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Excerpt From Old Video Does Not Show Ethiopian Regional Leader Exposing PM’s Plans

Armed conflict between federal government troops and rebel forces continues in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. A post shared on Facebook claims to offer video evidence of the Oromia regional president divulging the next steps to be taken by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed against the rebels. However, this is false: the video is an extract from a longer interview with Oromia’s regional leader that was published three years ago. It does not contain any revelations about Abiy’s plans in Amhara.

The Facebook post was published in Amharic on October 23, 2023. Translated into English, it reads: “Shimelis has exposed Abiy’s next plan in a video just released. Abyi’s military has been crushed.”

<span>Screenshot of the false post, taken November 1, 2023</span>
Screenshot of the false post, taken November 1, 2023

Shimelis Abdisa is the regional president of Oromia, the largest state in Ethiopia.

The post, shared more than 180 times, includes a 12-minute video. It begins with a narrator saying that “Shimelis exposed Abiy’s next secret plan”.

“He had previously exposed Abiy’s Red Sea plan when he said Oromo would celebrate the next Irreecha festival at the Red Sea,” the narration continues. “Similarly, Shimelis exposed Abiy’s next plan, which is included in this report”.

Irreecha is an Oromo thanksgiving festival (archived here) usually celebrated around a river bank. This year Irreecha was celebrated in October and Shimelis remarked in a speech (archived here) that “next year we will celebrate around the Indian Ocean and Red Sea as the festival is increasingly shared by people living in many parts of the world”.

The rest of the Facebook video contains segments of an interview with Shimelis along with separate claims of Fano rebel forces defeating government troops in the Amhara region.

However, while the interview extracts with Shimelis are authentic, they are unrelated to events in Amhara and do not reveal Abiy’s “next plan” for the region.

Addis Ababa-Oromia border

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

Results of the searches revealed that the interview with Shimelis was originally published by Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN), a state-owned broadcaster, back in August 2020 (archived here).

The original interview was 58 minutes long and in it Shimelis spoke about a variety of issues related to Oromia. His television appearance came months before fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s northernmost region, Tigray — a war that lasted two years and foreshadowed the latest conflict in Amhara.

The first five minutes of the Facebook video refer to this interview from three years ago, while giving the impression it is a recent recording.

“For those who consider Amhara as a warmonger and trust Abiy Ahmed, we would advise you to rather trust Shimelis who always speak reality,” the narrator says from 0’58”-1’08”. Various images of the Ethiopian army appear on the screen while the narrator speaks.

The narrator then invites the audience to watch the Shimelis interview in which he purportedly exposes Abiy’s next secret plan. Shimelis’ words are translated from Afaan Oromoo to Amharic, and appear in subtitles.

Screenshot of the false post with Amharic subtitles, taken on November 1, 2023 

From 2’10”-2’26” in the Facebook video, Shimelis says that “Finfinne is our home. It is our heartland. It is the capital city of the Oromia region. We will not abandon Finfinnee by regaining two or three things. Our forefathers such as Tufa Muna were dehumanised and evicted from the city”.

Finfinne is another name for the national capital Addis Ababa. The city of Addis Ababa shares a border with the Oromia region. Eviction of Oromo farmers surrounding Addis Ababa as it began to expand sparked major protests in 2016 (archived here).

“We have completed the demarcation of the border between Finfinne and Addis Ababa except for minor issues”, Shimelis adds. In this case, the demarcation refers to borders placed between Addis Ababa and Oromia intended to curb further expansion of the city.

AFP Fact Check watched the original interview and found these exact comments by Shimelis were made 29’05” into the recording.

Following the demarcation of the borders mentioned by Shimelis, the Oromia regional state began construction on Shegar City in 2023, comprising six towns under single administration on the outskirts of Addis Ababa (archived here). The project’s backers encountered stiff resistance from locals when they started demolishing “illegal houses” to make way for the new development.

Amhara conflict

The second part of the Facebook video offers analysis of the current conflict in the Amhara region, where the Ethiopian federal government has been fighting rebel forces known as Fano since July 2023 (archived here).

Source : Yahoo News