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Episode 5




Months after Jeremy first approached Basia, the team fly to Nairobi to sit down with the mysterious essay writer. And it turns out that he is not the only person ready to share what he knows about who killed Christopher Allen


Basia Cummings: So, we’re about an hour and a half away from Nairobi. We’re actually right over South Sudan now, coming up over Juba and we’ve just hit some turbulence. 

Basia, narrating: Months after a handwritten essay arrives out of the blue, we’re finally on our way to meet its mysterious author. 

Jeremy Bliss: So, it’s about 3 in the morning and I’m at the airport… 

Basia, narrating: After years investigating his cousin’s death, this is a big moment for Jeremy, he might finally get some answers. 

Jeremy: I feel like this has to happen. But now the reality of doing this piece of work is dawning on me and… 

Basia, narrating: The essay-writer has promised, over and over, that when we meet in person, he’ll tell us what happened to Chris. 

Basia: It feels like we might be heading for some answers, but I got an email from Joyce a couple of nights ago and there’s one line in particular, which has definitely stayed in my head, because at the end of the email, she says, I know you leave momentarily for Nairobi. She says, we are aware that the conversations you will have may be most significant in determining what happened to Chris and why. Know that we travel with you. 

Basia, narrating: It’s a reminder, at 30,000 ft in the air, that Chris’s parents are also waiting for us to bring them the truth. What we discover in Kenya could transform what we know about Chris and how he died. It could deliver his parents peace or shatter them all over again. It could turbo charge their campaign for justice, or maybe, it could destroy it. 

Joyce: I want to know what really happened. 

Jeremy: They need to know the truth. 

Joyce: Who’s responsible, was Chris killed in crossfire? Was he targeted? These are the questions I have. 

Basia, narrating: I’m Basia Cummings. From Tortoise, this is Pig Iron. Episode Five: Kaya.

Jeremy and I meet at our hotel in the centre of Nairobi. 

Jeremy: I had a bit of a, like moment of freak out on the, I was like, what the fuck am I doing? But not just in terms of coming here, like the whole thing. 

Basia: Oh really? 

Jeremy: Yeah. 

Basia: Relating to what exactly, like doing this podcast? 

Jeremy: Doing this podcast, like all the stuff around Chris, like maybe there’s a reason that nothing’s happened. 

Basia: That’s good, I mean that’s a good feeling. I mean like, I’ve had that many times. 

Jeremy: I was questioning everything just as I was like rushing to the flight, maybe it was because I was feeling nervous about coming to Kenya. 

Basia: I think that’s normal. And, and also like we’re kind of past the point of no return now… 

Basia, narrating: We still don’t really know who the essay-writer is. But he’s given us a list of names, people he originally said we could contact to check his identity. But just when we were about to make some calls, he changed his mind. His tone became colder. It spooked us. How can we know if he poses a danger if we can’t figure out who he is. And how can we trust anything he says? Because remember, if his claim is true, it changes the whole story. If Chris was captured alive by South Sudanese government soldiers, and then killed when he refused to cooperate with them, that means a deliberate killing. 

Jeremy: He was wearing a jacket, and the body was taken to Juba… 

Basia, narrating: So, Jeremy has been doing some careful digging, his speciality. He’s been reading back over the essay. 

Jeremy: Another USA journalist called Alan also, his number is provided, visited me. And I talked to him a lot, especially about Christopher Allen. 

Basia, narrating: And among all the South Sudanese names, there is someone referred to as an American journalist. It’s just one name, Alan. But Jeremy figures out who it is, it’s someone we think it’s safe to contact without putting the essay-writer at risk. It turns out he’s a former journalist who researched the South Sudanese civil war. And we get lucky, he is, by pure chance, in Nairobi at the same time as us.

Jeremy: What was your impression of him as a character? 

Alan: I think given that he was fairly senior at one point in the rebellion, given that it was basically a not far from his home area, not far from where he was and given Chris’s presence would have stood out. Whether he was actively trying to track Chris’s movement or was passively receiving it, I’m not surprised if he would’ve known about Chris’s movement. 

Jeremy: As such, do you think it’s a good idea for me to meet him? 

Alan: Oh yeah, you can definitely meet. No I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid with from him. Jeremy: Okay. 

Alan: Yeah. 

Basia, narrating: The task of a journalist is always to sort fact from fiction, truth from rumour. But this is hard, we’re up against years of memories fading and warping, of stories twisting into conspiracy theories. But Alan has put us at ease a little, at least in terms of our safety. And he’s confirmed, this man is credible. The next day, we get news, the essay-writer has arrived. We travel across town to another hotel and wait in the lobby. 

Basia: Here he is, looks very smart as well. Jeremy looks, trepidatious, anxious, yeah, I think we’re all feeling anxious. He’s got a pink shirt and a blue tie, pair of sunglasses and a green bag and he’s coming in. So, we meet him, okay… 

Basia, narrating: We shake hands, and he doesn’t say much, at first. 

Jeremy: Well if you’re ready we’ll go up into the room. 

Essay Writer: Yeah. I’m ready, I’m ready. 

Jeremy: Okay. Let’s do it. 

Essay Writer: Can I pick my, in a notebook? 

Basia: Yeah of course. 

Jeremy: Please do. 

Basia, narrating: Clutching a large notebook, he sits down in an alcove in the hotel room. In front of him is a small coffee table, with two mics set up. He’s on one side, Jeremy is on the other. Before we start, the essay-writer carefully notes down our names. I’m sitting, perched on a footstool, in the other corner of the room. Because this is Jeremy’s moment. We’d written pages and pages of questions together, but we agreed that he would do these interviews, the culmination of his

years-long journey. It felt right. My job is to listen, and to watch, and to see if I can figure out the riddle of what this guy knows. 

Jeremy: So, when we spoke on the phone last, you told me that there’s certain things you can only say in person. I’ve got a whole lot of questions that I want to ask you, I want to find out who you are, and how you came to have all this information. But I guess before we start doing that, do you wanna tell me why you’ve come here? 

Essay Writer: Yeah, as you are quite aware, my coming here is for a purpose. If it was not because of Christopher Allen, I would have not even dared to come here. I want to be part of the persons contributing towards the justice for him. 

Basia, narrating: He starts by telling us about who he is. How he lost both his parents in the civil war in the 1980s, and how he became a child soldier. At one point, he opens his shirt to show a large bullet scar. He tells us how he was drawn back into the war when it reached Equatoria, where the town of Kaya is, and where Chris was killed. 

Essay Writer: I was so determined to at least find out how to get a solution to this kind of killings in our country, South Sudan. 

Jeremy: So, there’s an element of you which really wants to kind of have some sort of justice which is connected to seeing the government, do the right thing? 

Essay Writer: Yes. 

Basia, narrating: There’s a steeliness to him, but he’s warming up. From my corner, I sketch out the possibilities of what’s going on here. He could be about to confirm that Chris was captured alive by the South Sudanese military, a detail that could totally rewrite our understanding of what happened. And maybe, in that worn out notebook, he has the evidence. Or he’s just lying. He’s used the promise of an answer as bait to get Jeremy in the room. But why? 

Essay Writer: Jeremy, I decided to enter that essay competition, knowing very well that I was not supposed to, taking my age and what the conditions for the essay were, but I just felt that let me enter the essay and pass my message. So, I felt that by entering that essay, my message would reach and if I told you that I was serious, that people are serious. I would be followed up. Then after that, I would be able to give what I have in mind, that the fault was Chris Allen was killed after being captured in the, I think that one is fucked. 

Jeremy: Did, did you meet Chris? 

Essay Writer: Personally, I did not meet him, but I heard of him from very many colleagues. So, those guys they, they told me how they came through with Chris. I didn’t meet him personally. 

Jeremy: Okay.

Basia, narrating: We establish he worked in intelligence for the rebels and had networks of informers feeding him information. He makes it sound like many people knew Chris was there, that this was no secret. So, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the government also knew he was there. He describes the rumours he’s heard through his web of local spies. 

Essay Writer: So, he told me that brief story, that at first Chris had supplied some of those, I don’t know whether he was linking up or whatsoever, to the government, but after failing to pay him, then he switched instead of going then he ended with the, with the rebels. So, I was very interested in that information. 

Basia, narrating: We’d heard this story before, or maybe variations of it. Some people had said Chris was supplying the rebels with ammunition or providing logistics. Now, we’re hearing that he was supplying the government the other side. 

Essay Writer: Yeah. I thought maybe the government now knew about that. And that was why they decided that, that was now what was ringing in my mind. 

Basia, narrating: For a moment I wonder if this could be some link to the mercenaries, to Craig Lang and their trip. But in all our reporting so far, we’d found no evidence that Chris was providing active military help to either side. Nothing in all the emails and texts of Chris’s that we’d seen. 

Essay Writer: I was looking at an opportunity to still confirm this, to find whether it is really true. Jeremy: Did you? 

Essay Writer: Now, that there was nobody to, to inquire. 

Basia, narrating: Then, the essay-writer says something that sets Jeremy on edge. 

Jeremy: What do you mean? 

Essay Writer: I mean, there was nobody to give me the correct, because I heard from that friend and I was not sure, I wanted to, to find somebody at least like you are your team. If I would get another time after this. 

Jeremy: It’s very likely, this is the last time we’ll meet. I have to be honest. You know, I don’t live in East Africa. It’s very complicated for us to get here and for you to get here. So, it’s really sort of down to, to information sharing at this moment. I think.

Basia, narrating: He suggests that this could just be the beginning. He says maybe, if Jeremy could provide the money, he could dig further. It’s like he’s offering his services as a private investigator. But this is not the relationship Jeremy wants. This is the end of a long road, not the start of a new one. 

Jeremy: I think, everything contained in the essay, the bit that was most upsetting and disturbing for us to read was the claim about what ultimately happened to Chris. 

Basia, narrating: After nearly two hours, we reach the key claim in the essay, the most important for me as a reporter, the most painful for Jeremy and his family. 

Jeremy: That a white man was captured and that he had photographs in support of the rebels. Next, you said, after 10 to 15 minutes, he, the left tenant called and said that the white man was dead for refusing to hand over his camera and failing to respond to questions of investigations. You can see why it’s upsetting I suppose. Who are you saying killed Chris? 

Essay Writer: What I know, cause for us in the army, irregardless of who killed, but the person who is responsible, that was Ani, Isaac Ani. So, Isaac Ani was a second LT, a second Lieutenant in charge of MI, Military Intelligence. And then there was another one called this Samuel Tabban. Samuel Tabban was a Captain of National Security Services. 

Basia, narrating: He’s naming specific people, and it feels like this is it. 

Essay Writer: So those two guys in any operation in the army, whenever a person is captured for us, that person is handed over to these two categories. More so to the, the one of MI that is it, for that case, he was called Isaac Ani. 

Jeremy: Can you tell me what you mean by handed over? 

Essay Writer: Okay, in a war situation, anyone can be captured alive, then after being captured alive, has to be taken to MI for investigation. Then the soldiers can continue with their fighting. That’s what normal happens. 

Basia, narrating: Slowly, it’s becoming clear that he’s describing is a typical scenario, in which the two men he mentions would be responsible if someone was captured. But he’s not saying it specifically about Chris or that day in Kaya. The only thing that is definitive is he says he learned about Chris being killed over the military radio. He heard that there was a white man with the rebels. Then, he heard that the white man was dead. And the deeper we go, the clearer it becomes that everything he’s telling us is second, or third hand.

Jeremy: Have you ever spoken to anybody who had seen and said who actually killed him? If he was captured, you didn’t speak to NA personally, did you speak to anyone else who actually saw it? You know from Military Intelligence or SPLA, have you ever spoken to anybody who says yes, I shot him or yes, I saw it happen? 

Essay Writer: No, I did not speak to anybody. I heard from war and they say it. 

Basia, narrating: Jeremy is getting frustrated. The kaleidoscope is spinning, and we’ve lost any sense of the picture inside. 

Jeremy: I don’t feel like I’m a whole lot closer to really knowing actually what happened, having spoken to you. And I don’t know how to tell whether or not you are telling your truth, the truth. You know, you seem to me like a really nice guy, who believes what you’re saying, but I, and as you speak, I can kind of imagine it. I can believe it. And I don’t know if there’s a bit of me, which is hoping that it’s true, because it seems somehow more meaningful, a more meaningful death, rather than just being caught in the crossfire. I don’t know if it even matters, what you’ve heard is stuff that you’ve heard from other people basically. I don’t think that you’ve said anything particularly different than what we discussed on the phone. I’m wondering if in some ways, we’re asking the wrong questions and maybe in a complicated war zone like South Sudan, we’re not gonna find out actually what happened. And that’s actually a really difficult thing to imagine, but also maybe the only way for us to find some level of peace with all of this. 

Essay Writer: Like I started before, what I wanted you to know, or the family to know, is the truth about how he died. The situation is exactly what I have told you. 

Basia, narrating: Jeremy is done. He looks exhausted. So, we swap places, and I sit down in the chair. I’ve been listening and taking notes, but I decide I’m not going to ask him for more details. I don’t think he knows any more than he’s already told us. 

Essay Writer: Like they say it, there are many shades to the truth, but it’s hard to understand it, unless you are out there. And those shades could be, they are the rumours that are coming up. 

Basia: Did you ever think when you were writing the essay that it might be painful for the family to read that it might cause them pain, the mother, or the father, did you think that they would read it? 

Essay Writer: Actually, for us in, in our, our county, death is always so painful, but one cannot keep quiet. And that situation. I was quite aware even when I was writing, sometimes I could pause, because of how I was feeling that time. So, I knew that it was going to be so painful, but there is no way that I can keep quiet about it. Truth is always painful, and it is hard to understand. 

Basia: Do you think we will understand in the end? Or do you think the truth is going to be, there’s too many shades in South Sudan? 

Essay Writer: I think there is no, no any other way, unless a mechanism is designed that we have this, these guys, I mentioned their names. To come and state their part of this, because these are the real people who can tell us what happened, there’s no way they can deny.

Basia, narrating: We’ve gone as far as we can. The room feels suffocating. Like we’ve been holding our breath for hours, and suddenly we’re gasping for air. 

Jeremy: He’s made me kind of feel angry 

Basia: Really? 

Jeremy: Yeah. 

Basia: At him? 

Jeremy: Yeah. Kind of. I just don’t, I don’t buy it. I still feel like he has woven together a narrative that he thought could better his circumstances. 

Basia: Don’t you think he was quite up front about that, saying you know, I don’t know that for sure, I haven’t investigated it. 

Clip: South Sudan is interesting in that sometimes rumours have truth. 

Basia, narrating: For years, Jeremy’s had hints and promises. And once again, it’s all turned out to be based on rumour and second-hand knowledge. But I have the benefit of distance. Of course, that’s the luxury of being a reporter. You’re on the outside, looking in. I guess you could say this is my day trip into someone else’s nightmare. And from where I’m sitting, I think we’ve arrived somewhere else after this interview. Because there’s a saying, and it might be a bit of a cliché, but I’m going to use it anyway, the first casualty of war is truth. And as we packed up our kit, I thought, this man, this essay-writer is the embodiment of that phrase, its voice: one full of rumour and misinformation warped over years by the forces of a war that killed his parents, engulfed his life, and scarred his body. 

Jeremy: Hey, so nice to see you. 

Halima Athumani: Nice to meet you too. 

Basia, narrating: The next morning, we meet our fixer. Her name is Halima Athumani, and she’s an award-winning journalist from Uganda. She brings with her good news, and a contagious laugh. Weeks before we left, Jeremy was speaking to another man, an eyewitness to Chris’s death. And he too is now on his way to meet us. It’s a relief, this is a man we know saw the whole day unfold in Kaya. But that’s not all. Halima tells us that most of her conversations with the eyewitness have been about flights and buses and visas, she’s been something of a travel agent for him, among all that, he’s been telling her things he has never mentioned to Jeremy.

Halima: I don’t remember his exact words, but he goes, what would you advise me? And I’m like, what do you mean, advise you on what? And then he says something that I felt hmmm, that kind of hit me. Then he goes, I wouldn’t sell out Chris. 

Jeremy: I wouldn’t what? 

Halima: I wouldn’t sell out, Chris. 

Basia, narrating: This is the first time anything like this has come up. 

Jeremy: Okay. 

Halima: And then I go, what do you mean you wouldn’t sell out Chris? And was like, we were on a journey, and he was killed. I wouldn’t sell him out. I know who killed him and why. So, I ask him who killed him, who killed Chris, and then he sends me this arrogant soldier response, cool down. I’ll let you know when I meet you back in Kampala. And I’m thinking okay. 

Jeremy: This is a very increasingly crazy journey, I guess. 

We’ll shut the curtains when it starts to block out some of the sound, so it’ll be a bit darker in here, if that’s okay? 

Gary: Okay, we might need to do that now, and then we can see how you’re sounding. 

Basia, narrating: The next day, we meet at another anonymous hotel across the city. The problem is, I have to be really careful what I tell you about this guy. I can’t tell you what he looks like, or what he was wearing. And I can’t tell you much about his background. He now feels in danger, because of what he knows. What I can say is we did confirm that he was an eyewitness and that that he was, I think honest about what he remembers of that day. But because of his situation, I’m only going to focus on three things that he said, and I’m going to weave it together with what we know about Chris’s final reporting trip, built from interviews with South Sudanese journalists and experts whose own stories collided with Chris’s that day in Kaya on the 26th of August 2017. Having travelled from travelled from Ukraine to Uganda, and north to the border with South Sudan, Chris entered the country at a particularly treacherous moment. Journalists are a target. Ten reporters have been killed since South Sudan was created in 2011, many more tortured and imprisoned. The president, a man called Salva Kiir, talks openly about the enemy within. 

Clip: So, there was already a narrative about journalists in the west, and it being against the Government of South Sudan and looking for regime change and the tools that they were using were already escalating. 

Basia, narrating: Just two months before Chris arrives, the government bans 20 foreign journalists from the country. 

One, who had reported on the rebels just before Chris, tells me, it was very dangerous. When we pulled out, the base where we were staying was attacked. They’re only there for two days. But Chris wants to do things differently. He is planning to stay for weeks. True to his ethos, which he’d told

friends many times, he wants to get as close as possible to the story. But I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t really grasp the dynamic of this war. It’s so far outside what he’s experienced in Ukraine. This is not trench warfare. The rebels are a rag-tag bunch, groups of young men, mixed with some young boys who look barely older than 12 years old, wearing worn-out camo, others are just in hoodies. Nearly all of them carry AK 47s, slung casually around their shoulders, or across their bodies. They all have the blood-red band of the rebels tied across their heads. In preparation of his trip, Chris had messaged other journalists in the region to try and get a feel for the place, but that came with its own tensions. One reporter wrote later that she “felt a desire to protect her turf” when Chris first reached out. She provided some contacts but said she “didn’t volunteer any other information on how to navigate rebel-held South Sudan,” a mistake she says, “that has been a great source of guilt.” And Chris has his guard up too he doesn’t share his plans either. And his emails suggest that he doesn’t pitch any stories on South Sudan in anticipation of his trip. He’s going it totally alone. Chris arrives at the rebel HQ. And he’s there for days, weeks and he makes a real impression. The rebels like him. 

Clip from Rally 

Basia, narrating: At a rally at the rebel HQ, Chris is filmed making a speech in support of their fight. And I wonder, if perhaps this video could have fuelled the rumour that Chris was supplying logistics. But then, after days of waiting around, things start to move. From the rebel HQ, he travels with them to another village, closer to the border. And there, two other journalists arrive. They’re from Reuters, one of the biggest news agencies in the world. Which brings me to the first of three big moments in the lead up to his death. An argument with a commander. 

Eyewitness: The division commander has a question that journalists should remain behind with him. All of them, three of them will remain behind… 

Basia, narrating: He tells Chris and the Reuters journalists to stay behind. 

Jeremy: And what did they think of that? 

Eyewitness: No, they all three of them. They refused, mostly Chris. 

Jeremy: Mostly Chris? 

Eyewitness: Yeah. 

Jeremy: And how did they refuse? Was there an argument? 

Eyewitness: Yeah, Chris told the division command that he came to cover and go with the army in front. Not, not just to come after.

Basia, narrating: All three of them are eventually allowed to cover the attack and report from the frontline. At around 6pm, as the sun is setting, the rebels with the three journalists in tow embark on the long final hike in the direction of Kaya about 8 hours’ walk away. Photographs from Chris’s camera show the rebels carrying equipment including cameras. Chris is wearing an armband, a bright red strip of fabric identifying him as with the rebels. And so are the Reuters journalists. They’re all dressed casually. None of them are wearing any protective gear, or anything big identifying them as press. In these conditions, it’s just too heavy to wear, too cumbersome. And through the dark, wet night, eating just a few biscuits for fuel, they walk. The next day, it’s early in the morning, just after 6am. The air is dense, wet, it’s been raining heavily overnight. As they near Kaya, the journalists split up and follow different groups. It’s the set up chosen by the rebels, but it suits Chris too. He probably knows he needs to capture something different if he is gonna sell it, he can’t just do the same as Reuters. So, Chris goes one way, the Reuters journalists go another. The attack on the town begins. Bullets fly through the air. Then, the moment comes. Chris’s group enters Kaya and closes in on the main road that runs right through the middle of it. Chris is running. He goes ahead to take a photograph and loses cover. He’s exposed. 

Eyewitness: We start shooting fast then the heavy machine that they have is firing on us. Jeremy: Machine gun? 

Eyewitness: Yes. Cause Chris was busy snapping. He just make turn to, to make a move forward. Then he was shot on the head. 

Basia, narrating: As the eyewitness speaks, I think back to Chris’s journals from Ukraine. And to three lines in particular. During one of his first trips to the frontline, when he’s just 23, he wonders about what death feels like. It’s a moment I’m sure every war reporter contends with, many times over. “Will the end come quickly?” he writes. “Will I be conscious of the moment I pass from life to death?” “Will I realise it is coming? That I am dying? That I am dead?” 

Eyewitness: So, when Chris, he fall three times, he was shoot again in the chest, the other side of it. So automatically he, he die on his spot. 

Basia, narrating: I ask to clarify, a shot to the chest? There was no shot to the chest in the post-mortem. I say to him, are you sure? Do you mean neck? 

Eyewitness: No, in his chest here. 

Basia, narrating: He looks confused. No, the chest. He was shot in the chest. Eyewitness: But the shooting in the head is the one that killed him.

Basia, narrating: This moment sticks in my head. But we carry on. He is killed instantly and others around him are shot too. This is an ambush. All around rebel fighters are retreating. Chris is on the ground, but before they leave him behind, the rebels remove his bag, his jacket, and his cameras. They say it’s to send back to his parents. Then, they run. 

Eyewitness: So, what I’m trying to say is, they really mean and target to kill him, the government. Jeremy: How do you know that? 

Eyewitness: Why I’m knowing this? You see, first of all, this is not far. They shot him very short-wave distance, and they knew this guy is a white man and this guy, he don’t have gun. And this guy is using camera. 

Basia, narrating: Again, the kaleidoscope starts spinning. At first, the eyewitness says Chris was shot to the chest, but he wasn’t. Now he’s saying he was shot at close range. But the autopsy report says it was a long-range shot. 

Eyewitness: Even if they are not educated, they could know that this is maybe the journalist. So, secondly, they remove his clothes, that they, they remove his clothes. I’m seeing them in my naked eyes. I saw them, the distance is not far. They sing a lot of song. Then they, this where they shoot Chris several time. And also, they removed the clothes, they mean to target him. 

Jeremy: So, you are saying there was a celebration around Chris’s body? 

Eyewitness: Yes, yes. Around the body yeah. 

Jeremy: Was it just around his body? 

Eyewitness: They were celebrating, singing a song. 

Jeremy: Only around his body or was it around also the bodies of other. 

Eyewitness: The body, maybe the body can be in the middle, like now we are in the middle here, but just around here, they are celebrating while the bodies in the middle of them. 

Basia, narrating: The eyewitness says the government soldiers celebrated around Chris’s body. It tallies with those pictures that were taken, his body humiliated after his death. Within hours, Chris’s body is recovered and transferred back to the capital, Juba, by plane. 

Hiba Morgan: And so, we went to the airport, a bunch of journalists, they wanted to film and see what was happening.

Basia, narrating: And in Juba, rumours go into overdrive. WhatsApp groups of foreign correspondents and local reporters are buzzing to try and identify who has been killed. Hiba Morgan, a reporter for Al-Jazeera, is asked to identify the body, but no one knows who it is. 

Hiba: And I’m like I wouldn’t know the guy. I don’t know anybody who is in Kaya at this point. 

Basia, narrating: Then, a press conference is called. It’s led by South Sudan’s Minister of Information, a man called Michael Makuei. 

Hiba: And he said you know, you guys know the fate of Christopher Allen. So be careful something along those lines. 

Basia, narrating: Another journalist, Juma Peter, is there too. He says the information minister had a smile on his face as he talked, but it all felt like a threat. 

Juma Peter: I understood from that press conference that nothing will actually, no investigation. Nothing will happen that he died, and somebody is proudly announcing the death of somebody. That’s no-account meeting that take place. 

Basia, narrating: The Information Minister then goes on American radio and repeats the ‘white rebel’ claim. 

Michael Makuei: And in the fighting, succeeding was including a white rebel who was killed. The identity of that white man is unknown. 

Basia, narrating: To the many South Sudanese journalists I’ve spoken to inside the country, this was not a surprise. For years, the government had been making it clear to them: if you interview the rebels, if you host them on your radio station, if you write about them, we’ll treat you like a rebel. In Facebook groups and forums online, you can see this narrative at work. Under a news article about Chris’s death, people post scathing attacks on him. One says: “Chris Allen is an intruder and deserves to be torn into pieces.” Another: “You whites are behind all the messes in our country”. Chris’s body is held for a number of days at the military hospital in the capital, and then, at a moment which turns into a spectacle, it is given into the custody of the US Embassy. 

Reporter: Where does this body belong to? Which was confirmed by the American embassy and bases on that

Basia, narrating: One reporter said that this was basically government propaganda. They said: “Because he was a foreigner, the government needed to show the people that rebels were working with outside forces.” That’s why the body was displayed. 

Basia: I mean, there’s, there’s so many more things that we could try and verify by talking to other people. But what I’m saying is that every conversation that might come after now might be more of this. That no one is going to, like, everything is tiny bits that you piece together. How much further do you want to go? 

Jeremy: I suppose the thing that remains is asking someone, there are a number of people now who’ve been mentioned on the government side that are worth speaking to, and I suspect they won’t want to speak, but if they did, that would probably be the last port of call. Even though I think probably some people could totally say what happened and what went on. I just don’t think they will. So, I think that’s probably quite likely. 

Basia, narrating: But there’s something I haven’t told you. Before we left for Nairobi, I’d gotten a message. One that I’ve been waiting for, for days and days, compulsively checking my phone. It’s from Craig Lang. The foreign fighter in Ukraine, the mercenary, who had been in South Sudan just a few weeks before Chris. It says: “Sorry for the late response. I can speak with you sometime if you still need me.” And I do still need Craig Lang. 

Basia: Okay, should I go for it? 

Basia, narrating: This series is reported and written by me, Basia Cummings. Additional investigation is by Jeremy Bliss. The producer is Gary Marshall. Additional reporting by Halima Athumani and Xavier Greenwood. Additional editing by David Taylor. Sound design is by Karla Patella. Original theme by Tom Kinsella. With thanks to Charlotte Alfred, Brian Adeba, Hiba Morgan, Nyagohah Tutpur at Human Rights Watch and Agnes Callamard at Amnesty International. The Executive Producer is Ceri Thomas. Pig Iron is a Tortoise Production