An Open Letter To The President Of The United States

Why I’m Launching a Hunger Strike for South Sudan


Simon Deng

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President


May 17, 2015(Nyamilepeda) — South Sudan only exists as an independent country today thanks to the United States of America. Being a native South Sudanese man and a U.S. citizen, I should feel nothing but pride over my new country’s role in midwifing the birth of South Sudan—indeed, as an activist, I helped push the U.S. government to play a more active role in the region—but instead today I feel only shame, embarrassment, and sorrow.

Following the senseless renewal of civil war since independence, approximately 70,000 South Sudanese are dead, 2 million are displaced or refugees and, according to the United Nations, some 4 million are on the verge of starvation. One million have fled to Northern Sudan and another 110,000 thousand are under United Nations protection in South Sudan.

On a short list that includes Nepal, Yemen, Syria & northern Iraq, South Sudan is among the most urgent humanitarian crises in the world today—and sadly there appears no end in sight. While the attention of the world is focused elsewhere, the violence in South Sudan is only escalating.

It is true that other nations (and the United Nations) were valuable players in creating this new nation, but it was the pivotal role of America during President George W. Bush’s administration that made an independent South Sudan a reality. In the words of current Secretary of State John Kerry, the US helped to “midwife the birth of this new nation.”

Yet in the intervening years, it is as if South Sudan was an infant left to fend for itself. While we were present and active for the whole process leading up to the birth, afterwards we turned away, washed our hands, and moved on.

It is beyond time for the U.S. to step up, take charge, and protect this precious baby we brought into the world. No other country can play this role.

When 98.8 percent of South Sudanese voted for independence in the 2011 referendum, they believed that their new leaders—many of whom, including President Salva Kiir Mayardit, had once earned respect fighting in the two-decade civil war with the north—would finally bring peace and stability. They trusted their new government would deliver clean drinking water, roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, security, and the all-important tools of civil society and democratic governance.

The collective vision was to move forward into the modern world together.

Today, Southern Sudanese no longer even see themselves as one country. The nation’s major tribes no longer believe that they can live together in peace, unity, and harmony. Those not already fighting are arming themselves and preparing for war.

At its roots, this war resulted from an intra-party dispute between President Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. Unable to solve their problems with words, they turned to violence, and began the vicious cycle of attack and counter-attack, spiraling the country into an abyss of chaos.

It began with members of the presidential guard fighting among themselves in Juba, the capital. Soon some 2,000 Nuer people (Machar’s tribe) were slaughtered in house-to-house ethnic cleansing by the Dinka (the president’s tribe).

Wholesale ethnic violence has spilled far beyond Juba, and there have been atrocities and grave human rights violations on both sides. For example, my family, who live far from the capital in Upper Nile State, are part of the Chollo or Shilluk people. We are neither Dinka nor Nuer, and had nothing to do with the political conflict in Juba. Yet within the past few months, the Chollo population has been decimated in targeted ethnic violence. People, allegedly from Nuer, have razed the capital Malakal and villages throughout the region to the ground. It is no exaggeration to say genocide is already taking place.

My 9-year-old niece and my great aunt, the eldest member of my family, along with five other family members, were brutally murdered a few months ago. When a few survivors returned to the villages, they found human remains rotting in the streets—bones picked clean by dogs and birds. UN observers said they had never seen anything like it.

How did we get to such a terrible place? How could we have fallen so far from the jubilation of independence? And what can be done to save South Sudan?

In short, the lack of U.S. leadership is in part to blame, and renewed U.S. leadership is the only solution.

Following independence, the U.S. took a decidedly hands-off approach to South Sudan. Obama Administration officials, when pressed, argued that we were doing our part by sending aid money. In fact, we provided millions of American dollars to build hospitals, schools and infrastructure, but untold millions of that money were lost through mismanagement and a staggering degree of corruption.

How could we have expected anything less? These rulers—I can no longer bring myself to call them leaders—had been at war for decades; many had never worked a normal job in their life. All they know is fighting. How can we expect them to do the right thing right away?

In early May 2014, Secretary Kerry finally stepped in and brought both the president and the former vice president to the bargaining table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr. Kerry’s involvement added a great deal of pressure to the two parties to sign an agreement to stop the hostilities. But it was violated within 24 hours—and with few repercussions.

Kiir and Machar caused this catastrophe. They can either end it, or get out of the way. In my opinion, Secretary Kerry—or you yourself, Mr. President—must bring them back to the bargaining table and say, “This nation shall not perish because of you, Mr. Kiir, or you, Mr. Machar. You walked away and violated your agreement. For the sake of your people and the nation that you fought for, you must now return to the table. We Americans, the UN, the European Union, and the African Union insist. You have no viable alternative.”

Kiir and Machar and other leaders of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (the country’s one ruling party), must be brought together and told in no uncertain terms that they must end the war or face dire personal consequences. They must be reminded about the International Criminal Court, and told with all seriousness that South Sudan’s sovereignty may be temporarily ignored, and that the architects of war are at risk of being forcibly taken to the The Hague for trial—or worse. National sovereignty is abrogated by genocidal policies.

We must make threats to impose harsher sanctions—including on South Sudanese oil exports—and be unafraid to follow through on them. We need a serious arms embargo, and there must be negative consequences for countries that insist on playing a nefarious role in South Sudan’s tragedy (such as Uganda). We need real leadership from the United States.

Mr. President, you are the only person in a position to stop the carnage. Before your planned trip to Africa in June, you must speak to South Sudan’s rulers with force and conviction.

With or without Kiir and Machar’s participation, we must help South Sudan to create an interim government in which all stakeholders are represented, the rule of law is instituted, and human rights are respected. Without a doubt, there are capable leaders within SPLM party and throughout South Sudan who can restore trust and confidence and begin building the nation. These people must be identified, emboldened, and supported over the long term.

Another critically important step will be to appoint an American envoy to counsel the new government, help monitor how aid funds are being allocated, and report directly to you. It must be someone credible and well-respected, who already knows the problems—not someone who needs to learn on the job. I propose someone like former Senator John Danforth, who had a central role in negotiating the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which led directly to South Sudan’s independence. Or perhaps former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright or Colin Powell. A high-level envoy directly accountable to the President will show the seriousness of our commitment.

We also must help to implement the very difficult work of reconciliation, following tried and true methods such as those of South Africa or Rwanda. There must be a tidal wave of forgiveness reaching to the villages, to the people who have been so terribly hurt by the disaster brought upon them by those in Juba. Institutions must be built from the ground up based on the idea that no tribe is better than another, no religion is better than another, and everyone is equal before the law.

Only the sustained commitment from the world’s only democratic superpower can achieve the results so desperately needed.

I call on you today to prove your commitment to the people of South Sudan. You alone can force a peaceful end to this insanity. It will not require “US boots on the ground,” but it will require consistent engagement, seriousness of purpose, and a willingness to both make threats and follow through on them. In short, it will require your leadership.

That is why I intend to put my life on the line to petition you to act in order to save the lives of untold multitudes of Africans and their country, the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Mr. President, starting on May 15th, 2015, I will be starving myself outside the White House until the U.S. makes perfectly clear that the war in South Sudan is unacceptable—and we will not stand for it.

We brought freedom to South Sudan. It is our baby. We cannot allow it the freedom to fail.

Simon Deng

Former Sudanese Slave and Human Rights Activist

+1 (917) 698-5440

  25 comments for “An Open Letter To The President Of The United States

  1. May 17, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Hey Simon Deng! don’t create some thing which will never work. You better starve for Kiir to step down then to arch America to keep Kiir in power. Sorry bro, America is waiting for July 8th 2015 to announce Kiir as illegitimate president


    • May 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Nuer is a nightmare,you will finish off.Bad SKULLS.


      • Wise Fox
        May 18, 2015 at 4:43 am

        The former Akoko Commissioner Yor Akeij Yor and his friend former Malouth Commissioner Francis Ayul are on the run to refugee camp in neighboring Sudan, but they will be captured soon by Agwelek forces (Collo freedom fighters) and they will be send to hell for their criminal actions that they have started to assassinate Gen. James Bwogo Oleu and his body guards. Now Collo forces have captured their wives and sisters and destroyed Akoko and Malouth, while Yor Akeij and Francis Ayul are on run for thier lives and feft behind their women and girls. I am gonna take two of Yor and Francis Ayul’s sisters for two nights dark room hard shift.


        • Wise Fox
          May 18, 2015 at 5:04 am

          Yor Akeij Yor and Francis Ayul

          Chollo have feed you and brought you up from becoming a chockoro Nairobi. since in kakuma R.C and up to Nairobi where were given sponsorship by Ocollo in Nairobi.
          Mr Yor, if Dr Peter Adwok Adyeng didn’t gave you sponsorship, you could have not get the position of commissioner-ship. that you turn to be the enemy of Collo, but now I think have regret for your wrong doing, but where will you go? since you have been surrounded, no way to Khartoum, no way into the ground, only we allow you to go to hell.
          dead to Yor Akeij and Francis Ayul, plus late Thon Wiey’s stupid son


      • May 18, 2015 at 12:53 pm

        Agumut, Nuer are better to died or finish than living under ignorance, tribal, hater government of yours, period.


    • May 17, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Kiir Mayardit will remain president until his time to step down, Nuer are people of violent since God created them , no body is care about their fighting. Without or with Kiir being president ,,Nuer must destroyed South Sudan, because of oil money and other tribe cows , policy behind that,, motivate them to fight for their benefits , they have not anythings in their respective counties , all their live depending on Chollo ,Dinka, Anyuak ,Murle and Arab bloody money to bring up their families and failed South sudan independent. No solution to Nuer war, because they are looters and warriors . Chollo must not disturb Dinka Padang on their malakal side , the border is in the middle of River Nile ,from Atar to Renk. Olony is doing some thing that will danger all Chollo, Olony cannot joint Nuer Reik side because what Nuer did to Chollo in Malakal during this war , burning and random killing of Chollo old people , even Dinka Padang cannot do that because they are still relatives and in-law, there must be limitation of atrocities , Nuer are not good people to be joint .


      • Wise Fox
        May 18, 2015 at 2:09 am


        You should not wast time by now, you need to see your way to Bahar el Gazal where your ancestral land is, you should not claim Collo’s ancestral land, any more. We are going to send you to hell whether you like it or not, Padang have no place in Upper Nile any more, only to hell. We have given your grandfather a piece of land to live in peacefully, but you have gone crazy and crazy and have forgotten the way you were welcome to the land as a guest and if not true, why do you (mad dogs) run away and leave behind what you always claim to be your own. No more Baliet, Adong, Atar, Akoko and Maluth for Padang any more. We have now burn down your shit in those areas mentioned, we have captured all now, without any resistance. So please, you need to beg us to allow you to pass through to the refugee camp in neighborhood country of Sudan, where you will be slaves of Sudan. Padang Jieng must go to hell as have started to with fire.

        Gen. Johnson Olony oyeeeeeeeeeeee
        Chollo freedom fighters oyeeeeeeeeee
        Chollo Kingdom oyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


        • May 18, 2015 at 8:12 am

          hey brother i think you are dreaming but if you are seriouse of what you are saying then watch and see what will happen to you and your people including your followers but do not complain of you are really a man. am sure you will complain to the so called international community but unfortunately you will not get help simply because you are not a rebelion but just a gangster and therefor you will die like a gangster just like a dog. you were not a saldier you were just a millitian and you think like a millitian man not like a reall soldier. you exposed shiluk to a very dangerouse game a game in which they are not going to win. you and your followers will be the loosers. but my Question is: where will you go? let me tell you this brother; we Dinka we are the most worrior tribe ever and we are born for that. where will you go for i know that you will get out from our land some few days later. where will you go ?


      • May 18, 2015 at 1:02 pm

        Deng, When the Nuer voted for Kiir in 2010, Do you think they didn’t know that Kiir was A Jieng? And what make you think that Nuer hate Kiir today because he is a Jieng? Please Stop turning things upside down. Kiir declared himself to be Dinka president, not Nuer or South Sudanese people whom think that way


  2. GatNor
    May 17, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Some people do really have away of bringing attention to their cause. One lady put up a $10.000 reward for the best Prophet Mohamed cartoon. Some cold blooded Islamic fanatics heard about the contest, showed up not to contest but to murder and murder they did killed two people.

    I don’t understand why Simon Deng would want to go starve himself in front of Obama now when the dictator is close to running out of the country militarily. Thought its for a great cause and its not too late at all to protest in a hunger strike.

    The best time was months back when the war has not completely turned tribal between Chilluks and Jaang. Who would have thought the two in government uniforms would resort to switching gears and put on their tribal uniforms when for a year and a half both been ethnically targeting Nuers.

    Suddenly it seems like there is more of a motive to hunger strike coincidently when the chilluks kingdom faces imminent threats from their former allied Jaang than the over all South Sudan civil war.

    I am a bit compelled to ask where has Deng been and why didn’t Deng bring up the precious lives of Africans for almost the two years of controlling Malakal with hand in hand with Kiir while Africa’s criminal leaders including dictator Kiir was deceiving the world propagating that African problems such as South Sudan Civil War needed an African solution.

    For those who are idle and those implicit to the ethnic targeting injustices against Nuers, please acquaint yourselves with this poem below it applies to all those who appeases terrorism and inhumane cruelty and injustices.

    First They Came For The Communists
    By Martin Niemöller

    First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

    There is no excuse for South Sudan’s national government using national resources to wage such terror on any ethnic South Sudanese while the rest sit idle or in complicit after the fact. Injustices can happened to anyone anytime therefore it is the people (citizens) collective responsibility to act but not only when terror reaches them and starts affecting them from a personal and individual stand point.


  3. May 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    In LIMBO. Actually who is SPLM-IO or ISIS? Nuer wanted to give in,but there is no way and it is the same with ISIS. They started it and they have to sort it out.


    • May 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      AGUMUT, whatever name you call it, it’s okay, as long as it doesn’t threat an American home security and interest, South Sudanese are good with that. Your tribal regime is the more threat to the West because it’s violate the human right since the independent of the country.


  4. May 17, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    You can add whatever come to your mind. This is a misleading to say about 70,000 dead. Shilluk tribe is going to complain very soon let Johnson Olony playing his card and the Shilluk will be part of this conflict and that River is going to be too small for Shilluk to fights and living River side.


    • Wise Fox
      May 18, 2015 at 1:28 am

      So- called Mawien,
      Your father Kiir will regret soon, he should thinks wise before he could launched an attack on Chollo civilian. He was thinking that Chollo freedom fighters are like Nuer whilte army, whom were murder in Bor without shooting down one of Ugandan gunship. no no Chollo will teaches Ugandan a lesson that they will never forget. Your father had sent the Ugandan gunship to destroy Chollo, on Sunday, but things turn opposite. Now your bearded Cowboy hat father, is going to pay the price of two Ugandan Pilots who their gunship was shot down in Booth village in Chollo kingdom.


  5. May 17, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Cde Simon Deng,
    I congratulate you again for your nationalistic stand. This is not the first time you went on hunger strike. You did this during our national liberation struggle against Khartoum and you succeeded. I hope this time America will be a neutral mediator which can actually bring peace to south Sudan. America is one of the countries in Troika that came up with the idea of regime change in South Sudan, so it makes it very difficult for them to be neutral enough to bring about peace…but policies do change and they have seen with their own eyes that the forceful take of power from President Kiir is destructive and it won’t work. They need to come up with a new strategy to resolve the crisis.


  6. Dantut
    May 17, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    The all nation is crying and not happy of Salva Kirr government, why staying in power while he is causing this catastrophic to our nation? People of south Sudan are killing themselves today is because his leadership is bad. He must step down from power and allow Dr. Riek Machar and the others who yearning for change and have vision to create a better society for all South Sudanese to rule. Kirr and his cohorts create the institution of hatred, they divide our people of tribal government which does not work for development, is full of corruption, nepotism, discrimination and the likes. American has studied closely the way Kiir and his dinka elder run South Sudan and should not allows Kiir stay in power longer now because the crisis in South S will not end.


  7. May 17, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    You double minded dinkas,
    if you say government, don’t you know that you mean the freedom fighters.
    think as human being plz.
    Here!…. nation means people
    if you massacred the people what would be the nation?
    You have no right to call yourself government bcouse you have no sign even single step to fullfill that name of yours,
    but we do
    here we fight for freedom of all including you,
    we have been killed in juba, yet we don’t want you to die, that is why we picked the peace to be stored in our nation
    and at last that visionless salva kiir will meet his life to abss/heel.
    To you simon deng, you are doing great job, bcouse you really love this nation,that is why you are worry about the life of our people as nation including these childish thinkers, not to lost their life any more. Thank you very much,may God help you.


  8. Albino Kosti
    May 18, 2015 at 1:03 am

    First of all, the innocent Nuer civilians that were massacred in Juba alone are more than 20,000 people to leave alone those 15,000 that were slaughtered in Malakal by Chollo people.

    I am agreed with you that they should block the oils of South Sudan in the international markets for oils revenues no benefit anybody in South Sudan. I am consented with you that Uganda should be punished for his active involvement in South Sudan because if you Uganda continues fighting alongside the government is very difficult to achieve peaceful solution in South Sudan.


  9. May 18, 2015 at 5:08 am

    dantut your dream of Riek Machar to be a president of south sudan is a bad dream it will never happen. do you think in 1997 when Riek Machar signed agreement with Khartoum, what did he achieved for that agreement? nothing, can you tell to south sudanes when Riek Machar was a commander in-chief of the SPLM-SPLA.when he was surrendered to Khartoum it was the end oof the you said president KIIR step down and selfish personal like Riek Machar be come persistent, I’m sorry to hear that from you.


  10. May 18, 2015 at 7:12 am

    @Goweng Torbaar, Kiir is not a legitimate president from 21 May 2015 coming. His five years term are over


  11. May 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    To you all South Sudanese including greater Jieng communities. How long are we going to live under this mess? Who do you think will change this mess to a better South Sudan for all? When do you expected the change to come to our country? Lets make this change together right now by all mean! ” TOGETHER, WE CAN CHANGE” If we don’t want to make this country to be a better place, our coming generation will still suffering and fight among themselves. Lets say a Big No to tribal, nepotism, corruption, of this brutal system


  12. May 18, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    For change to come is when the government turn against agriculturalists but when it is on cattle keepers then it’s remained as an animalistic fight that will not end.


  13. May 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Kai Doang, your were quite right to said that.
    so let we think as people.
    our time is short to enjoy the fruits of our nation as country, that we all been fought longer.
    Our time is short to be recognized by world as important nation.
    Our time is short to meet our talents for development.
    Our time is short to know every single contribution of our people.
    But to do all i’ve metioned above :
    let we cure hatret.
    let we not suport some one who tear our people a part.
    let we not promote tribelism.
    let we know the importance of any single person.
    Let we not betray our nation for personal benefit. At last
    Let we chase out that unclean hands regime that forget our hardship from sudan. Thank, God is our witness.


  14. Eli Wani
    May 19, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Simon Deng
    You have made a brave move. Your actions to hunger strike is so far the first and a new tactics to take this meaningless war in South Sudan into a new campaign to end the carnage. Although most Americans are willing to help the South Sudanese had it not being the so-called tribal nonsensical war campaigns that we hear about daily, Dinka vs Nuer or so-called majority against minority rhetorics from tribal blood thirsty war mongers. Some Americans see this as blacks killing blacks, while others see it as Africans killing each other, and finally others see it as Christians fighting one another. They are somehow confused as to whose side to take, because the Americans are tired of African chronic violence, many in the west are reluctant to support Africans against each other for the fear of being blamed as imperialistic recolonization as VP Igga once lamented before the UN conference in New York.
    The campaign during the North-South war was much easier for them to get involved because they thought they were defending the weak Christian blacks against the strong Muslim north, US was also punishing the NIF regime of Sudan for its role in support for Islamic terrorism, ie Al Qaida of Osama bin Laden. But today the threats are more in Middle East, North Africa (Al Qaida-ISIS) and West African Boko Haram and horn of Africa Al Shabab than that in South Sudan. The only interest the US may have in South Sudan now is the oil, but since the Obama administration is not so much focusd on fossil fuels but rather they focus more in renewable energy, South Sudan is in the back of Obama’s mind. The only US party that will come to our help will be when the Republicans win the next American election. Even those people that you suggested here are mostly Republicans they wouldn’t agree alot with Obama’s policies. President obama may have his direct blood linkage to Africa but his heart is not in Africa, Obama is the only US president who have no clear agenda for the continent of Africa. It’s worth a trial but with Obama still in office we shouldn’t vest our hopes in his Administration.
    But for the sake of the suffering people of South Sudan I think it is very important that your plea for help and hunger strike be noticed and I support your courageous initiative and I appeal to the rest of peace lovong citizens of the world to stand with you and the suffering innocent children and women of South Sudan.
    Eli Wani


  15. May 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Shilluk,Nuer and Churches plus their sell out Dinka are problems. Keep begging guys. They spoil Dinka in order to beg and John Garang himself was the greatest begged in the name of Bhar El Gazal (BEG).


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