Social media platforms in Sierra Leone have seen the circulation of an unusual newspaper named Daily Graphic with its front page claiming that the newly elected chairman of the ECOWAS, President Nana Akufo-Addo, has issued a warning to the Government of Sierra Leone “to not plunge the nation into another senseless civil war.”
On the 8th of September 2020, a day before heads of States and representatives from members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) elected Ghanaian President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo as chairman, social media in Sierra Leone was flooded with a newspaper’s front-page issuing a warning to the Sierra Leone government. The newspaper purportedly published on the 8th September 2020 in Ghana had the photo of the newly elected chairman of ECOWAS and the claim of security concern on Sierra Leone.
The meeting, held in Niger’s capital Niamey, is the 57th ECOWAS Summit and marked the end of tenure for the former ECOWAS Chairman in the person of President Mahamadou Issoufou of the small West Africa state of Niger.
The President of Sierra Leone was, however, absent from the summit and was represented by his Foreign Affairs Minister Mrs. Nabila Tunis. Because such a claim has the propensity to trigger toxic debates and arguments, Dubawa decided to determine the veracity of the front page’s claim.
Dubawa did embark on verifying this claim of the new ECOWAS Chairman giving warning to a member state (Sierra Leone) on security related issues in the 57th ECOWAS Summit. The claim was a front page headline on an online outlet intended to capture the attention of readers with no full story attached.
Firstly, the Newspaper Daily Graphic is a registered Ghanaian outlet operating in Accra. Findings from our fact-checking process reveals that the real September 8, 2020 publication has a front page totally different from the one with the ECOWAS claim that has been circulating on social media in Sierra Leone.
The outlet Daily Graphic immediately rebuked the fake front page by flagging it with a fake comment boldly pasted on it.
Also, one of the Editors of the newspaper Mr. Kwame Asare Boadu, vehemently dismissed the claim in a phone interview.
“It was fake-complete fake and that Daily Graphic did not publish such a story/front page,” Boadu said.
Moreover, the full speech of the newly elected Chairman has been assessed and it did not, in a single sentence, mention Sierra Leone, let alone giving a warning. A large part of the speech was directed at member States with emphasis on trade cooperation and adherence to healthy competition in consolidating socio-economic relations. In the area of security, the newly elected chairman Nana Akuffo Addo focused on the troubled Sahel regions and the current political impasse in Mali.
Based on these investigations on the claim, Dubawa can authoritatively confirm that no such warning was made to the government of Sierra Leone and also no such story was published by Daily Graphic Newspaper. We therefore conclude that it was photoshopped and therefore false.