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Ignore fake cover of Kenyan newspaper EastAfrican claiming Rwandan president rejected US helicopters

IN SHORT: A newspaper front page circulating on social media following a deadly Kenyan air crash shows a headline claiming that Rwandan president Paul Kagame rejected a donation of helicopters from the US. But the EastAfrican newspaper says the cover is fake.

“Kagame rejects helicopters donation from United States,” reads the headline on what appears to be the front page of Kenya’s EastAfrican newspaper. 

The image, dated 25-30 June 2017, shows a helicopter and a photo of Rwandan president Paul Kagame

The subheading reads: “Rwanda rejects Huey II choppers from U.S over safety concerns.” 

The image began circulating on social media after an aircraft crash on 18 April 2024, in which Gen Francis Ogolla, Kenya’s chief of defence forces, and nine other military personnel were killed. They were travelling in a US-made Bell Huey II helicopter.

The headline on the circulating front page implies that the Kenyan army received “faulty equipment” that ended up killing the military chief. In Kenya and many parts of Africa, Kagame is widely seen as a model leader who doesn’t take shortcuts. 

The image has also been posted on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But is this what the newspaper published on its front page in June 2017? We checked.

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‘No such story has ever been published by the EastAfrican newspaper’

We checked the EastAfrican’s Facebook account for the front page in circulation and came up empty. However, it looks similar to one the newspaper published on 8 July 2017. 

The headline of the original front page reads: “US gunships fly in to hunt down Al Shabaab.”

The newspaper reported that Kenya and Uganda were to receive “the latest deliveries of advanced helicopters as part of the US military cooperation protocol to enhance airstrikes against militants in Somalia”.

The report can also be found on the newspaper’s digital platform. It reports that “Uganda will receive five Huey II helicopters from US supplier Bell”. There is no mention of Rwanda rejecting the US helicopters.

We searched for the headline on the viral front page and filtered our search to bring up results from 2017. We found nothing about Kagame rejecting the Huey II helicopters.

Oliver Mathenge, the managing editor for audience engagement at Nation Media Group, which publishes the EastAfrican, said the circulating front page was fake.

“Please note that this front page is fake and no such story has ever been published by The East African newspaper,” he wrote on X.

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