Post falsely claims to show footage of Ethiopia and Eritrea engaged in a new war

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A Facebook post claims to show a video from an emerging conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May 2023. However, this is false: a voiceover in the clip, which shows images of both countries’ leaders, discusses the deteriorating relations between the neighbours. It also features an audio translation of an article by international media exploring whether Ethiopia and Eritrea could be drawn into a war in Sudan.

The post has been shared more than 150 times since it was published on May 11, 2023.

“War broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Shabia left Humera. A Prosperity Party leader has been assassinated,” it says.

“This news item is for May 8, 2023. You can watch our full report on our Habesha Broadcast YouTube channel,” adds the post, which includes a 60-minute video.

Screenshot of the false post, taken on May 16, 2023

Shabia is an informal name for the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). The armed group fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia until the former broke away in 1991.

Humera is a town in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders Eritrea and Sudan. The town was heavily affected by the recent war in northern Ethiopia.

Souring relations

Ethiopia and Eritrea renewed their relations (archived here) in 2018, ending decades of conflict over a border dispute.

Eritrea also fought alongside the Ethiopian army against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a devastating two-year war that ended after the warring parties agreed to a peace deal (archived here) in November 2022.

However, international experts warn Eritrea could undermine the peace deal to push its own interests, while tensions have also been on the rise between its leader, Isaias Afwerki, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (archived here).

However, the video doesn't contain any content showing clashes between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May 2023.

No footage

The video features a female narrator who discusses various issues related to Ethiopian politics.

In the first eight minutes, she introduces a post written by an Ethiopian activist called Girma Kassa and then proceeds to read it.

Using a keyword search for “Girma Kassa” on Facebook, AFP Fact Check found the post was published on Facebook on May 8, 2023. The headline in Amharic translates to “News of a war in the Amhara region”.

It claims an armed conflict had broken out between local militia and government forces in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region.

The voiceover continues, saying: “There has been fierce fighting between Amhara popular forces and forces loyal to Abiy and Berhanu Jula in North Shoa, Ataye and surrounding areas earlier today.”

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported (archive here) on May 4, 2023 that clashes occurred between federal government forces and local armed groups in multiple places in the Amhara region.

Unrest had started in early April when the Ethiopian federal government decided to disband armed regional forces.

The Facebook video also features a news report which asks whether Ethiopia and Eritrea could be dragged into the war in Sudan, which broke out in April 2023.

A search for the keywords “The role of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Sudanese war” led to an Al Jazeera article published on May 6, 2023 (archived here).

The narrator reads part of the article while also opining about the roles of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Sudanese war.

The narrator then jumps to another news item about the alleged assassination of a member of the ruling Prosperity Party in Ethiopia’s Afar region. The party issued a statement on its official Facebook page on May 7, 2023 about the killing of a regional official by unidentified armed men (archived here).

However, the video doesn’t have any content about an alleged war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May 2023.