Kenya police misleadingly use old protest photos in online hunt for March 2023 rally participants

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After violent anti-government protests in Nairobi, Kenyan police took to social media to announce they were looking for suspects who partook in the rallies organised by the opposition on March 20, 2023. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) posted a series of images on Twitter purporting to show individuals suspected of causing mayhem during the demonstrations. But AFP Fact Check found that some of the photos were old and unrelated. The DCI has since issued a public apology for the use of the images.

“Detectives on a manhunt for suspects involved in Monday’s violence,” began a thread posted on the DCI Kenya’s official Twitter account.

It published a series of pictures of people hurling rocks at police, burning tires on streets and vandalising property.

DCI Kenya shared the same images in this Facebook post.

On March 20, 2023, Kenyan police tear-gassed opposition leader Raila Odinga’s motorcade in Nairobi (archived here) as he spearheaded an anti-government protest.

Odinga accused President William Ruto’s administration of being “illegitimate” and of failing to tackle the prohibitive cost of living in the country.

Kenya's Supreme Court upheld Ruto’s victory (archived here) in last year's election after a petition by Odinga, who lost marginally and remains adamant his victory was "stolen".

Unrelated photos

AFP Fact Check conducted reverse image searches on the photos published by the police and found that some were old and unrelated to the March 20 protest.

One picture features protesters burning tyres on a street.

A screenshot of the false image, taken on March 24, 2023

We tracked the image to the photo archive of the Associated Press news agency. It shows Odinga supporters demonstrating on August 15, 2022, after Ruto won the election. The picture is credited to journalist Ben Curtis.

Screenshot showing the original image from the AP photo archive

It was taken in Nairobi’s Kibera neighbourhood where Odinga enjoys wide support.

Another image shared by the DCI is of a man throwing a rock.

The image was taken by AFP on November 28, 2017, and shows opposition supporters in Nairobi's Umoja suburbs clashing with police after they were blocked from attending an Odinga rally.

Screenshot showing the original image from the AFP photo archive

On the day, Uhuru Kenyatta was being inaugurated for his second and last term as president.

In protest, Odinga organised a rally (archived here) that the government declared illegal. Police had blocked off roads to the venue and scattered those attempting to attend.

A third image shows three men at a protest next to what looks like a burning tire and a road blockade.

A screenshot of the false image, taken on March 24, 2023

The photo was also shot by AFP and shows Odinga supporters protesting in Kisumu city in Western Kenya on October 9, 2017. At the time, the veteran politician had called for the resignation of the country’s electoral body.

Screenshot showing the original image from the AFP photo archive

The protests came as the Supreme Court overturned Kenyatta's election after the 2017 presidential polls over "irregularities". The tribunal ordered a re-run that Odinga boycotted, demanding the ouster of the electoral commission officers first.

The final false image is of a group of people holding sticks while two men are jumping over a pile of burnt branches.

A screenshot of the false image, taken on March 24, 2023

This image is from Burundi and was taken by AFP on May 1, 2015, in Bujumbura.

Screenshot showing the original image from the AFP photo archive ( AFP)

Demonstrators had taken to the streets to oppose (archived here) a third term for former president Pierre Nkurunziza.

Kenyan police apologised for "the mix-up of images" in a tweet published on March 25, 2023.

March 27, 2023 This story has been updated with the Kenyan police's apology for using misleading photos.