On November 7, 24-year-old Suyash Dixit from Indore declared himself king of the “Kingdom of Dixit” – 1,290 square kilometres of unclaimed land between the borders of Egypt and Sudan called Bir Tawil.
Bir Tawil is literally “nobody’s land”. Its terra nullius status is a result of dispute over borders by the surrounding nations of Egypt and Sudan. Currently, the region remains unclaimed by every country and has no registered population.
Dixit, a businessman by profession, wrote in a Facebook post that he travelled from the Egyptian city of Abu Simbel to reach Bir Tawil, going through regions occupied by the Egyptian military where the army allegedly has orders to shoot trespassers on sight. Upon reaching Bir Tawil, Dixit planted sunflower seeds as a “traditional way to claim ownership of land”, according to the Times of India. Dixit has declared himself as the acting prime minister and head of military of the “Kingdom of Dixit” while his father is the acting president.
However, Jeremiah Heaton from Virginia, United States, who had got to Bir Tawil in 2014 and claimed it for himself as the “Kingdom of North Sudan”, has called Dixit “a liar” and claims and that the Indian did not actually reach Bir Tawil.
Heaton flew down to Africa three years ago with the express purpose of claiming Bir Tawil as a sovereign state and gifting it to his daughter Emily, then seven years old, as her kingdom because she always wanted to be a princess. Heaton claims to have set up embassies for his kingdom across the globe in the United States, Denmark, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in addition to drafting bill of rights for the territory. No government or international organisation has, so far, recognised the “Kingdom of North Sudan”.
Before Heaton, in 2011, journalist Jack Shenker visited Bir Tawil and placed a makeshift flag in the region though he did not make claims to the territory.
As Dixit’s story was being covered by major news outlets and websites in India, Heaton took to Twitter to debunk Dixit’s claims. Heaton wrote that Dixit could not have made the journey from Abu Simbel to Bir Tawil because the area is separated by Lake Nasser which cannot be crossed since there are no ferry services or a bridge.
Meanwhile, Twitter is slowly waking up to Heaton’s allegations, and people are pointing out that Dixit is not the first person to claim Bir Tawil for himself and that his declaration is not recognised by the international community. Scroll.in wrote to both Heaton and Dixit for comments.
Dixit responded by saying that he did travel to Bir Tawil but he would not share his exact route because he does not want to encourage others to repeat that journey. He said that he never took permission from the Egyptian military and he operated on insights given by the local Egyptian police.
He said he would reply to Heaton on Twitter. “...But I do not want to create any ill scene there and I encourage people to do the same,” Dixit said. “I hope you understand that I am CEO of a reputed firm and reputation of my clients goes with it.”
Heaton said that Dixit had contacted him two weeks before his scheduled trip to Africa asking for his help with getting permission from the Egyptian military to travel to Bir Tawil. Heaton told him that the military had restricted access to zones beyond tourist areas following the accidental killing of 12 people in 2015. However, he could try talking to the Egyptian military, Heaton told Dixit, but two weeks was not enough time to do so. Heaton claimed that Dixit blocked him on Facebook after the exchange.
“This guy faked his journey,” Heaton said. “It is unfortunate for me because I have been working very hard to finalise recognition with both Egypt and Sudan. His false claims are a distraction to my investors on the project.” Heaton has been working towards using the land at Bir Tawil for agricultural research and development. To have the “Kingdom of North Sudan” recognised by international law, Heaton is raising funds to build a 1 gigawatt solar farm in Bir Tawil. Selling the power to Egypt and Sudan would count as a trade relationship with other countries which in turn would help Heaton’s kingdom become a country.
“I have $1.5 billion in letters of intent for the construction of the solar farm. It’s been a slow process of building credibility and Suyash’s news coverage undermines all the hard work I have carried out.” Heaton said.
Meanwhile, some Twitter users are beside themselves with an Indian grabbing a piece of land in Africa and declaring himself as its king. Congratulatory tweets poured in.
Heaton and Dixit finally spoke to each other and shared on Twitter that they had resolved their differences.
This article has been updated to add the responses of Jeremiah Heaton and Suyash Dixit.