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Old Images Used to Claim Ethiopian Army Fired Artillery Causing Forest Fire was Partly False

By Hagos Gebreamlak

Claim: A Telegram channel alleged that Ethiopian army soldiers fired artillery into a forest in Hararghe, causing the forest to burn.

Verdict: Partly False due to the use of two outdated images in the claim.

A  Telegram channel with the name KMN (which is Kush Media Network – assuming from the logo) forwarded three images from another user named Jabeessaa Qeerroo claiming that Ethiopian army soldiers fired artilleries into a forest in Hararghe of the Oromia Region, causing the forest to burn.

The Telegram channel of KMN has 12,000 subscribers, whereas of Jabeessaa’s has 23,137 subscribers. The forwarded images were viewed by more than two thousand people.

The text that was written in Afaan Oromo reads: “This is around the Asebot Monastery in the West Hararghe [Zone]. It is burning because of the heavy weapons fired by the PP [Prosperity Party – the ruling party in Ethiopia]”. The user also wrote in Amharic, stating: “Information: The fascist Prosperity [Party] is destroying the forest in Asebot in West Hararghe Zone with heavy weapons and the forest has started to burn. The Oromo Liberation Army will not be defeated by destroying the forest” (see screenshot below).

Image 1: Images show the claimed forest burning

However, two of the three images used to support the claim were outdated. Pictures at the bottom-left and at the bottom-right were found to have been previously published on social media in 2021.

The Image at bottom-left, for instance, was posted on Facebook on March 26, 2021, by a well celebrated Oromo musician Galaana Gaaromsaa, along with four other images claiming to show a forest fire in the Jibat woreda, West Showa Zone of the Oromia region. Galana, who has over 986,000 followers on Facebook, wrote: “The forest that is burning is called Jibat Forest located in my birth place” (see image at bottom-right in the screenshot below).

Image 2: Images show the burning of Jibat Forest, according to Galaana

Similarly, the image at the bottom-right, which was forwarded by KMN, was posted by Wanaw Media on its Facebook page (with 30K followers) on March 22, 2021, alongside other images. The text in the post states that a wildfire had occurred near Asebot Monastery in West Hararghe Zone of the Oromia region (see screenshot below).

Image 3: Image shows the burning of a forest shared by Wanaw Media

Yet, the authenticity of the first image at the top of the two others, which was forwarded by KMN, could not be verified, and MultiFactCheck (MFC) was unable to confirm whether it supported the claim or not.

Therefore, MFC rated the claim as partly false due to the inclusion of two old and misleading images.

Context

The claim arises amidst ongoing armed conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) served as the armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) until 2018. However, since 2018, the OLA and the Ethiopian government have been engaged in armed conflict, marked by reports of widespread clashes. Efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully have included discussions and talks between the government and the OLA.

Peace talks were held in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in April/May 2023, mediated by Kenya and Norway. Although the first round of talks concluded without a resolution, both sides acknowledged positive progress and reached a common understanding on some issues.

A second round of talks took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in November 2023, attended by representatives of both the government and the OLA leadership. Despite facilitation by the US, IGAD, Norway, and Kenya, the talks ended without a peace deal.

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Ethiopian Lecturer Union (ሲተረጎም የኢትዮጵያ መምህራን ህብረት) የተባለ አንድ ግለሰብ በሌሎች ግለሰቦች የሚሰቃይበትን አሰቃቂ ቪዲዮ በማጋራት “የአማራ የዘር ማጥፋት [በአብይ አህመድ አማካይነት] በኢትዮጵያ እየተጠናከረ መሆኑን በመግለፅ መረጃውን አሰራጭቷል። ቪዲዮው አንድ ግለሰብ በሊቢያ የሕገወጥ የሰዎች አዘዋዋሪዎች እገታ ተፈፅሞበት እየተሰቃየ የሚታይበት በመሆኑ ልጥፉ ሐሰት ነው።

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(MFC) is an independent fact-checking organization which is launched to pin-point, track-down, scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, publish and distribute the factual accuracy of claims made by public figures. MFC’s project has geographical priorities. Our work mainly focuses on nations in the Horn of Africa and their diaspora community who reside abroad. We operates from various regions of Africa, Europe and North America. Through a multitude of professional proficiency, MFC deploys best practices of journalism, scholarship and expertise in order to flag, investigate and publish a fact.

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