From The Intercept:

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Ding Col Dau Ding was successful, handsome, and fit. Born in Britain, he was an avid soccer player as a boy. As a man, he was a generous physician with an urge to give back to his ancestral homeland.

One thing he wasn’t was murdered. At least, that’s the official position of the office of South Sudan’s president.

Dr. Ding Col Dau Ding

Photo: Courtesy of the Ding family

This is not to say Ding is alive. He died on October 27, 2015, late at night, in his home. When I visited his grave earlier this year, it was decorated with a greeting card — a commemoration of the 40th birthday he never saw — and some artificial flowers.

The exact circumstances of Ding’s death may never be known. Some people say the doctor, pharmacologist, and Oxford-trained neuroscientist took his own life. Some say his death was accidental. The latter is the government line.

“Ding was not killed,” presidential press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny told me recently. “He died inadvertently. There was no foul play.”

This wasn’t the first time that Ateny had commented on Ding’s demise. A day after Ding was found shot to death, Ateny’s office issued an official “condolence message” that suggested Ding had killed himself.

If Ding died by his own hand or in some accident, the circumstances must be counted among the strangest imaginable. Would he really choose to shoot himself in the back of the head? Would he eschew using his dominant hand to fire the shot? And after shooting himself but before he died, would he scrub his bedroom so thoroughly that there was no blood splatter whatsoever? And what about the other gunshot, the one fired through his bedroom wardrobe? Had he accidentally fired that shot first and then accidentally shot himself in the back of the head?

South Sudanese civilians flee fighting in a U.N. base in the northeastern town of Malakal, where gunmen opened fire on civilians sheltering inside, killing at least five people on Feb. 18, 2016.

Photo: Justin Lynch/AFP/Getty Images

South Sudan is a violent place. Somewhere between 50,000 and 300,000 people are thought to have been killed since the country plunged into an atrocity-filled civil war in December 2013. An August 2015 peace pact and a recently forged unity government have provided some optimism, but violence continues.

The crimes began in the capital, Juba, with massacres of ethnic Nuers by troops loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka. Juba calmed down after the first weeks of fighting, but the bloodshed did not completely subside. It was democratized, putting persons of all ethnicities and nationalities at risk. Last year saw an epidemic of attacks — ranging from home invasions to what appear to be murders-for-hire conducted by “unknown gunmen,” a moniker that the government and the press each claim the other coined. There’s an underlying assumption that many of these crimes can be traced to the country’s security…

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