Was a UN Vehicle Used During Recent Ethiopia Electoral Campaigns?

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Twice postponed, Ethiopians went into their general elections on June 21, 2021. Days before this, a tweet went up with an image of a vehicle belonging to the United Nations reportedly used in one of these campaigns.

Background

Part of Ethiopia’s population will have to wait till September to cast their votes due to logistical and security reasons. But even as this happens, Ethiopia’s Tigray region faces a new breakout of war and this might affect the September elections. Once the votes are counted, the members of Parliament will be mandated to vote in the Prime Minister and President.

In the 8-month war, the United Nations now reports that hospitals are barely working as Ethiopia’s northern region faces famine. There is also a risk of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases owing to this situation.

Verification

First, to verify whether this vehicle had a UN registration number, we zoomed into the image. Results show that this Toyota Land Cruiser belongs to the United Nations. (See screengrab below).

Additionally, an error level analysis done on FotoForensically shows that no part of this image is electronically altered. (See screengrab below).

Having established that this vehicle had a legitimate UN registration number, we ran a reverse image search on it. Results show that a similar tweet on the same day shared a screengrab of a tweet with the same vehicle shared by an account believed to be of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. (See screengrab below).

The same image was shared on June 16, 2021, by Oromia Communication Bureau, alongside Abiy Ahmed’s speech from 2013 ahead of the recent campaigns in Jimma city. Additionally, Ethiopia’s Oromia Prosperity Party shared several photos from the campaign and among them the one showing a UN vehicle was featured.

The United Nation’s involvement in electoral processes is considered as being objective, impartial, neutral and independent, with due respect for sovereignty, while recognizing that the responsibility of organizing elections lies with member states.

Part of this listed electoral assistance is technical assistance which involves legal, operational and logistic assistance provided to develop electoral laws, processes and institutions. More of this include, support to creating a creating a conducive environment, organization and conducting of an electoral process, certification, electoral observation, supervision of elections, a panel of political and electoral experts and coordination of electoral observers.

A similar Toyota Land Cruiser from the campaign was featured in a thread by Abiy Ahmed’s photographer on June 17, 2021. This one in particular had its number plate removed. (See screengrab below).

This created a discussion on why this car was reportedly spotted in a different location without license plates.

Piga Firimbi could not independently ascertain whether this vehicle was provided by the United Nations and why a similar vehicle carrying Abiy Ahmed was spotted on the same day without a license plate.  However, a statement from The United Nations states that the issue is currently under investigation internally.

Verdict

YES, a vehicle belonging to the United Nations was spotted in the recent electoral campaigns in Ethiopia.

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Nyakerario Omari

Nyakerario J. Omari is a Kenyan writer and journalist with a passion for in-depth stories told through documentaries. She has an interest in reporting matters concerning health, crime and human rights.