Christopher ALLEN – Historian / Freelance Journalist
CMO’s Team Member, from March 2016 to August 2017 (†)
It is the second time this year, that I must take up my pen to say goodbye to a member of our team, and furthermore, to a dear friend.
Only a few months ago, Lorenzo Lanciers, one of the founders of The Maghreb and Orient Courier, left us, killed by his disease.
Today, it is another man –a young man– with rare intelligence and an edifying eager open mind, that fate has taken away from our society. Today a young hero is dead, as sung by the ancient Greek poets; and his death only resonates in a few lines of the tedious rhythm of humanity; four lines in the dispatches of Reuters and AFP…
Christopher Allen was a very young war-reporter and one of the boldest that I have ever met. He has now disappeared from our lives, assassinated during a battle between South-Sudanese governmental forces and the rebel brigade that Christopher followed to cover the events.
Christopher was only 26 years old. This brilliant young man had studied history, philosophy and literature; he graduated from Pennsylvania University and he also went to the Sorbonne, like I did, Oxford and to the University of Leiden.
I met this British-American war-correspondent in Donetsk in Ukraine for the first time; beginning there his career, just graduated from his studies. His vivid mind, his passion, his ardent desire to know the truth of our world immediately won me over, just like he won over everyone who had gotten the chance to meet him.
This young guy was so awake and fearless, capable of making precise analyses, and showed an immense humanism, that we became friends immediately. Chris joined the team of The Maghreb and Orient Courier, that offered him the accreditation that “freelancers” can rarely hope for.
He had just finishing his studies and Ukraine was his first terrain of war. He was thirsty of adventure, of reality, and of grasping the world with his hand… We decided to work together and we passed many days on the front lines in Donbass, and afterwards in rebel prisons.
Often, thereafter, we decided to work together again, creating a friendship. We had excellent evenings in Brussels with our friend Dorian, director of the English editorial team of the MOC.
Chris became our special envoy in Turkey, when the Erdogan regime destroyed Kurdish towns in the east of the country. He covered the events for the MOC, accompanied by another dear friend, the photographer Önder Simşek.
Working together again… It was planned in the beginning of July; in Libya. The visas arrived too late… I left for Iraq and Syria. Chris to South-Sudan; he wanted to cover the forgotten wars… We postponed our trip to autumn. A common story… It will not happen… Never. The memories of Ukraine remain.
The exact circumstances of his death will perhaps never be known: on the 26th of August 2017, I was on my way home to Brussels after a long trip covering Jihadism in the Sahel, through Mali and Mauritania… When a common friend of ours, also a reporter, called me: “Pierre, do you know that Chris died in Sudan?”
Of course, we know the risks that we take. But when one of us leaves…
Christopher fell down there, without his friends, on a small inch of red earth burnt by the sun of Central Africa, in a bleak countryside without hope. He died thousands of kilometres from his home, to testify about the suffering of a population he did not know, in a country which was not his.
Ever since, we have investigated, and all the collected evidences drives us to the conclusion that Chris was deliberately executed by the South-Sudanese Armed Forces.
Chris was a “freelance” reporter, truly the guy on the ground; nothing in common with those impostors of the “mainstream-media” who irritated him, those who receive their high salaries to keep quiet.
Chris was not one of those who mislead public opinion and then took the Albert Londres and Pulitzer prizes – which have since long been confiscated by those who do.
Chris was one of those who put their life at stake, one of those freelancers who, for a handful of grains, expose themselves in the line of fire and die without glory.
He was my younger brother; and I envied the passion that he still had for life.
I don’t have anything more to write.
Impossible to find another word.
Only to confide in time, being our worst enemy, will have its way with the weak humans that we are.
Time passes indeed, and it makes the wheel of life turn as the water does with that of the milldams, someone wrote. “Such is the life of men: some joys, quickly wiped away by unforgettable grief.”
Chris died with his eyes wide open on the world. His life had no sense other than that and he often remembered those two lines of Werner Herzog: “The poet does not have to look away from what is happening in the world. To understand what happens you need to face it.” And he added: “The risk you take is not so important.”
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The Editorial team of The Maghreb and Orient Courier will get together with the friends of Chris on Friday the 15th of September, in Brussels, for a dinner in the memory of our late fellow – for information please contact the MOC.