Meet The Virginia Farmer Who Became The King Of North Sudan

Jeremiah Heaton has declared himself King of “North Sudan.” We sat down with him to learn more.

North Sudan Jeremiah Africa

Jeremiah Heaton plants a flag in Africa. Image courtesy of Jeremiah Heaton.

In 2013, Jeremiah Heaton’s youngest daughter asked him if she would ever be a princess. He said yes — and meant it.

A few months later, Heaton embarked on a flight to Egypt, where he would drive to the territory of Bir Tawil, a no-man’s land of approximately 2,000 square meters (0.8 miles) unclaimed by its neighbors, Sudan and Egypt. There, he planted a flag designed by his children and proclaimed himself King of North Sudan. With that, his youngest daughter Emily became a “real-life princess” — at least in his mind.

All That Is Interesting spoke exclusively with the Virginia farmer about his “country,” which joins Liberland as one of the youngest states in the world.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

What is your current occupation, besides farmer?
I am a full-time King of a country. I am fully involved in the development process of the kingdom at this point, and am currently holding negotiations to move forward with our vision.

What went through your mind when your daughter asked you if she could be a princess?
Two years ago, Emily asked if she could be a real princess. I felt kind of bad, because at the time I thought I couldn’t fulfill that promise. But it did pique my curiosity to see if there was any land in the world where you could claim your own country. I started doing research, looked in the Pacific Ocean until I ran across the term of terra nullius, which is Latin for “no-man’s land.” Bir Tawil was the only true piece of terra nullius left in the world, so when I realized what I had found I asked some international lawyers and they told me it was a textbook definition for terra nullius, and that following international law I would have to go and claim the territory.

North Sudan Aerial

North Sudan as seen from Google Maps.

With that, Jeremiah Heaton asked his kids to design a flag, “which they did while we were eating at a restaurant,” and got permission to travel to the desert in Egypt. On Emily’s seventh birthday, Heaton planted the flag “and she became a real life princess.” Heaton shared his story on Facebook afterward, and did not expect the media frenzy he received. “It called the attention of the local media and it went viral all over the world,” he recalls.

How have Sudan and Egypt reacted to this proclamation?
The Egyptians and the Sudanese are very smart and they understand that there is far more value in having a neighbor that is helping to build up the region than having a piece of desert that benefits no one.

But do you have their approval? Or sympathy?
I don’t have to have any approval for anything. And I don’t have to have any approval from any other country, the land is mine because they both for the past 100 years have clearly stated that that the territory is not theirs. When I came in they [were] in no position to say it is theirs, because it is not theirs.

Have they shown support for this?
Absolutely. We are talking about coming and building a 200-megawatt solar facility that is about $300-350 million…and Egypt is going to be our number one customer. We are now getting the final pieces nailed down on an energy-sharing agreement. Those partnerships and contracts take time to develop, and once those things are in place we’ll have a big public announcement that the Kingdom of North Sudan is doing energy partnerships with Egypt. The things that we are doing in the kingdom of North Sudan fully complement what Egypt’s goals are for themselves. Egypt has to add about $12 billion worth of energy infrastructure to the country in the next five years just to meet the demand that they have. We can come in and offer $300 or 400 million of that. It is just that this process takes time.

Teresa Cantero
Teresa is a freelance journalist and former Fulbright scholar now based in Spain. She has an M.S. in Global Affairs from New York University and a Bachelors in Journalism from the Universidad de Navarra.
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