facebook post sharing an image with a claim that smuggled weapons were found inside the premises of an Orthodox Church in Shashemene.
However, the picture was old and published two years ago. The image was previously shared on Facebook on Mar 15, 2021. It was shared with a description that the Ethiopian Federal Police seized illicit weapons and ammunition in the Sidama regional state.
Smuggled weapons discovered at Abune Abraham’s house
A viral Twitter post appeared on Feb 5, 2023, sharing three images with a claim that illegal rifles and ammunition were discovered in the house of Abune Abraham, Archbishop of Bahir Dar and head of the Patriarchate Office of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The post claimed that police retrieved five Kalashnikov rifles with 235 bullets during a search.
However, the pictures were old and don’t support the claim. The first image was published on a website that advertises luxury hotels in Addis Ababa. The website claims that the image is of a hotel in Bole named Sheger Royal.
The second picture was published by a news site on September 30, 2020, in a report that India signed a deal with Russia to procure 770,000 Kalashnikov rifles. The third image shows Abune Abraham.
HaqCheck rated the claim as False.
Illicit weapons uncovered at the house of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church leader in Jimma
A Facebook page with over 290 thousand followers shared three images on Feb 7, 2023, claiming that illegal weapons were found at the house of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church leader in Jimma. The first image shows rifles, the second ammunition, and the third is a photo of a person.
The post claimed that the person in the photograph is the deputy chairman of the parish council of a local church in Jimma and head of the Jimma branch of Mahbere Kidusan, a religious association within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church.
However, the images were taken from old publications. The first picture which shows rifles was published on Oct 30, 2019, by the BBC Afaan Oromo along with a news story that the Ethiopian Customs Commision seized illicit weapons.
The second image which shows ammunition was taken from a news article published on Oct 7, 2021, by a local media outlet. The news states that illegal weapons were retrieved in the Addis Ketema district of Addis Ababa.
HaqCheck advises social media users to be cautious incase they encounter potentially misleading posts. They should quest sufficient and accurate information before reacting to claims and posts.
Public offices and other institutions are urged to provide the media and the general public with sufficient and timely updates regarding ongoing public matters.
The government and other relevant organizations should work towards the realization of the right of citizens and the media to access information.
Social media content creators should be responsible and refrain from making and disseminating false and misleading information.