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Doctored Video Falsely Claims Murdered Pop Star Had Accused Ethiopian Leader of Killings

A Facebook post featuring a video with more than 150,000 views claims the clip shows late Ethiopian pop star Hachalu Hundessa accusing the country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of murder. However, AFP Fact Check found the video had been digitally manipulated by splicing together different bits of sentences from an interview. In the original footage, the artist, who was assassinated in 2020, called on the government to end the killings of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. Both Hachalu and Abiy hail from this community, which has long complained of marginalisation in the country.

“This is a new video, in which Hachalu exposed Abiy as a killer,” reads the Amharic post, which has more than 8,000 likes and hundreds of comments.

The post goes on to claim that Abiy was behind the popular singer’s assassination in June 2020. His murder sparked deadly protests in the Oromia region and saw the detention of Oromo political leaders and opposition activists in a sweeping government crackdown (archived here).

The two-minute video starts with Hachalu purportedly saying, in Amharic, “Abiy Ahmed and his colleagues are killing the Oromo people”.

A crowd can be heard shouting in the background.

However, AFP Fact Check found that this clip was digitally altered – Hachalu did not say this sentence in the original interview.

Manipulated video

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

The search led to a longer version of the video uploaded to a YouTube channel in 2021 (archived here).

After listening to the whole interview, conducted in Amharic, we found that at no point did Hachalu say the phrase “Abiy Ahmed and his colleagues are killing the Oromo people”.

Instead, at 2’20”, we discovered that the words “Abiy Ahmed and his colleagues” were taken from the sentence “Abiy Ahmed and his colleagues didn’t pay attention to the ongoing killings”, referring to interethnic violence between Oromo and Somali ethnic groups, which led to massive displacement at the time.

Hachalu urged the Abiy government to find a way to end the violence.

In a different part of the interview, specifically at 30 seconds, Hachalu says “…are killing the Oromo people” as part of the sentence “armed forces are killing Oromo people in Chinaksen, Mieso and Moyale”. Chinaksen, Mieso and Moyale are districts in Oromia region.

The two bits of sentences were simply spliced together in the clip shared on Facebook to make it sound like he said “Abiy Ahmed and his colleagues / are killing the Oromo people.”

There is also a noticeable jump in the footage where the editing has taken place between the words “colleagues” and “are killing”.

2018 concert

The author of this report happened to be present at the event during which Hachalu gave this interview. It was recorded during a concert held in the capital Addis Ababa in July 2018 to welcome Eritrean President, Isaias Afeworki, following a softening in relations between the two counties after Abiy came to power in the same year (archived here).

Video reports from the concert show that Hachalu was wearing the same outfit onstage as in the clip shared on Facebook. People in the background were also wearing the same T-shirts with photos of the two leaders.

Screenshots of Hac

Screenshots of Hachalu wearing the same outfit onstage in 2018 (left) and during the interview offstage

AFP Fact Check also recently debunked an altered video purported to show the death of the Ethiopian army chief here.

Source : AFP Fact Check