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Photo of refugees in DR Congo in 2008, not Ethiopia in 2020

Since 2013, South Sudan’s civil war has driven more than a million people into neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

In 2016 the Nguenyyiel refugee camp was set up in western Ethiopia’s Gambela region, according to the UN refugee agency. As of September 2019, the camp held 82,000 people.

There are hopes the war could end if the South Sudanese government created in February 2020 holds.

A photo posted on the Facebook page of a Dinka-language radio station on 28 February 2020 shows hundreds of people walking up a long dirt road, many carrying heavy loads.

The caption claims the people are heading to Gambela: “Thousands of Murle Displaced Civilians Already Arrived in Gambela Region of Ethiopia.”

According to Diana Felix da Costa, an anthropologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK, the Murle are an ethnic group that lives mainly in the south-eastern corner of South Sudan.

But does the photo show displaced people from South Sudan recently arriving in Gambela? We checked.

Photo from DRC, taken in 2008

A reverse image search reveals that the photo has been published in reports on displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC. 

The state-owned Chinese broadcaster, CGTN, used it to illustrate a March 2018 story about 4.5 million people being displaced in the country since 2017. But it gives no credit or caption.

The photo appears to have first been published in a December 2008 article in the German newspaper Die Welt, about Tutsi rebels in the DRC threatening to attack the country’s army. Here the photo is credited to the Associated Press and photographer Jerome Delay.

A search of AP photos shows that Delay took the photo near Kibumba in eastern DRC. The caption reads: “In this Nov. 2, 2008 file photo, thousands of displaced people walk along a road heading north of Goma, in a bid to return to their homes near Kibumba, some 40 kilometers north of Goma in eastern Congo.” – Vincent Ng’ethe


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