Fake! Documentary implicating Bawumia in Bawku Conflict unfounded

In the past few weeks, a video documentary alleging that Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia is fueling the chieftaincy conflict in Bawku has been making rounds on social media.

On WhatsApp where a part of the documentary is circulating, the video is accompanied by the text:

“Aljazeera report on Bawku conflict and a Willy-Nilly Bawumia’s involvement. Bawumia is more dangerous than Nana Addo, according to Aljazeera.”

Screengrab of the video on WhatsApp

The documentary claims that the Bawku conflict, which is primarily between the Mamprusi and Kusasi ethnic groups, risks degenerating into a genocide should Dr Bawumia, flagbearer of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), become the next president of Ghana.

“The future destiny, security and social cohesion of Ghana as a nation is at risk if Bawumia becomes the next president. This warning stems from the active and leading role of the Vice President in funding and fueling the ethnic conflict since taking office in 2017. This is evident in media discussions about the military’s maltreatment of the indigenous ethnic group in Bawku,” the documentary says in part.

In this report, Fact-Check Ghana presents findings from its verification of the documentary and its content.

The YouTube version and the unknown Dr S. Mumuni

On WhatsApp, the version of the documentary making rounds is 5 minutes and 35 seconds long. However, checks from Fact-Check Ghana found a longer version on YouTube, which is 23:14 seconds long.

Screengrab of the documentary on YouTube

The YouTube version of the documentary was published on November 4, 2023, by a channel called Real Higher Life. Set up in October 2022, the YouTube channel’s content mostly focuses on money, business and investments, making the documentary on the Bawku conflict an unusual content on the platform.

Before publishing this report, the documentary had garnered about 5,600 views and seven comments in just two weeks after publication. The engagement on the documentary is the highest any content on the channel has received since it was set up a little over a year ago.

While the version making rounds on WhatsApp bore no name of a producer except the narrative that alleged the video was published by Aljazeera, the version on YouTube had the name of one Dr S. Mumuni boldly written on the thumbnail photo of the video as the producer.

The documentary’s description on the YouTube channel described Dr S. Mumuni as “a renowned expert in conflict studies”.

However, searches conducted by Fact-Check Ghana online and on search engines for scholarly literature brought no positive results for a conflict studies expert or academic called Dr S. Mumuni.

The team further spoke with the faculty members of the University of Development Studies, the University of Cape Coast and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre where there are centres and departments for conflict, peace and security studies. However, none of them recognised any conflict studies expert by the name of Dr S. Mumuni.

Fact-Check Ghana also spoke with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a regional peacebuilding organization, who also added that they do not know any conflict studies expert called Dr. S. Mumuni.

Aljazeera denounces video

To verify the claim that the documentary was produced by Aljazeera, Fact-Check Ghana reached out to the Qatar-based media network. But Aljazeera said they have not produced any such report.

“This is not our report. We have nothing to do with it. We distance ourselves from it. The said Dr S Mumuni does not work with Aljazeera,” said Eva Atiboka, Aljazeera’s correspondent to Ghana, who spoke with Fact-Check Ghana.

No original content in the documentary

Reviewing the full documentary, Fact-Check Ghana observed the video has no original footage or recording. The whole video is a sampling of already published footage from different media outlets, both local and international, and social media that relate to the Bawku conflicts, protests, elections, and wars in other countries. The documentary also picked video recording that is generally about Dr Bawumia. It sampled footage from Citi TV, Metro TV, BBC, Aljazeera, and All Africa News, among others.

The documentary, for instance, has no interviews of sources or subjects, or any other unique recording, except the voice of the narrator making allegations while videos or cutaways from other media houses play on.

The absence of original footage or interviews further affirms the inauthenticity of the documentary.

Further, documentaries of this kind, especially one that is over 23 minutes, typically end with credits to the production team. The production team would include the editor, cameraman and executive producer. This documentary ended with no such credits except the name of the unknown Dr S. Mumuni.

Employing disinformation tactics against Veep Bawumia on Bawku Conflict

The documentary makes a lot of unproven allegations including the following:

  • Dr Bawumia is funding the Bawku conflict
  • Dr Bawumia, a Mamprusi, is arming his ethnic group against the Kusasis and has installed an illegitimate chief
  • Dr Bawumia is using his influence as Vice President and head of the National Security Council, to silence the Kusasis
  • The recent brutality meted out against residents of Garu by the security was a direct order from the office of the Vice President

Fact-Check Ghana’s analysis proves the documentary employs a textbook procedure of spreading disinformation by partly applying true and verifiable information and using the same to launch and propagate unverifiable or outright false information.

For instance, that Dr Mahamudu Bawumia is a Mamprusi is a known fact (see here). Also, the Vice President being Chairman of the Police Council [Article 201(a) of the Constitution], Prison Council [Article 2016(a)]and Armed Forces Council [Article 211(a)] and also second in command to the President on the National Security Council [Article 83(1)] are verifiable facts. However, there’s no evidence supporting the claim that he is using his influence to subdue a party in the conflict.

In the same vein, while it is indeed true that residents of Garu were abused by the military recently, there’s no evidence supporting the claim that the brutality was at the instance of Dr Bawumia.

AI-generated voice-over

Fact-Check Ghana’s verification also found that the voice of the narrator in the documentary is AI-generated. The creator of the documentary used an AI-powered text-to-speech technology to create a deep fake voice mimicking the accent of a non-African speaker.

Beyond using free online-based AI-generated detector platforms like AI or Not which raised suspicion about the being likely generated by AI, Fact-Check Ghana’s conclusion is based on the following:

  • Texture – the texture of the voice lacks a human feel but rather sounds more automated
  • Flexibility – when stretched on an editing software, the voice had nearly a uniform pitch, tone and emotion throughout the documentary. This contrasted against the natural human voice that varies in tonation, emotion and pitch.
  • Imperfections – Generally, when humans speak for a long time, there is most likely stutters, hesitations and breath sound. The narrator’s voice in the documentary however had none of that.

What Bawumia has said about the Bawku chieftaincy conflict

Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has been consistent about calling for peace and harmony in the Bawku area between the feuding factions, Mamprusis and Kusasis (see here and here).  His most recent call came when he visited the palace of the Bawku Naba, Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II on December 12, 2023.

“As a son of the north, I am very pained by the conflict that we have in Bawku between Kusasis and Mamprusis over chieftaincy,” the vice president said.

“This conflict has led to needless loss of lives and disrupted economic activity and development in Bawku. It is really sad.

“Fundamentally, we are really one people. We have intermarried over the years and our languages are very similar. I believe with every bone in my body that it is possible to have peace and harmony between Kusasis and Mamprusis in Bawku and I will work towards that. We have to work towards it. It is possible,” Dr Bawumia added.

From the above, it is clear that the documentary is a product of disinformation targeted at Dr Bawumia and the claims made in it are baseless and without merit.

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