Post shares edited video audio falsely accusing Amhara rebels of threatening to kill Ethiopians

The armed conflict between the Ethiopian army and rebels known as Fano in the northern Amhara region has recently intensified in key areas, leading to ethnic violence. A video posted on Facebook allegedly shows the militants threatening to kill locals if they do not donate money and firearms. However, AFP Fact Check found that the clip contains altered audio. In the original footage, a Fano fighter tells a gathering of people that the army will kill civilians whether they join the rebel cause or not.

“Fano threatens Amhara farmers,” reads the text overlay above the video published on Facebook on March 20, 2024.

The caption continues with a line of Amharic text at the bottom: “They (Fano) tell the poor Amhara farmers: Bring money, fight with us or you will be killed”.

<span>Screenshot of the altered footage, taken on March 27, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the altered footage, taken on March 27, 2024

The post contains 30 seconds of footage showing a man, seemingly a Fano fighter, speaking to people seated at a gathering.

“Our pockets are empty. We need money to buy ammunition,” he says.

“People from all kebeles in this woreda are contributing 500 birr each per person. We came to this kebele to ask for a similar money contribution.”

Kebele and woreda are the lower administrative tiers in Ethiopia. The US dollar equivalent of 500 birr is $8.80

Ethnic violence

Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed in the armed conflict in the Amhara region, which has been ongoing since July 2023.

Local media reported  (archived here) on March 20, 2024, that several people had been killed in the Oromo Special Zone of the Amhara region, allegedly by the Fano militia and regional police forces. Ethnic violence between Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups was rife in the zone long before the start of the current armed conflict.

On March 26, 2024, the US ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Massinga, expressed concern (archived here) in a message shared on X about “the alarming reports of killings of civilians” in attacks in the Oromo Special Zone and North Shoa in Amhara. He called for the protection of civilians and resolution of conflicts through dialogue.

<span>Screenshot of the message from the US Ambassador in Ethiopia, taken on March 27, 2024 </span>
Screenshot of the message from the US Ambassador in Ethiopia, taken on March 27, 2024

However, the video does not show Fano rebels threatening to kill farmers in Amhara who fail to support them.

‘Rebels meeting’

AFP Fact Check used the video verification tool InVID-WeVerify to conduct reverse image searches on keyframes from the video.

The search results revealed that a longer video was originally published (archived here) on March 9, 2024 by  Ethio 251 Media, a digital media outlet regularly publishing pro-Fano content.

The original video is about seven minutes long and the title translates to “Amhara Fano Guna Division Ambachew Battalion discussion with local people”. Gondar is a zone in the Amhara region.

The video begins with a presenter saying that Ethio 251 Media allegedly received the footage from local reporters in Gondar.

In the footage, a speaker tells the gathered crowd: “The time is now. Fight with us. If we cease to exist, you will cease to exist. I want to assure you of that.”

At 56 seconds in the original video, the speaker says: “Our pockets are empty. We are using our private resources. Salaries have been suspended and civil servants and businessmen are joining us for the fight. So we need money to buy ammunition.”

He adds: “People from all kebeles in this woreda are contributing 500 birr each per person. We came to this kebele to ask for a similar money contribution. Those who have firearms should also support us with them.”

He also mentions that Fano has paralysed all government systems, taxes and institutions in Amhara and most areas in Gondar are under the control of the rebels.

AFP Fact Check established that the altered clip is a compilation of different segments from the original video.

The first 25 seconds of the altered clip are taken from the original video between 0’55” and 1’35”. However, the parts of the speech about civil servants, businessmen and others joining the rebels, along with the calls to join the fighting, were edited out.

In the next section of the doctored footage, the speaker is purported to have said: “You will be killed whether you fight or not.”

AFP Fact Check has established that this statement was taken from the original video from 7’05” to 7’26” in which the speaker was talking about the alleged killings by the army in Gondar.

“We have the list of 31 innocent civilians killed by the army... These include young and old people in terms of age group. Therefore, they (the army) are saying that you will be killed whether you fight or not,” the speaker said.

You can read AFP Fact Check’s coverage of the Amhara conflict here.