Many Facebook groups based in Mali and Nigeria began sharing a video of a helicopter on December 9, claiming it showed an aircraft delivering weapons to terrorists. In Mali, the posts often accused the French government of operating the helicopter, while posts coming from Nigeria laid the blame on the Nigerian government. In reality, the video is from neither one of these countries – it was filmed in the Central African Republic during a routine supply drop.
In the roughly three-minute video, a helicopter lands in a field before several people start to unpack its cargo.
The video has been shared widely in Nigeria. Some posts claim that it shows “Fulani terrorists” being supplied by the government. Others say that the people receiving the supply are Boko Haram.
Posts including the video, some of which have more than 300,000 views, were also shared in Mali, claiming to show “palpable proof” that the French army is involved in supplying terrorist groups there. This kind of rhetoric is commonly used by conspiracy theorists to stir up anti-French sentiment in the country.
One of the videos was shared with a voiceover in Bambara, one of Mali’s 13 national languages. The voiceover says the video reveals some of the things that are really going on “in the bush”, stressing that the unidentified people in the video are speaking Fulani and that there is a white man present.
Looking for clues in the video and sound
Several sources, including members of the Tabital Pulaaku association, which promotes the Fulani language, confirmed to FRANCE 24 Observers that the people speaking in the video (who can be heard from 2:20 onward) do speak Fulani, but with an accent from eastern Niger. The discussion, however, does not offer any clues, consisting of an exchange of greetings and instructions on how to unload the helicopter.
On closer inspection of the video, however, it is possible to identify a crucial clue: a logo on the side of the helicopter, as well as a number, difficult to discern, on the back.
With the help of BenbereVerif, a fact-checking media outlet in Mali, we were able to identify the logo. It belongs to “African Parks”, a nature conservation NGO based in South Africa that manages 19 parks across the African continent. We matched up the logo with other photos of African Parks helicopters that we found online.
‘The helicopter was transporting the Chinko outreach teams and their supplies to the park’
The African Parks operations manager, Erik Mararv, told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that the video was filmed in Chinko park, a nature refuge in the Central African Republic, which is managed by his organisation. He explained:
These outreach teams are unarmed, clearly identified and recruited from the local community in order to establish a relationship of trust with local herders, according to African Parks.
Source: France 24/The Observers