Monybany Minyang Dau wants to share his story about being a child soldier in South Sudan so that others will learn from it. A documentary on his life

Monybany Minyang Dau wants to share his story about being a child soldier in South Sudan so that others will learn from it. A documentary on his life

Lost Boy finds his way

On the living room wall is a photo of two young soldiers holding rifles in high port position. It’s pitch black outside. They wear khaki fatigues and wide brimmed hats. They appear strong. They’re not smiling. Monybany Mingyang Dau is the boy on the left. The rifle, if placed on the ground, would stand much taller than him.

On the living room wall is a photo of two young soldiers holding rifles in high port position.

It’s pitch black outside. They wear khaki fatigues and wide brimmed hats. They appear strong. They’re not smiling.

Monybany Mingyang Dau is the boy on the left. The rifle, if placed on the ground, would stand much taller than him.

The Red Deer man remembers that photo like it was taken yesterday. At nine years old, he volunteered as a child soldier for the rebel movement, Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

Dau, 38, is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan — the name given to the more than 20,000 boys who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War of 1983 to 2005. About 2.5 million were killed and millions were displaced.

Shortly after the war broke out, government soldiers came into his uncle’s convenience store in the village of Atar where he grew up. They were arrogant, throwing their weight around, taking items without paying. So one day Dau, so little, told them to pay. He was struck with a rifle butt and knocked unconscious. If he was an adult, he would have been shot and killed.

Dau never forgot that power of a uniform.

Government troops burned down the village. Dau joined thousands of Sudanese as they walked for six weeks on foot to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. The conditions were not only deplorable but unsafe.

It was there that he learned people were fighting “a legitimate cause against the government and it appealed to me.”

The boy joined to increase his chances of survival in the camp and with the hope that one day, he’d return to the village and be better able to protect his family. He also thought he’d be better able to go after the soldiers who hurt him. Dau was with the SPLA from 1984 to 1986.

Dau doesn’t have any idea how many people he killed or if he actually did. In battle, he was shooting at people who were shooting at him. He shot at buildings, at objects. Had he been in the war longer, maybe he would have shot an enemy at close range.

He says he would have refused to kill an innocent person.

“I’m a person who don’t even think to kill a fly tomorrow,” said Dau. “When you are in a war, you are put in a corner, and I think the people of Southern Sudan were put in that corner.”

The Battle of Jokaw will forever be etched in his memory. There was much bloodshed on both sides.

The SPLA wasn’t able to retrieve many of the bodies of fallen soldiers. Government troops didn’t have time to bury theirs or those on the SPLA side, so the bodies were thrown into the river.

The water was contaminated with human remains. There was no clean water and yet the soldiers, like Dau, had to drink from the river to survive. It was like grease and stayed like that for three months.

As a boy, war was like a game. He felt mature, he felt cool with a gun in his hand.

Looking back, he says war wasn’t so joyful. It stole his childhood.

But he says being with the SPLA was also a glorious time because he felt like he was fighting for a cause.

“We were a dignified people. We were fighting the monsters, the government that was raping our sisters, our mothers … and had oppressed our grandparents.”

Dau left Sudan when the leader of the SPLA at the time, John Garang de Mabior, decided to send many of the young soldiers to Cuba to be educated. That way, he thought, they would return and bring lasting change to Sudan.

Dau returned for the first time in 2007. He went again in 2010 and 2011 to help with filming of The Ladder of My Life. A lot has changed in recent years with Sudan splitting into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, in July 2011. Atar is located in South Sudan.

Today, Dau, married and father of two young boys, wants to tell his story so that upcoming generations won’t take the same path. The Western world needs to know the story too, so they will help, he added.

Together with CrossRoads Church and Central Alberta-based international development organization A Better World Canada, Dau wants to build at least five water wells so that more than 90,000 people can have access to clean drinking water. They can then build healthy lives and work towards other improvements, like in the area of education, he said.

Cost of these wells is an estimated at $75,000.

Red Deer’s Unveil Studios is premiering its 38-minute documentary, The Ladder of My Life, at CrossRoads Church, located just west of the 32nd Street and Hwy 2 overpass, on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Atar Water Project will be officially launched as well.

Steve Neufeld, Nick Saik, and the Kooman brothers (Andrew, Matt and Dan) were keen to share Dau’s inspiring story. The low-budget film project took about two years to finish. It will be rolled out in a few film festivals.

“Monybany wants a tool so he can share his story and the need in his home village of Atar,” said Matt Kooman, editor and producer of The Ladder of My Life.

“I am really proud of Monybany and his remarkable life story and his perseverance and hardship. He helped to get the project done.”

The public is welcome to attend the free showing, with donations welcome for the water project. Film DVDs will be on sale with proceeds going to the project.

For more information, go online at www.ladderofmylife.com.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read