David Atem presenting at Peacebuilding and Reconciliation conference

Winnipeg Academic Advisor and former child soldier David Atem is presenting an International Graduate Student Conference entitled Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Divided Societies that takes place October 21 and October 22, 2016.

The theme, Peace Leadership, is understood broadly to include various approaches to developing innovative, communicative, and empowering processes for transforming, managing, and resolving conflicts at multiple levels of society.

This conference will take place at the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba on October 21 and at the University of Winnipeg on Saturday October 22 2016.

Conference contact:

Aziz Rahman

David Atem

David Atem


David Mabior Atem Kuir came to Winnipeg, Canada in 2001. Atem was a former South Sudanese child soldier and spent most of his childhood hiding in the bush carrying around AK 47’s. South Sudan got its independence in 2011 and then two years later returned to a deadly civil war which now threatens stability and viability of the world’s youngest nation.

Atem was an unaccompanied minor in 1987 with the rest of his colleagues.  There were more than 16,000 boys & girls in one refugee camp.  Their ages ranged from 5 to 9 years old.  As of today, fewer than 5,000 have been resettled in North America. They walked from Sudan to Ethiopia for months. Their numbers became less than 5,000 in North America because some starved to death, some died from preventable and treatable diseases, some were eaten by wild animals, some were killed in the war zone, some drowned in the rivers, and some resettled in different part of the world, some are now fighting in a deadly civil war. On the way, they depended on what they carried on their heads: water & food.  Atem began school in 1988 in a refugee camp in Ethiopea under a tree. They used the soil as an exercise book, their teachers used charcoals as a chalkboard and a carton as a blackboard, and when they were lucky enough to receive an exercise book from UNICEF, they shared it with two other pupils for all subjects. Through struggling he got an opportunity to come to Canada in 2001. In 2002, he upgraded his African high school education, and in 2003 enrolled at The University of Winnipeg in Canada, where he became one of the first South Sudanese child soldiers to graduate from a Canadian University.

Atem obtained his BA 4yr in 2007 and ACPPA in 2011. Prior to becoming a tireless Academic Advisor at The University of Winnipeg, he worked for the government of Canada, specifically for Service Canada. Atem helps students to find a sense of belonging as part of his academic advising efforts. He is also a big believer in the power of community, of which some prominent leaders and elders referred to him as a change maker. To put it into perspective, in his acceptance speech for the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness that he received in the fall convocation of 2014, he referred to a community as a “human bank”, where citizens live and grow, and where students who become doctors, engineers, dentists, leaders, peacemakers, accountants/bankers, businessmen/women, teachers and so on, come from. He encourages students to be part of their surrounding environment, whether they are on campus or in the community. This will enhance their understanding and networking.

Previously, he worked for highly reputable International organizations such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Social Services, and Lutheran World Federation (LWF); Case Management, in Africa. He is a results-driven individual with excellent analytical, intuitive, multi-tasking, problem-solving and decision-making skills; knowledgeable of government institutions and structures at the highest levels. He possesses considerable experience in the formulation and development of policies; and programs, respectively; establishing and maintaining effective working relationships with various levels of internal and external actors.

Atem has joined the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at St. Paul’s College at The University of Manitoba in Canada, in September 2016. He is a recognized educator in the affairs of South Sudan, in areas of public policy, social justice, community economic development, reconciliation, human rights, and peace-building and state-building.



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