Saturday, September 23, 2023


INSIGHT: How disinformation on social media is fuelling crisis in Niger Republic

INSIGHT: How disinformation on social media is fuelling crisis in Niger Republic
September 15
09:59 2023

After the military junta in Niger Republic forcefully took over the reins of power, the internet was awash with several fictional and misleading reports about happenings in the Francophone country. 

In late July, Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected president, was ousted in a military coup. Abdourahamane Tiani, a general, was later declared as the country’s new head of state.

During a state broadcast, the general appeared on television with a banner describing him as the president of the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP), a newly formed military council.

Tiani was the head of the presidential guard that held Bazoum hostage in the presidential palace due to “bad governance and worsening security”. According to Tiani, the military coup was necessary to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country. He said although Bazoum had sought to convince people that “all is going well”, the reality of the matter “is a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”.


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a political and economic union of countries located in the region, in an attempt to reinstate the ousted democratically elected president, threatened to intervene militarily. In response, Tchiani declared he would not accept any foreign interference.

The initial period of political uncertainty led to an influx of disinformation on social media.



The Wagner Group, a private military company with its origin in Russia, operates in a somewhat complex legal landscape. While mercenary forces are generally illegal in Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late leader of the group, claimed to have established Wagner in 2014. However, the group was officially registered as a private military company in 2022.

The Group has been involved in various conflicts and military operations in different parts of the world, including, Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya, – often with ties to Russian interests. 

A few days after the military took over in Niger, a circulating video shared on X, (formerly known as Twitter), claimed that a Russian military plane landed in Niamey, Niger’s capital.

 “It’s been said that Wagner forces have already begun to enter the city,” the post added.


Although, Anthony Blinken, the US secretary of state, had said Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is “taking advantage” of instability in Niger. However, there is no established evidence that the fighters have been deployed or are already fighting in the former French colony.

The building in the circulating video provides some hints that the video could have been filmed at the Khartoum International Airport, in Sudan.

A Google reverse image search on the keyframes on the video further revealed that the footage is old, pointing to a previous version that has been available online for seventeen years. 


A version of the video was posted on YouTube in 2006, confirming that the plane was landing in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and not Niger as claimed.



On August 1, an X account by the handle name, Africa Archives, with over 507,000 followers said: “Algeria will support Niger in case of external military aggression, according to the Algerian publication Intel Kirby. They reported on the potential invasion of Niger under the leadership of ECOWAS.”


The post appeared on multiple accounts on X and Instagram.  

TheCable examined a couple of recent tweets shared by Intel Kirby, the purported source of the claim.


On July 30, Intel Kirby on X said “Algeria will not sit idly while a neighbouring country is being invaded”. However, a clarification was added to the post, stating that the analysis was an “opinion and not any official statement” released by the government.

Mali and Burkina Faso, both Ecowas members, but led by military leaders, said they would support the junta and “intervene in Nigerien territory in the event of aggression”. 

Algeria never supported the military intervention in Niger and never said it would back the coup leaders should there be an external intervention. In fact, Algeria’s foreign ministry said the country still recognises ousted Mohamed Bazoum as Niger’s president.

Through an official statement, written in French and Arabic, Algeria called for the peaceful restoration of constitutional authority in Niger, so as to prevent throwing the country into further crisis. The statement added that while “foreign military interventions” are “possible and usable options,” they could deepen chaos and anarchy.


On July 31, a social media user with over 284,000 followers, posted a picture on X with the caption: “A strange picture of the training of the Niger army to deal with the coup plotters!”

Although such a claim can hardly mislead an average Nigerian, contrarily, a non-Nigerian might not depict that the video shows members of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC), since they were dressed in combat uniforms and appeared to be undergoing paramilitary training. 

Google reverse image search carried out on the keyframes of the video revealed that the video is old and had nothing to do with the Nigerien military as claimed. 

Checks by TheCable revealed that the same video was posted on Facebook in July 2022, with the caption: “NYSC Members Training Aggressively to ‘Combat Insecurity & Banditry’”. The caption added that the video was filmed at the Benue orientation camp.

The same video was also posted on Instagram.

Corps members have not been drafted into the Nigerian army to combat insecurity and banditry. The NYSC is a program set up by the Nigerian government in 1973, during the military regime, to involve graduates in nation-building and development.

The one-year program was designed to inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths” by instilling in them virtues such as patriotism, loyalty, and service to the nation.

Some tweet replies provided the factual narrative behind the misleading video.


A video of a man in blue attire and crying profusely was purported to be Ahmat Jidoud, Niger’s finance minister. The viral post claimed that Jidoud was weeping after he was “told by the new military Junta to account for all the stolen money of the country in the next 48 hrs or face execution by firing squad”.

The post was shared on X and a couple of Facebook pages.

Checks revealed that the video with the misleading caption has been on the internet as far back as December 2021, and has nothing to do with the coup or the finance minister. The identity of the man in the trending video is Marou Amadou, Niger’s former justice minister.

In December 2021, a news report published by Medi1TV, a Moroccan TV channel, showed Amadou speaking at the launch of the Center for Studies and Research on Climate in Africa and Human Security (CERCASH).

CERCASH is a climate and security think tank founded by Amadou. 

Some captions to the old post suggested that  Amadou was overwhelmed with emotion after expressing appreciation to former Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou for his support. The former minister of justice for the francophone country can be seen in other pictures from the event, published by Agence Nigérienne de Presse (ANP).


In early August, a few days after the military coup in Niger, a video of soldiers showing off their weapons and military skills was labelled as Nigerien troops. 

In what seems like a preparation for battle, the soldiers can be seen chanting military songs and wielding guns and knives. They were surrounded by citizens who looked at them in admiration and amazement. 

The video was widely shared on TikTok,  X and multiple Facebook accounts.

A Nigerian who posted the video on X asked Nigerians to pray for the country’s army as they face the Nigerien troops who are “more than ready” for battle.

Look at this video. Say no to War. Africa fighting Africa. This is what Western people want so that they will sale their weapons. Africa why,” he concluded.

Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, Labour Party (LP) gubernatorial candidate in Lagos, posted the same video on his X account, in a manner that suggests that he had been misled by the trending video.

Rhodes-Vivour who did not say specifically that the soldiers were Nigerien troops, said: “Unlike some, I have only one passport and have sworn no allegiance to any other state. Nigeria is all I have.”

“A war with a people who appear to be uniting around a common interest, seeking economic freedom and a departure from overbearing western influence will have very dire consequences for our image as a regional power and could pose much graver security threats, ” he tweeted.

Rhodes-Vivour’s tweet has gathered over 6,600 retweets, 12,800 likes, and 3.5 million views as of the time of filing this report.

Subjecting several keyframes of the video to a Google reverse image search revealed that the video was posted on YouTube on April 4, to mark Senegal’s Independence Day.

The video was captioned “April 4: Commandos ensure show | Independence Day Senegal | 2023”.

The soldiers featured in the video are the Senegalese military, performing a parade to celebrate the country’s independence. The footage clearly has no correlation with the Niger crisis in any way. 


A viral video showing dozens of soldiers entering a village with guns was used to advance the narrative that Nigerian soldiers were already fighting in Niger. 

In the video, some soldiers could be seen shooting sporadically into the air, while chanting military songs. The video which gathered thousands of views appeared on a TikTok account, where it has now been deleted

Checks by TheCable revealed that the video is old and does not show the Nigerian army fighting in Niger. An eight-year-old version of the video was found on YouTube where it was published with the headline: “SIERRA LEONE: REBELS LOYAL TO OLD REGIME STILL FIGHTING ECOMOG”.

The video was posted in July 2015 by the Associated Press (AP), a US news agency. Additional information in the caption revealed that the footage was filmed in 1998. 

This article was produced with mentorship from the African Academy for Open Source Investigations (AAOSI) to tackle disinformation that undermines our democracies, as part of an initiative by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and Code for Africa (CfA). Visit for more information.


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

error: Content is protected from copying!