A doctored audio file wrongly considered as “a top secret leaked from the Prosperity Party’s executive committee meeting” by the social media has been widely circulated. But how was the audio file fabricated? The Ethiopian News Agency explains.
The statements attributed to the president of Prosperity Party were carefully assembled from different speeches at different occasions and out of context.
The investigation conducted by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) revealed that the first part of the fabricated speech was taken from a speech made by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the second regular session of the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) in the sixth year of its term when he spoke in person about the defunct Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) deep reform and evaluation as well as the election of its chairman.
During the occasion, Abiy said the TPLF junta stated that “we have won the election” and their supporters were dining and winning in the bars.
“As you have heard the election of the first EPRDF chairman was unprecedented in the entire history of the EPRDF in that there had been efforts to brain wash the participants for weeks. We began evaluation and then we adjourned. We repeated and repeated this process without reaching any conclusion. At last, we set the criteria for electing the chairman. By the middle of the night, no less fiercer war than the present one was waged by the junta group. At around 4:30 PM, the external wing of the junta declared themselves winners of the election and celebrated in the bars. Before that the junta group had been boasting that ‘we will not allow persons we do not approve of. It will happen on our dead body’.”
In the so called “leaked audio file”, words from the speech about winning election were selected, assembled, and doctored to be released in the following manner.
“There is no doubt and it is no secret that we have won the election.”
The other issue manipulated in this leaked audio was taken from the discussion the prime minister had with regional chief administrators on April 22, 2021. During the occasion, he noted that foreign powers that do not want change in Ethiopia will work to disrupt the election and establish a subservient government.
“Since about a year ago, forces that rival the big visions and the march of Prosperity Party have been striving hard to disrupt the election and create civil war to ultimately establish a transitional or negotiated association and a weak government like some neighboring countries, but also a subservient government. They have prepared a document and been working for long to realize this goal.”
In the “leaked audio file”the above speech of the prime minister was tuned to sound as if the prime minister has set direction to the Prosperity Party to work toward disrupting the election so as to discourage competing political forces.
“We have big responsibility to disrupt the election and discourage competing forces,” the doctored audio said.
During the discussion with the regional chief administrators, the prime minister has said the government will work to address mistakes and create conducive electoral environment.
“We have to correct the slightest mistake and accusations by the competing political parties from time to time and also those raised by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. We should not discourage competing parties and make the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia despair for lack of support by committing small mistakes. We must correct mistakes,” he said.
However, the manipulated audio suggested that Prosperity Party should correct mistakes in order to win the election by force.
“As you know, the so-called politicians, including activists, work to get power. So our cadres have to be very careful. We have to be able to evaluate small mistakes and correct them day by day,” according to the doctored audio.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed the special discussion forum ‘Addis Woge’ on opportunities and challenges of the election on March 30, 2021.
“The big problem now is, for example, there are people who say there is no need for election. But who takes responsibility and say election could not be held? If the government says that there is no need for an election fearing that it would not be elected to extend its power, a condition would be created whereby a transitional government continues to rule for long years. And as my sister pointed out earlier, Ethiopia has not reached the stage where it can vote on whether an election should be held or not due to unavailability of automotive system. Under such circumstance, who will be the decision making body? Because of this we are in the middle of difficulties, and that is why we take the election as an option.”
The following was the attempt made to confuse the public by taking the audio from the above general explanation.
“We take the election as an option since not conducting the election at present would again create worse situation,” it says.
It was also discovered that some words about allowing all observers to observe the election process would not create threat were taken from the following statement of the PM.
“By the way, I’m not worried about demonstrators throwing stones in cities. I’m not worried about such acts during this election because all observers are allowed to take part in the process. Attempts will be made to ensure that the election is clean. What in fact worries me is damage that could be inflicted by agents that disguise themselves as voters and candidates.”
The following idea is reflected in the so-called leaked audio file.
“In this election, we will try to avoid damage to a certain extent. There are forces from near and afar who invest their time, money and resources to create chaos and disrupt the existence of Ethiopia and plunder its resources.”
The fake audio says: “Beyond your imagination, there are politicians, political parties and the media from near and afar that vie for power in this election.”
In another briefing to the House of People’s Representatives, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed explained what the law enforcement operation would have looked like had Ethiopia not reconciled with Eritrea.
“We thought that we could face challenges, unless we make peace with our neighbors. That has proved right. It is difficult to imagine what could have happened, had we not reconciled with Eritrea this year. The Eritrean people has shown us more than the Eritrean government that our reconciliation is not personal but people-to-people.”
The doctored audio file distorted the speech by making the prime minister say it is hard to imagine what would have happened had COVID-19 not occurred and the election postponed.
The premier had similarly explained to the House of People’s Representatives why weapons were deposited in Tigray.
“By the way, the reason why the food, weaponry, and the mechanized army were kept in Tigray is to make the capability of the country confined to that region. There is no doubt about this, it’s no secret.”
Taking words from this and merging them with ideas about election, the following statement was fabricated.
“I can tell you in all certainty that there is no doubt or secret about this. We have won the election.”
The other issue the PM raised during the meeting with the regional chief administrators with regard to the election was the fact that many borrow ideas from abroad cost Ethiopians many lives and resulted in bloodshed.
“It’s imported thoughts about 50, 60 years ago that are affecting Ethiopia. These have created a great deal of mass extermination and bloodshed among our people as they have been designed and imported into the education system and various government institutions without really thinking about them.”
Taking this idea, the fake audio presented it in such a way as to make it assert that there would be bloodshed during the post-election election because of the measure the government will take.
“Many measures will be taken. A task force prepared for this. Therefore there will be bloodshed and mass extermination.”
At this same forum, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed instructed the chief administrators to work tirelessly by learning from past challenges to transform Ethiopia.
“There are many challenges to the left and right that we need to avoid. What we hear every day is bad news. Every day we hear about firefighting. What I can tell in certainty is the challenges we are facing now are miniscule when compared with the challenges we overcame. We have won in the past, and we will win now. We will bring peace; we will bring prosperity; Ethiopia will prevail. Those powers that do not want this to happen will be buried like their predecessors.”
The “leaked audio” represented the idea by making it appear that the premier advised the Prosperity Party leadership to work staunchly to discourage competing parties.
“We have a huge responsibility to make competing parties lose hope; it is not difficult to achieve this in light of the many challenges we had faced.”
Commenting on the fake audio, Bikila Hurissa, Prosperity Party Public and International Relations Head said the intent of those who disseminated this false information is to mislead the people, confuse them, and harm people’s coexistence, tolerance, and unity.
He stressed that their objective is to erode public trust and undermine the good relations between the people and the government.
In addition, the head underlined that there were no issues raised by the party executive committee regarding the information disseminated and that the information spread was “baseless and false.”