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Posts falsely claim clip shows Senegal’s new leader speaking fluent English

Elected days after being released from prison, Bassirou Diomaye Faye was sworn in as Senegal’s youngest president at 44 on April 2, 2024. He nominated his mentor Ousmane Sonko - an opposition figure barred from running in the election - as prime minister. Social media users in Nigeria seem to have conflated the two men when they shared a video claiming to show Faye speaking English. This is false: the original clip is old and features Sonko speaking Wolof and French. The footage was altered to make it look like he spoke fluent English. 

“Africa belongs to Africans and no one else—Mr Bassirou Diomaye Faye (the new president of Senegal). He's a very sound guy. Nigerians are still on Bulaba,” reads an X post liked more than 4,000 times since it was published on March 26, 2024.

“Bulaba” is a nickname for Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, referring to a speech during which he made a verbal gaffe (archived here).

The account sharing the video posts content supporting Nigerian opposition figure Peter Obi, who lost to Tinubu in last year’s presidential elections.

The clip was also widely shared on Facebook and TikTok.

The five-minute-long video shows a man giving a speech in English with a Senegalese flag in front of him.

“The next African president is speaking, even his English is clean than a lot of current presidents in our continent (sic),” reads text on the video.

<span>A screenshot of the false post, taken on March 25, 2024 </span>
A screenshot of the false post, taken on March 25, 2024

“It is high time for France to lift its knee off our neck and put an end to this unjust oppression,” the man who users claim is Senegal’s president appears to say in English.

Pan-Africanist Faye, 44, mounted a successful presidential campaign just over a week after being released from prison under an amnesty law announced by former president Macky Sall, who had tried to delay the vote (archived here).

In the comments, Nigerian users praised Senegal for electing a young leader, whereas 72-year-old Tinubu is often criticised for his age (archived here).

“He’s got charisma, poise, and very fluent…not like the mistake we have,” reads one comment.

“Very proud of you, how I wish I can swap you with the 92 years old man I have in my country (sic),” reads another.

But the claim that the footage shows Faye speaking English is false.

Sonko, not Faye

Using a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found the original footage on media outlet Senegal7’s official YouTube channel (archived here).

“Live: Ousmane Sonko press conference on the news,” reads the video caption in French.

 

Streamed on July 2, 2021, the news channel published the video long before this year’s presidential elections.

In the clip, Sonko speaks in Wolof and French, not English.

AFP analysed several visual elements to confirm it was the same footage seen in the false social media posts.

The first clue is that Sonko wears the same outfit as the individual seen in the clip on X, and the Senegalese flag is in front of him.

<span>A comparison of the video from X (left) and Senegal7’s YouTube channel (right) </span>
A comparison of the video from X (left) and Senegal7’s YouTube channel (right)

Additionally, AFP Fact Check verified that his movements in the Senegal7 footage match those in the clip on X.

For example, Sonko lifts his head and looks to the right at 0’01’’ in the X clip and 1h 03’54’’ in the Senegal7 video.

Then, 12 seconds later, he looks down while turning a page of his speech, at 0’13’’ and  1h 04’06’’ respectively.

Sonko and Faye are close allies who embarked on a whirlwind campaign tour following their release from prison on March 14.

Little daylight exists between the political beliefs of the two allies, with crowds chanting "Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko" or "Sonko is Diomaye, Diomaye is Sonko" (archived here).

Just hours after his inauguration, Faye appointed Sonko prime minister (archived here).

Altered video

In the original footage, Sonko speaks in Wolof – one of the most widely spoken languages in Senegal (archived here) – before switching to French at 49’16’’.

Sonko does not speak English in the Senegal7 footage.

Analysis of the clip on X shows a noticeable glitch around Sonko’s mouth, especially when he looks down or to the side, suggesting the video was altered.

At  0’20’’, a glitch happens when Sonko looks down at his speech and his nose appears to suddenly grow longer.

Then, at 0’32’’, a grey shadow appears next to Sonko's cheek as he looks to the left.

<span>A screenshot of the altered video with red arrow added by AFP to highlight shadow, taken on April 2, 2024</span>
A screenshot of the altered video with red arrow added by AFP to highlight shadow, taken on April 2, 2024

A comparison of Sonko’s original speech in French with the doctored video confirms that, while the English audio is not an exact translation, it does not significantly change Sonko’s original meaning.

In the altered version, Sonko appears to say in English: “It is high time for France to lift its knee off our neck and put an end to this unjust oppression.”

In the original French footage, he says: “It is high time for France to lift its knee off our neck.”

AFP Fact Check found the TikTok account marked on the video, called @newafricannews.

In November 2023, the user complained of having to re-upload the video because TikTok removed it.

<span>A screenshot of the original TikTok account, taken on April 2, 2024 </span>
A screenshot of the original TikTok account, taken on April 2, 2024

While AFP Fact Check could not confirm which tool was used to synchronise Sonko’s mouth to the English-language-generated audio, it was likely done using artificial intelligence (AI).

With the rise of AI, it is becoming increasingly easy to create fake audio for high-profile individuals (archived here).

AFP Fact Check has created this useful guide with tips to identify AI-generated content.