President Sahlewerk Zewde stayed behind and seeking asylum in the US

A claim circulated on social media platforms, particularly Twitter and TikTok, that Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde had left Ethiopia for the US and was seeking asylum there. The claim stated that she traveled to the US for a visit and stayed behind to seek asylum due to the “situation in Ethiopia and the harshness of the government.”

In recent times, several individuals including journalists and an official from Ethiopia have defected to Europe and the United States, seeking political asylum. These defections have occurred against a backdrop of political instability and conflict in the country.

Last month, Asemahegn Asres, a former Head of the Communication Bureau of the Amhara Region and vice chairman of the Parliament’s Standing Committee for Trade & Tourism Affairs, defected and sought political asylum abroad.

Two weeks ago, reports indicated that Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Mekdes Tilahun, who had recently traveled to the United States with President Sahle-Work Zewde, had disappeared from the airport.

In October, during a joint parliamentary session, President Sahle-Work Zewde expressed her disappointment at the lack of unity and reconciliation in Ethiopia, which has led to recurring conflicts and violence.

It was in this context the claim that President Sahlewerk Zewde traveled to the US and stayed behind seeking asylum in the country emerged.

However, recent news reports indicate that President Zewde is currently in Ethiopia, and the claim that she has defected is false. On November 14, she received a delegation from the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission in Addis Ababa. This news was confirmed by the UN Peacebuilding Commission itself.

Journalist Asfaw Meshesha died

A claim on YouTube stated that journalist Asfaw Meshesha, who works for the Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS), had died after being hospitalized. The YouTube video went viral, garnering thousands of views.

Asfaw Meshesha is a journalist known for being a co-host of the popular television show, Ehudn be EBS, on EBS TV.

Media reports stated that the journalist recently suffered a stroke and was admitted to the hospital in Addis Ababa. However, he traveled to the United States for better medical treatment.

The claim was made against this backdrop. The YouTube video used short clips and images that show mourners crying.

However, the claim that Asfaw Meshesha has died is false. The clips and images used in the YouTube video do not support the claim. Most of the clips and images were taken from scenes of the EBS show that Asfaw Meshesha co-hosts. Additionally, HaqCheck contacted EBS for information, and the media company confirmed that the claim was false.

Ethiopia’s Economy is bigger than neighbors combined

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed that Ethiopia’s economy was the second largest in East Africa five years ago and is now bigger than those of its neighboring countries combined.

Abiy assumed power in April 2018 following widespread protests, pledging economic and political reforms to foster prosperity and democratization. The Ethiopian government, led by the Prosperity Party, contends that the reforms have significantly improved the country.

The PM has repeatedly asserted that Ethiopia is on the right economic trajectory, and the economy is growing. Recently, he claimed that Ethiopia’s GDP doubled within the last five years.

In a recent speech delivered to summer students at the HQs of INSA, PM Abiy told the students that Ethiopia is growing. The comparison of Ethiopia’s economy with its neighbors was used to support his argument that Ethiopia and its economy are growing.

As PM Abiy claimed, Ethiopia’s economy, measured by nominal GDP, was the second largest in East Africa after that of Kenya five years ago. In 2018, Ethiopia’s nominal GDP was 84.4 billion USD, and Kenya’s nominal GDP was 91.2 billion USD.

In 2022, Ethiopia’s nominal GDP was 126.8 billion USD, and Kenya’s nominal GDP stood at 119.5 billion USD. Thus, Ethiopia’s economy, measured by nominal GDP, is the largest in East Africa.

However, the claim by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that Ethiopia’s economy is even bigger than that of its neighbors combined is false.

Ethiopia is bordered by six internationally recognized countries: Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti, and one de facto sovereign state: Somaliland.

According to the World Bank, Sudan’s nominal GDP in 2022 was 51.7 billion USD. Accordingly, if we combine the nominal GDPs of Kenya and Sudan, it is much bigger than that of Ethiopia (171.2 billion versus 126.8 billion).

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the nominal GDPs of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Djibouti in 2022 respectively were 120.37 billion, 113.7 billion, 33.75 billion, 10.42 billion, 8.54 billion, and 3.66 billion USD. The IMF doesn’t have data on Eritrea and Somaliland.

Therefore, the combined nominal GDPs of Ethiopia’s five neighboring countries (excluding Eritrea and Somaliland) in 2022 was 170 billion USD, surpassing Ethiopia’s 120.37 billion USD.

In summary, despite Ethiopia having the largest nominal GDP in East Africa, Prime Minister Abiy’s claim that Ethiopia’s economy is larger than its neighbors combined is found to be false based on economic data from 2022.


HaqCheck urges government officials to take accountability and abstain from disseminating inaccurate or misleading statements.

HaqCheck encourages social media users to employ critical thinking skills, emphasizing the importance of verifying claims from unfamiliar or unverified sources before dissemination.

Content creators on social media are advised to act responsibly and abstain from spreading information that is false or misleading.

We call upon public institutions and relevant organizations to provide consistent and timely updates to the public and the media.

Recognizing the crucial role of information access in combating misinformation, the government is urged to safeguard the public and media’s right to access information, contributing to the reduction of the widespread dissemination of false information.

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