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No, French embassy in DR Congo not ‘set on fire’ during recent protests – video shows burning tyres

IN SHORT: There were widespread protests in Kinshasa in February 2024 and the largest were centred outside the embassies of the US, UK and France. But rumours that the French embassy was set on fire are not true.

“France embassy is set on fire in Democratic Republic of the Congo,” reads the common caption for a TikTok video circulating on Facebook and X, previously known as Twitter, since 11 February 2024.

The 29-second clip shows a crowd of people shouting and throwing stones in the street outside a building with a steel gate and high wall topped with razor wire. Smoke billows from a pile of burning tyres. 

From the 15-second mark, the words “AMBASSADE DE FRANCE” – French for “embassy of France” – can be seen etched into the wall.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, is roughly the size of western Europe. Rich in minerals such as cobalt and copper, it has a long history of conflict and is among the five poorest nations in the world.

Since 1996 the country’s conflict has mainly been in its east, particularly in the province of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda. More recently the M23 rebel group has seized large parts of North Kivu and encircled Goma, the province’s capital. The DRC government, the United Nations and the US have accused Rwanda of supporting M23.

In early February 2024 protests erupted outside the US, UK and French embassies in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital. The protestors were demanding that western diplomats either leave or take more action against Rwanda for its role in the brutal eastern conflict, which has claimed an estimated 6 million lives since 1996.

The video’s captions include comments such as:

  • I told you the wind of change is sweeping against France in Africa. Watch the space more anger is rising.
  • The world is DONE with western imperialism and interventionism.

The claim can also be seen here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But does the clip really show the DRC’s French embassy being set alight during the February protests?


Flags burned, schools closed – but no mention of embassy on fire

Africa Check compared the clip to photos (here, here, here and here) and videos (here and here) of the exterior of the French embassy in Kinshasa.

Its steel gate, razor wire-topped wall and the words “AMBASSADE DE FRANCE” all show that the scene was indeed filmed outside the Embassy of France complex on Colonel Mondjiba Avenue in Kinshasa.

The video was first posted online on 10 February by the TikTok user @buzz_2kin. 

But here there’s no mention of the embassy being on fire. Instead, a machine translation of the post’s French description simply reads: “Total disorder at the French embassy due to war in Goma.” A similar description is overlaid on the video.

And a closer look at the original video reveals that the smoke comes from the pile of burning tyres on the pavement outside the embassy gate. No part of the complex itself – the wall or the buildings behind it – is on fire.

The protests were widely covered by news media across the world from 12 February, the day after the claim about the video first appeared online. 

The reports include details: US and Belgian flags were burned, tear gas was used to disperse protestors, international schools were closed and security was stepped up at western embassies in Kinshasa.

But not a single credible report includes the detail that the French embassy was “set on fire”.

The claim is false.

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