American-English freelance journalist Christopher Allen was honored Wednesday outside the South Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. by his parents and supporters on the second anniversary of his death.
Allen was killed in South Sudan on August 26, 2017, while he was covering the clashes between rebels and government troops in the town of Kaya. He was only 26.
Two years after the killing, synchronized events took place in the U.S. and the U.K., aiming to call for justice, as well as to celebrate the life and work of Allen.
The parents of Allen, John Allen and Joyce Krajian, showed up in front of the South Sudanese embassy in D.C., along with a crowd, while his cousin Jeremy Bliss was outside the country’s embassy in London.
Since his death, the circumstances surrounding what happened has remained unclear, lawyers representing his family are urging South Sudan’s government to investigate the incident as a potential war crime.
“Christopher was in South Sudan to tell stories of those people who did not have voices, now we must do so for his story, as well,” said Allen’s mother Joyce Krajian during the vigil in D.C.
The parents, supported by several non-governmental organizations working to protect journalists and freedom of the press, such as Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International (AI), have been calling on the American and the British governments, to ensure that the investigation will continue.
During the vigil, Allen’s parents shared with journalists and activists what their son, his friends and colleagues, wrote before and after his death.
“I left academia, because I believed that out here in a place where humanity is at its most exposed and raw, I might better understand something fundamental about the way the world works and the way history is made—about who people really are,” wrote Allen on his experiences being embedded with the Donbas Battalion in Ukraine. The quote was taken from the Pennsylvania Gazette, the University of Pennsylvania’s alumni magazine.
Before going to South Sudan, Allen covered the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region, reporting on the separatist uprising, being one of the first reporters at the scene when the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by Russian separatists over the country.
In August 2017, Allen also became the first Western journalist to die in the conflict. He was embedded with the rebel South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). Throughout his risky experience, according to his family, he spent weeks with the rebels, in order to understand the conflict, their structure in the bush; and explain with his writing the complex war that was going on in the country.
Started in December 2013, the civil and violent conflict in South Sudan followed a political struggle between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar that led to Machar’s removal as vice president. Because of that, violence erupted between presidential guard soldiers from the two ethnic groups.
According to the Global Conflict Tracker, over 50,000 people have been killed in South Sudan since December 2013, with an estimated number of refugees and asylum-seekers of about 2.27 million.