Fake reports of man imprisoned by Sudan's ousted al-Bashir circulate online

Social media users claimed that the man on the left was a prisoner of Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir for 24 years. It turns out, that’s not true.
Social media users claimed that the man on the left was a prisoner of Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir for 24 years. It turns out, that’s not true.

Social media in French-speaking West African countries has been flooded with reports of the alleged release of a long-imprisoned and emaciated colonel following the ouster of Sudan's former president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Online users claimed that the colonel and former defence minister, Ibrahim Chamsadine, had not died in a plane crash in 2008 but had been held in a secret prison since 1995 under orders from al-Bashir and left to rot. They alleged that the colonel had been freed “thanks to the people's revolution and confessions made by the secret services about the regime’s crimes". The posts, which were shared several hundred times, were accompanied by photos of a skeletal man whom users claimed was Chamsadine.

The photo is actually from Kenya

A quick reverse image search on TinEye (here's a guide on how to use it) shows that the photo was first published on March 20 by Kenyan media.

The elderly man, who was in an extremely weakened state, received food aid during a drought in Turkana county and was interviewed by BBC correspondent Roncliffe Odit. Readers were horrifed by the photos and tweeted with the hashtag #WeCannotIgnore to criticise the insufficient action taken by the government.

Roncliffe Odit spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers team:

This man’s name is Mzee Lomoni Lewan. He is around 70 years old and I met him in the village of Lotukumo, in Turkana, on March 18. He’s suffering from malnutrition.

When I met him, he hadn’t swallowed anything for four days. The last time that I inquired about him, he had finally been hospitalised. I don’t know if he is still alive.

BBC correspondent Roncliffe Odit helps feed the man whose photo recently recirculated on social media (Photo: Roncliffe Odit).

Who is Colonel Ibrahim Chamsadine?

The colonel was a real person, though his last name is more often spelled Shamssedine. He died along with 12 other people in a plane crash in April 2001, according to this article by news agency United Press International (UPI), and not in 2008 as online users claimed.

Photos of the real colonel Ibrahim Shamssedine also circulated online.

According to UPI, Shamssedine was deputy defence minister at the time of his death and had previously served as a member of the National Salvation Revolution Command Council and as a advisor to al-Bashir.

Where did this story come from?

No credible media outlets reported on the alleged release of the colonel. The story was most likely fabricated, and we traced it to a Mauritanian website (article in Arabic).

The fake story was then translated word-for-word into French and posted on several different Facebook pages, as well as on websites in Senegal and Guinea. It was sometimes attributed to the news site Tchad One, which stated on its Facebook page that it was not behind this story.

This article was written by Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).