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Nigerian army crossing border into Niger? No, video shows refugees fleeing El Geneina in Sudan

IN SHORT: West Africa’s community of states, headed by Nigerian president Bola Tinubu, has said it could use force to restore democracy in coup-hit Niger. But a viral video shows refugees fleeing civil war in Sudan, not the Nigerian army entering Niger.

“Breaking news Nigeria: Nigerian battalion don enter Niger,” reads the caption of a video posted on Facebook in late August 2023. It adds: “Nigerian troops crossing its northern border into Niger.”

The video shows children on a dirt road shouting and waving at something in the distance. It pans left and we see what the kids see: a huge crowd of people walking swiftly across a flat plain.

The video has also been posted on Facebook here, here, here, here, here and here with the same claim.

On 26 July 2023 the government of Niger was toppled in a military coup. President Mohamed Bazoum and members of his government were detained. The country’s constitution was suspended. General Omar Tchiani declared himself Niger’s new leader.

Niger lies north of Nigeria in West Africa.

Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States, has repeatedly condemned the coup. It has said it would deploy “all measures” – including the “application of legitimate force” – to restore Niger’s elected government.

On 10 August, Ecowas announced it would be activating its standby force to increase pressure on the coup leaders.

Ecowas is chaired by Nigerian president Bola Tinubu.

But does the video really show Nigeria’s military “crossing its northern border into Niger”?

False claim about a Nigerian battalion

Massacre in West Darfur, Sudan

Africa Check took screenshots of frames from the video and ran them through a Google reverse image search.

This led us to several instances of the video posted on X, previously known as Twitter, on 17 June, more than two months before the coup in Niger.

The posts all reference El Geneina (Al Junaynah), a city in the state of West Darfur in the North African country of Sudan. West Darfur lies on Sudan’s western border with Chad.

“Children of Arab nomads here mocking the children of the Masalit (African tribe) that were expelled by RSF/Arab militias from West Darfur,” one of the X posts reads. “Telling them your parents are dead and dehumanising them by describing them as cows.”

Another reads: “Watch the Janjaweed children insult the displaced from genocide and ethnic cleansing in El Geneina, and ask them to raise their hands while walking in search of safety!”

In mid-June civilians in El Geneina were attacked by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group. The group has been fighting the Sudanese military in a civil war that began in April.

According to CNN, more than 1,000 people were killed in a single day of the attack on El Geneina. Many more were slaughtered as they fled the city.

The video also appears in a CNN report on the civil war in Sudan, uploaded on YouTube on 21 July.

It is described as showing refugees fleeing El Geneina while children hurl insults at them. One of the children is said to be shouting “you’re all dead, dead, dead” in Arabic.

The video shows refugees from El Geneina in the Sudanese state of West Darfur, and has been online since at least June 2023. It does not show Nigerian troops crossing the border into Niger in August 2023.

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