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Images used to illustrate the tensions between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, against a backdrop of crisis between the two countries, have circulated widely on WhatsApp. Among them, a photo, a document and a video, the latter, presented as the persecution of a Congolese by Rwandans, turns out to be hijacked.

The publication of these very violent images [et pouvant heurter la sensibilité] comes as high tensions have erupted between DR Congo and neighboring Rwanda, fueled by regular fighting between the Congolese army and the former Tutsi rebellion M23 (March 23 Movement). The Congolese authorities accuse Kigali of supporting the M23, which the Rwandan authorities deny.

Verification in a nutshell

  • A video [dont la violence peur heurter la sensibilité] was hijacked to make believe that a Congolese student had been tortured by Rwandans. The video is older, it actually shows a punishment inflicted on a person accused of theft, and according to our verification, most likely filmed in Ghana.
  • A photo purports to show a bridge that was illegally built by Rwanda on the border of its Congolese neighbour. It was however built with the agreement of the DR Congo, according to the authorities.
  • A photomontage circulates to make believe in a declaration of war by Rwanda against the DR Congo.

The verification in detail

On this video, shared on Twitter on June 5, a young boy can be seen bound hand and foot, suspended above the ground, from a beam resting on concrete blocks. He is surrounded by a group of people, and beaten heavily in the face several times by a man. “This is what a Congolese student in Rwanda is going through,” says the author of the publication, which calls for “eliminating all Rwandans who are in Congo”.

We are only posting a screenshot of the video due to its shocking nature.

Tweet from June 5, claiming it is a Congolese student being tortured by Rwandans.
Tweet from June 5, claiming it is a Congolese student being tortured by Rwandans. © Observers

Other users share the video with the same claim. On Twitter on June 4, an account speaks of a “Congolese student tortured in Rwanda”. If these publications on Twitter are not viral, the video circulates in particular on WhatsApp.

The video was sent to us for verification by several users through the WhatsApp number and on the account Facebook France 24 Observers.

• A video [très violente] presented as the persecution of a Congolese by Rwandans

The video [violente] has been circulating since at least January 2021. This tweet of January 16, 2021, which does not refer to a Congolese student, is the oldest publication found by our editorial staff, thanks to a reverse image search using the InVid Verify tool (see here how to proceed). The video therefore predates the resurgence of fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which dates from the beginning April 2022. However, tensions between the two countries are historical.

We sent the video to several fact-checking organizations, including Congo Check, which certified to us that the language spoken in the video is neither a language spoken in Rwanda nor in Congo. A Ghanaian journalist said it was the Dagbani language, only spoken in Ghana.

Thanks to the translation of two Dagbani speakers, we learn that the victim is a person accused of theft.

The attackers shout: “What did you steal from the house? Why did you come to steal? The blows are not strong enough. They are not effective enough. The bonds are not strong enough . He doesn’t feel them”.

The victim calls for help, in a less intelligible way: “Fear God, Fear God!”

Dagbani is a language only spoken in Ghana.

• A photo purporting to show a bridge built between Rwanda and Congo, without the permission of the latter

A photo, viral since May 29 on Twitter, claims that a bridge was erected on the border between the two countries without the agreement of the DR Congo. You can see a bridge crossing a river. “A bridge discovered in Ruzizi between the DRC and Rwanda a bridge thrown illegally without the agreement of the authorities of the DRC (sic)”, comments the author of this Facebook post of May 29, accumulating more than 1,400 likes.

May 29 Facebook post that allegedly shows a bridge being built "illegally" by the Rwandan at its border with the DRC
May 29 Facebook post that allegedly shows a bridge built “illegally” by the Rwandan on its border with the DRC © Observers

However, local officials told AFP that the bridge was built legally, between 2014 and 2015, and was used to transport equipment needed to build a dam.

Matabaro Migabo, head of the grouping of chiefdoms in the locality of Kamanyola, where the bridge is located, on the Congolese side, told theAFP “To say that it is a bridge that Rwanda has built illegally to allow its soldiers to infiltrate the Congo is false”. He adds: “It is a regional work that is part of the construction project of the Ruzizi 3 dam, started in 2011 and which includes the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi as well”.

• A “declaration of war”

On Facebook, users claim that Rwanda has declared war on Congo. For this, they rely on a document that looks like an official statement from the Rwandan army, written in French, with the logo of the Rwandan armed forces. On the document posted on Facebook on June 13, it reads “The Rwandan army (RDF) declares war against the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

False document posted on June 13 on Facebook, claiming that Rwanda has declared war on the DRC.
False document posted on June 13 on Facebook, claiming that Rwanda has declared war on the DRC. © Observers

However, the Rwandan army published a denial on Twitter on June 14, calling it “fake news”. The photomontage is a modified version imitating the graphic charter statements Rwandan armed forces. Our editorial staff did not find any trace of such a document on the Rwandan army website, nor on its social networks.

Since the resurgence of strong tensions between the Congo and Rwanda, several misleading images have been misused to fuel tensions.

If you identify an image that seems suspicious to you, do not hesitate to contact us!

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