A Facebook page with more than 150,000 followers posted a picture on Dec 27, 2021, claiming that there was fighting recently in the Metekel Zone of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State. By the time this article was published, the post had received more than five hundred reactions and was shared nearly a hundred times.
However, Haqcheck has inspected the claim and found it to be FALSE.
The armed conflict between the Benishangul People's Liberation Movement (BPLM) and the central government of Ethiopia is traced back to the Derg regime in 1976. The rebel group was formed two years after the downfall of the imperial regime. In 1996, one wing of BPLM merged with other parties from the Benishangul-Gumuz region to form Benishangul-Gumuz People’s Democratic Unit Front (BGPDUF) and continued until 2019. It dissolved later to form the Prosperity Party together with other national parties.
BPLM signed a peace deal with the Ethiopian federal government in 2005. Nevertheless, fighting resumed in 2006. In June 2013, BPLM and the federal government agreed to a peace deal. BPLM members were promised an amnesty from prosecution and governmental support under the deal. BPLM detainees were released. After the war between the federal government and Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) broke out, BPLM announced that it would work in alliance with TPLF and Oromo Liberation Army(OLA), which are designated as ‘terrorist organizations’ by the Ethiopian parliament.
The Metekel conflict is believed to have started on April 25, 2019, between car drivers and passengers. It is said that more than 30 people have died due to the conflict at different time intervals. 37 people were killed and 18 wounded in an attack by armed men from the Amhara region following the Amhara Region coup d'état attempt, as Ashadli Hassen, governor of Benishangul-Gumuz, told The Associated Press. On September 16 the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) western command released a statement reporting attacks on civilians on Sep 04 and 05 in Bulen Woreda, Metekel Zone. In an effort to counter such offensives, Benishangul Gumuz regional forces have been fighting with the rebel armed group alongside the ENDF.
According to the then administrator of the Metekel zone, Atinkut Shitu, The attackers could be ‘an organized group of members of opposition parties and discharged military officers’. Government affiliated media blamed TPLF for the conflicts happening. In Dec 2020 seven government officials of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, including Banding Mara, head of Metekel Zone Prosperity Party Office were arrested for alleged connection with the death of civilians in the Metekel zone
A lot of civilians were killed and displaced in fear of death because of this conflict. This includes both native indigenous ethnic groups Gumuz and Shinasha and other Amhara, Oromo, and Awi residents.
The claim on Facebook reported that there had been ongoing fighting between BPLM and government forces since Dec 26, 2021. Haqcheck cross-checked the image used in the post to support the statement and found out that it was previously used by the Associated Press on Aug 11, 2021, with a photo caption “...May 8, 2021, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck …”
Therefore, HaqCheck interrogated the picture used to justify the claim and rated it FALSE.