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Misleading TikTok videos falsely claim Kenya has sold 20 counties and four tribes to China

IN SHORT: Videos posted on TikTok claim that Kenya has sold four tribes and 20 counties to China. Such a major development would be significant. But it didn’t happen.

A video posted on TikTok in November 2023 supposedly shows a clip of a leading TV station announcing that Kenya had “officially sold 20 counties to China”.

The video features the logo of Kenyan television station KTN News and the station's anchor Eric Latiff.

Kenya is divided into 47 administrative counties. The clip claims that the counties sold include Kiambu, Meru, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Naivasha, Limuru and 14 others.

“Kenyans are asked to quietly leave their things and get out of Chinese land by 1 January 2024,” the video adds.

Another video on TikTok with the same frame alters the claim to say that Kenya has officially sold “four tribes” to China. These are said to be Luos, Kikuyus, Kambas, and Luhya, all for a price of KSh13 trillion, or about US$85 billion.

The video also says: “These tribes will be used as farmers in China. China will first come for Kikuyu and Luhya. They are asked to cooperate or else go in pieces.”

Kenya has over 40 ethnic communities. 

Similar videos have also been posted on Facebook here, here, here and here and on TikTok here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some show a compilation of clips of Kenya’s president William Ruto at various events and conferences in China. They conclude that it is a bad deal for Kenya and that China is only interested in its resources.

The videos have received a lot of engagement, while many TikTok users believe the claims to be true. But are they accurate and did KTN News report them?


Many red flags to the claim

There are several signs that the videos are fake, including poor grammar. Some videos say that Naivasha and Limuru are counties in Kenya, which is incorrect. They are cities, not counties.

The fact that they don't explain why Kenya has sold the communities and counties to China, or whether it's even possible to do so, is another red flag.

A closer look at one much-shared clip shows that the newsreader’s lip movement is not in sync with the voiceover. 

Latiff is a well-known media personality with an easily recognisable voice. It's clear that the voice in the video is not his.

We scoured the KTN News website, Facebook page, and X (formerly Twitter) account for the story but came up empty, which was unexpected for such a major supposed transaction.

A YouTube search for the phrase “News hub Ruto in China”, as seen on the strap at the bottom of the circulating video, led us to the original clip. It was posted on the KTN News YouTube channel on 17 October, showing Latiff with the same background and strap.

The broadcast is about Ruto’s visit to China that month, where he oversaw the signing of bilateral deals. According to the report, the deals cover several sectors, including information and technology, pharmaceuticals and engineering.

The video has been doctored to include false information. An audio overlay has been added.

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