Old footage of Ethiopia killing falsely linked to Sudan conflict

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Graphic footage of an attack in Ethiopia has surfaced in Facebook posts falsely linking it to fighting that has gripped neighbouring Sudan since April. The video circulated in Hindu-majority India, where posts said that the perpetrators were Muslims. However, the clip shows an assault in June 2022 in Gambella in western Ethiopia, where a rights watchdog accused security forces of carrying out "door to door executions" of civilians.

Warning: This story contains graphic content

"Sudan, where the population mostly comprises of Sunni Muslims, are doing this against their own people in a fight for power," reads a Hindi-language Facebook post shared on April 29.

The video shows men in khaki uniform beating and kicking people lying on the ground.

Sudan has been gripped by intense fighting since April between the army and rival paramilitaries embroiled in a power struggle 18 months after a military coup derailed the country's transition to civilian rule (archived here).

Hundreds of people have been killed and nearly a million displaced in the war between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Screenshot of a Facebook post sharing the false claim, taken on May 16, 2023

The video was shared in similar posts in India, including here and here on Facebook and here and here on Twitter, which said the perpetrators of the attack were Muslim and praised the Indian government's efforts to evacuate its citizens from the northeast African country (archived link).

Religious tensions are widespread in India between the majority Hindu population and the 200 million-strong Muslim minority, many of whom say they feel under attack by the government of Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ethiopia, not Sudan

Visual clues in the video suggest it was filmed in Ethiopia, not Sudan.

At the video's 1:48 mark, a man appears in the foreground wearing a uniform with a striped flag sewn on the chest, which shows four horizontal stripes -- black, green, white and red -- with a black star in the middle.

A reverse image search found this is the flag of Gambella in western Ethiopia (archived link).

Screengrab of the Facebook video taken on April 28, 2023; magnifier added by AFP.
Screengrab of the Shutter Stock website taken on May 15, 2023.

 

 

The same man is also seen holding an Ethiopian brand of water "One Water" at the 1:30 mark.

A screenshot of the viral video taken by AFP highlighting the text on the water bottle.

A keyword search for "One Water Ethiopia" found the website of the brand, whose factory is located southwest of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa (archived link).

Screenshot comparison of the bottle in the video (left) and a photo of a One Water bottle on the company website (right)

A keyword search of "Gambella soldiers killing video" found a tweet from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that showed a screenshot from the video (archived link).

"Regarding the video circulating on social media showing the beating and killing of men by law enforcement officers," says the Amharic-language tweet, which links to a report on the killings. (archived link).

"The EHRC confirms that this is one of the incidents investigated and documented in its report on the killing of at least 50 civilians in the town of Gambella by regional security forces between June 14 and 16, 2022."

Below is a comparison of the video shared in posts falsely linking it to Sudan (left) and the corresponding screenshot from the EHRC's tweet (right):

Warning

The EHRC accused security forces of carrying out "door to door executions" of civilians in Gambella it suspected of collaborating with rebels who had attacked the city, AFP reported in June 2022.

The assault triggered an hours-long gunfight between security forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group which is branded a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian government.

The OLA has been fighting the government since it split in 2018 with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) opposition party when it renounced armed struggle.

Officials have blamed the group for a number of massacres targeting Amharas, although the miliants have denied responsibility.

Translated by