Unrelated image circulates in Kenya amid military crackdown over tax demonstrations

Kenya deployed its military in the East African country’s capital of Nairobi to quell the unrest caused by anti-tax bill protests, during which human rights groups say 30 people died. Social media users shared an image claiming to show soldiers riding on a tank in solidarity with demonstrators on the streets. But the claim is misleading: while AFP witnessed protestors celebrating with the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) during the latest protests, the image in question is from Zimbabwe’s 2017 coup, and not Kenya in 2024. 

“KDF joins genz as they chant #RutoMustGo Very soon all kenyans will join (sic),” reads the caption of a post shared on X on June 27, 2024.

A screenshot of the false X post, taken on June 28, 2024

Gen Z in this case refers to young Kenyans who have spearheaded protests over the 2024 Finance Bill (archived here).

The post includes an image of uniformed soldiers standing on top of, and alongside, a tank surrounded by a large crowd.

Users shared the image alongside the same claim in other posts. One Swahili-language post was shared 9,800 times.

The photo surfaced after largely peaceful rallies in Kenya against a bill containing contentious tax hikes turned violent, with Kenya's parliamentary complex ransacked. Human rights groups said at least 30 people died, while authorities put the toll at 19 (archived here and here).

Police were captured on video firing live ammunition at protesters, and AFP journalists saw three bodies lying outside the country’s parliamentary complex (archived here). 

As a result of the violence, the Kenyan government led by President William Ruto deployed troops from the KDF in Nairobi (archived here).

But the image circulating online is not from Kenya’s recent demonstrations. 

Zimbabwe, not Kenya

Using a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found the image was taken in Zimbabwe during the 2017 coup to oust Robert Mugabe, who ruled the country for nearly 40 years (archived here).

The image was widely published in media reports about the country's coup (archived here, here, and here).

Screenshots showing 2017 Zimbabwean media reports, taken on June 27, 2024

AFP found the same photo on image and video hosting service Flickr captioned “Zimbabwe tells Robert Mugabe to go! Solidarity March,” posted on November 18, 2017, without a photographer credited (archived here).

A screenshot of Flickr photo, taken on June 27, 2024

AFP and the Associated Press covered the coup and published similar images of Zimbabwean soldiers on tanks interacting with civilians.

Screenshot of AFP photo archives (left) and AP photo

According to AFP, tens of thousands of protesters came out after the military seized power and put Mugabe under house arrest in response to his sacking of then-vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa (archived here). 

'Security emergency'

While this image is misleading, AFP took photos of protesters with KDF soldiers during the 2024 demonstrations in Nairobi’s Central Business District, the city’s economic and commercial hub (archived here).

Screenshot from AFP photo archives showing protestors and KDF soldiers in 2024 (AFP / Tony KARUMBA)

The military's deployment was "in response to the security emergency" across Kenya, Defence Minister Aden Duale said in a statement.

Following the demonstrations, Ruto said he would withdraw the finance bill, adding: "The people have spoken." 

Even after the dramatic reversal, small groups of protesters continued to take to the streets, calling for the Kenyan leader's removal (archived here).

AFP has debunked other false claims about the Kenyan anti-tax protests, which you can read about here

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