Video of alleged arms trafficking stokes tensions in Guinea and Ivory Coast

Screengrabs of the video posted on May 24, 2019.
Screengrabs of the video posted on May 24, 2019.

After ethnic clashes left at least 14 dead in Beoumi, Ivory Coast, in mid-May, a video purporting to show arms trafficking in the region has only further stoked tensions between the various populations.

The video, published on the Facebook page "Beoumi" on May 24, claims to show weapons being smuggled in motorcycles and has since been shared more than 8,000 times. "Here's how people are hiding and transporting military weapons!" the caption reads.

Screengrabs of the video. The original is available here.

While the mid-May clashes were not explicitly named in the video's caption, the "Beoumi" Facebook page had previously shared numerous posts about police weapons raids in the days that followed the violence. The video appeared to suggest that one of the groups involved in the violence had smuggled in the weapons.

The video also circulated widely on social media, including in private messages, in neighboring Guinea. "Fulani people like motorcycles made by TVS so they can use them to smuggle weapons," one user wrote. "On May 19, more than 75 war weapons were seized in Labé and Koumdara near the border between Senegal and Guinea."


But the video doesn't show arms trafficking in Ivory Coast. Here's how we found where it came from.


Tracking down the original video

Many users expressed doubt about where the video came from, as it was posted on Facebook without sound. Some suggested the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Cameroon.

So how do you establish its origin?

A reverse image search pulls up nothing. The format of the video was modified and text was added to the screen, which confuses the algorithms. But if you type the caption into the Facebook search bar ("Voici comment les gens cachent et transportent des armes de guerre!" or "Look at how people are hiding and transporting weapons of war!”), you will find another version with sound.

The original video was published on May 27, 2019.

Running a reverse image search with the original video is more fruitful. We see several tweets and blog posts that link the video with an operation carried out by the Nigerian army.

Search results using InVid.

Look for visual clues

The language spoken in the video is pidgin, which is used in Nigeria. The accent is typical of that used in northern Nigeria, where the army has launched operations against Islamist militants from Boko Haram.

Screengrab of the original video.

One of the men in the video seen taking a weapon out of the motorcycle is wearing a T-shirt with a logo featuring a pair of wings and the words "Special Force". According to Oluwatosin Adeshokan, a journalist who covers the region, this is the official logo of the Special Forces that operate in northern Nigeria.

The France 24 Observers team contacted army spokesman Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, who confirmed the video. "This is a clip from a video of an operation to stop an arms trafficking ring that smuggles weapons to bandits in northwestern Nigeria. The clip has been circulating on social media for some time now,” he said.

Nwachukwu did not specify when and where this operation took place.