Simon Deng is a refugee from Sudan and a survivor of child slavery. A native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, Deng spent several years as a domestic slave in northern Sudan.
Frequent raids by the Sudanese army displaced Deng’s family and neighbors from their village, causing them to take refuge in the city of Malkal. There, a nine-year-old Deng was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the country’s north.
As an adult, Deng worked as a messenger in the Sudanese parliament and later became a national swimming champion. His work as an activist began when he started protesting the injustices perpetrated against Sudanese Africans in Khartoum.
In March, 2006, Deng launched the Sudan Freedom Walk, trekking 300 miles from the United Nations headquarters in New York City to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to call for an end to slavery and genocide in Sudan. Deng then embarked on a fact-finding and humanitarian aid mission in southern Sudan and Darfur, where he met with leading southern Sudanese officials, including President Salva Kiir. Deng created a European version of the Walk later that year and walked from Brussels to The Hague calling on the International Criminal Court to press charges against the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes. The Sudan Freedom Walk returned in the fall of 2010 with Deng advocating for a free and fair vote for southern Sudanese independence.
Deng is active in peace and reconciliation talks with the peoples of southern Sudan, which achieved independence from Sudan in 2011 and is now known as the Republic of South Sudan.