Photo shows woman detained at a political event in Ethiopia, not nanny arrested for murder

·2 min read

After news of a woman accused of killing two children in Ethiopia emerged in early September, social media in the country was awash with an image purporting to show the suspect. However, AFP Fact Check found that this is an old photo; it shows a woman who was detained by Ethiopian police in 2018 on suspicion of carrying explosives during a ceremony to welcome political activist Jawar Mohammed back home from exile. 

“This is the woman who tragically killed two children yesterday in Addis Ababa,” reads part of one of the posts published on Facebook on September 2, 2022, in Afaan Oromoo. 

Screenshot showing the false post, taken on September 5, 2022

The image in the post shows a barefoot woman wearing a pink jacket surrounded by uniformed police. 

The same claim also appeared on Facebook here with an inset picture of two children sitting next to each other. 

In early September 2022, news organisations in Ethiopia (here and here) reported that local police were holding a nanny suspected of killing a brother and sister -- identified as Christian and Wengelawit Melaku -- in Addis Ababa.

One of the reports includes video of a march by angry residents seen holding up banners with the same image of the two children used as an inset in one of the false posts.

Screenshot of a banner showing two children, taken on September 9, 2022

The photo posted of the woman in a pink jacket, however, does not show the suspect in question. 

Old photo

AFP Fact Check conducted a reverse image search and found that the woman in the pink jacket was detained by Ethiopian federal police four years ago in an unrelated incident.

We traced the picture to the Alamy photo archives and to an article on the Voice of America website. In both cases, it was credited to Reuters photographer Tiksa Negeri. 

We then found the picture in the Reuters photo archives with a caption that reads: “Ethiopian Federal Police officers detain a woman suspected to be carrying explosives during the welcoming ceremony of Jawar Mohammed, U.S.-based Oromo activist and leader of the Oromo Protests, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia August 5, 2018.” 

Screenshot showing the original photo from the Reuters website

Jawar, an ethnic Oromo, is a political activist who led a social movement that toppled Hailemariam Desalegn’s repressive regime in 2018, ushering in an era of democratic change in Ethiopia. 

He returned home from a decade of exile in the United States in 2018.