Fake videos spread online after Chadian president’s death

Two videos with false claims circulated online after the death of Chadian president Idriss Deby in April 2021.
Two videos with false claims circulated online after the death of Chadian president Idriss Deby in April 2021. © FRANCE 24

Chad’s military announced on Tuesday 20 April that the country’s president, Idriss Deby, had died during clashes with rebels in the north of the country. The shock announcement triggered rumours and misinformation on social media, including old videos that had been taken out of context.

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Just hours after the announcement, a video showing a convoy of cars was shared on Facebook and Twitter in both French and English.

In the video, taken at night, dozens of cars drive past the camera. The Cameroon News Agency posted the video to their Facebook page, writing in the caption that it showed "when Chadian President, Idriss Deby Itno, was being rushed to the hospital yesterday after he [was] wounded by bullets". That video was viewed more than 16,000 times.

Why it’s false

The FRANCE 24 Observers team used a reverse image search to find out when the video was first posted online. The results showed that the video was published at least as long ago as the 1st March 2021 – long before news broke of Idriss Deby’s death.

It was originally shared on the YouTube channel of LVIK TV, a TV station based in Ivory Coast that is often critical of African leaders. Comments posted under the video suggest that the video was published to call out the excessive size of the convoy transporting Idriss Deby on one of his presidential visits.

But the YouTube post doesn’t offer any explanation as to the source of the video, nor when or where it was filmed. The video also appeared online on YouTube, sharing the same false information. It hasn’t been possible to find out when and where it was filmed.

‘Gunfire’ at the palace

In another video making the rounds on social media, taken in what looks like a car park, hundreds of missiles fly through the air. It was posted on 21 April with the following caption in English on both Twitter and Facebook: “There is a big war going on in Chad."

Like the other video, it was also posted in French-speaking circles. One post with a caption in French explains that the gunfire is taking place around the presidential palace in the capital N'djamena.

It purports to show an attack targeting Idriss Deby’s son Mahamat Deby Itno, who has been appointed to lead a transitional military council until a replacement president is democratically voted in. The caption says that this information has come from "highly-placed sources".

An old video

The video actually dates back to the summer of 2020, when it was published on the YouTube account of the Jordanian television channel Al Taghier. The TV station explains that the video shows fighting between “Iraqi clans in the province of Maysan”.

Video youtube
Video youtube © YouTube

This video has actually cropped up before. In November 2020, the Arabic factchecking website Misbar, along with AFP Fact Check, both picked up on a number of posts saying that the video showed gunfire in Marib in Yemen.

No gunfire in N’djamena

So even if this video doesn’t have anything to do with Chad, is there any truth to the rumour that there was gunfire around the presidential palace on 20 April? The short answer is no. Despite the fact that this misinformation was repeatedly quoted, by African journalists and social media alike, none of it is true.

The local news platform Tchad Infos interviewed security guards and residents of the area around the presidential palace, and all confirmed that there had been no gunfire. A member of the former president’s family also confirmed that the leader of the new “transitional military council is alive and well”.