Former child soldier works to rebuild his homeland

Monybany Dau shares his inspiring vision for his native country Sudan



From child soldier to activist.

That is the transformation that was undergone by Monybany Dau, a native of southern Sudan now living in Canada.

Dau fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Today, Dau works to rebuild South Sudan through Water for Atar, a project he founded that works to build clean drinking wells in Atar, Dau’s home village in South Sudan.

On April 13th, Dau was at Canadian University College in Lacombe to speak about the project and present The Ladder of my Life, a video documentary about Dau’s life and the struggles in Southern Sudan. The presentation was part of the 23rd anniversary celebrations of A Better World, which works with Dau on the Water for Atar project.

At the end of his presentation, Dau added that providing clean drinking water is just one small step in the right direction. He said that clean water would eliminate many of the major health problems that plague Atar.

It was 1984 when Dau first became involved in the conflict of the Second Sudanese Civil War. When Dau was only nine years old, his uncle was killed by an SPLA roadside bomb.

Dau said in the video that the SPLA was fighting for the rights of the people of southern Sudan. However, incidents like the one that killed his uncle showed that civilians like Dau, his family and others who lived in the village of Atar, were not safe, even from the army that was fighting for them.

“We lived in fear of both armies,” said Dau.

At nine years old, Dau did not know or understand why there was a war being fought in his homeland, but he certainly understood that there was a conflict. He also believed that, because of the war, he and his family were not safe.

Faced with this he saw few options. Dau decided to join the army that would best protect his interests, the SPLA, rather than flee into the jungle, and quite possibly die, for fear of both armies.

While Dau did not understand fully the implications of joining an army, he saw that SPLA soldiers were armed and could defend themselves. Dau felt that, as one of them, he would be able to protect himself and his family.

When the young Dau told his mother of his plans to join the SPLA, she of course objected. She told him he was too young, and would not be able to keep up with the other freedom fighters. His mother also told him that he should not join because she needed his help at home.

Despite his mother’s pleas, Dau remained fixed in his decision. He lied to his mother, telling her that he was going to a nearby pool to do a laundry trip the next day. He took a small amount of clothing with him and headed towards the pool, with no intention of returning.

However, unknown to Dau, his mother followed him and later found him. She again pleaded with him and tried to persuade him to return home but he would not go.

Dau said in the video that when most people think of a child soldier, they think of someone who was abducted and coerced, often with the use of drugs or some other leverage, to fight for an army. He stressed that this was not the case with him.

“I was not abducted. I voluntarily joined.”

Dau added that there was no manipulation or brainwashing by the SPLA. He said that the decision was his to make and he would make the same decision again if he had to.

While a member of the SPLA, Dau served as bodyguard to a high-ranking officer. He said he considered it an honour and that he believed the war to be just. Dau added that those who died fighting with SPLA did not die in vain, they bought their freedom with their lives.

Such a cause may be worthwhile and honourable, but certainly not preferable. Over two million people died in the Sudanese civil war and Dau said it was a vast violation of his human rights that he had to pick up a gun and fight to become a citizen in his own country.

Because of this, Dau now works toward a world where such an atrocity would never happen.

“I would like to build a world with no child soldiers.”

Now, Dau lives in Red Deer where he is studying business at Red Deer College. He said that he sees Canada, his new home, as a role model for the developing nation of South Sudan.

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported five additional deaths Wednesday due to COVID-19. (File photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer at 169 active cases of COVID-19

Province set to move into Stage 2 of reopening Thursday

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

Most Read