Graphic video from Haiti falsely linked to South African xenophobic attacks on Nigerians

Migrants in South Africa endure regular online threats from xenophobic groups that have penetrated the political landscape ahead of high-stakes elections on May 29, 2024. A recent social media post alleged that a video circulating online showed a South African mob lynching Nigerians. But the claim is false: AFP Fact Check found that the clip, which has been online since April 2023, shows a crowd in violence-torn Haiti killing 13 suspected gang members.

“The people these guys are killing are Biafrans and Yorubas, they came to SA with Nigeria identity shouldn’t be a death sentence. If something is not done, this will escalate to SA businesses in Some part of Nigeria (sic),” Nigerian self-proclaimed separatist leader Simon Ekpa wrote in an X post on May 16, 2024.

A screenshot of the false claim, taken on May 19, 2024

Reshared more than 2,300 times, the post features 30 seconds of footage showing a crowd watching as several men are burned to death in the street. Their bodies smoulder under piles of used tyres as one individual tries to escape the flames but is beaten until he no longer moves. Blood stains the street.

Ekpa is no stranger to making false claims and has been the subject of other debunks by AFP Fact Check (including here, here and here). He is the self-declared leader of a faction of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is pushing for independence of Nigeria’s southeast. 

Supporters of the secessionist party often use disinformation to advance their cause. 

Xenophobic attacks

Anti-foreigner sentiment has increased in recent years as South Africans face unwavering unemployment, inequality and dim economic prospects.

Politicians have fanned the flames, scapegoating foreigners for high crime and the breakdown of overstretched public services. 

These rising tensions have sparked at times deadly attacks on immigrants (archived here).

In April 2022, a Zimbabwean man was burned alive in a town north of Johannesburg (archived here). Nigerians and their businesses have also been attacked in past xenophobic unrest.

However, the claim that the video shows Nigerians being lynched in South Africa is false.

Old video from Haiti

To verify the claim, AFP Fact Check took a screenshot of the misleading video and carried out a reverse image search.

The results showed that it was published on the "Documenting Reality" website along with several other short videos on April 24, 2023 (archived here).

A screenshot of the video published by Documenting Reality shows a gang member trying to flee the fire, taken on May 21, 2024 (Tonye BAKARE)

The accompanying report, citing the Associated Press (AP), said the videos showed 13 gang members being burned alive in Haiti. The disturbing scenes match those seen in the video shared by Ekpa.

A keyword search for “Haiti 13 gang members burned alive” led to another video published on X on April 24, 2023, by an account called “Edson Samson” (archived here). 

The post explained that the footage featured “police and the population killed and burned bodies of 14 gang members armed with rifles and handguns” in the Haitian capital city, Port-au-Prince.

A screenshot of the video posted by Edson samson, taken on May 21, 2024

The video also shows at least two people dressed in police gear kicking the men. At this point, they are still alive and lying on the ground amid a pile of tyres.

Although not identical, visual clues in the video match those in Ekpa's misleading clip. For instance, one of the suspected gang members is seen wearing a pair of Nike sneakers and camouflage trousers. 

Screenshots show similarities between the video before the killings (left) and Ekpa’s clip, taken on May 19, 2024

The keyword search also led to several media reports about a mob killing 13 gang members in Haiti, including the AP story mentioned on the "Documenting Reality" site (archived here).

AP also published a video of the incident on its official YouTube channel (archived here). We identified several visual clues that match the footage posted by Edson Samson. A black Hyundai SUV, a red car and a motorcycle are visible in both clips for example. 

A screenshot shows the black and red SUVS and the motorcycle in Edson Samson''s video, taken on May 22, 2024
A screenshot shows the black and red SUVS and the motorcycle in AP''s video, taken on May 22, 2024

A man with yellow boots is seen lying under the black Hyundai 10 seconds into the Edson Samson video. The same person also appears at the 10-second mark in the misleading clip.

Screenshots show the man wearing yellow boots in the claim and Edson Samson''s video, taken on May 19, 2024

Haitian gang violence

One of the poorest nations in the Americas, Haiti has been wracked by gang violence, political instability, and natural disasters for decades (archived here). 

The instability further heightened after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in February 2023. 

The country’s situation got worse in February 2024 when violent gangs that control most of Port-au-Prince unleashed a campaign of violence aimed at toppling Prime Minister Ariel Henry. 

Henry resigned in April (archived here).

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