Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City activist decries mineral-linked genocide

  • Print
Evelyn Mayanja


Evelyn Mayanja Photo Store

After the Holocaust, the world said "never again" to genocide. But it happened again in Rwanda in 1994 and it's still happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Evelyn Mayanja.

The African-born University of Manitoba researcher says the world is allowing mineral conflicts to claim thousands of lives after already killing an estimated 5.4 million.

The illicit trade in minerals used in communications devices -- such as coltan, gold, tungsten and tantalum -- is similar to the "blood diamonds" extracted in Sierra Leone and Liberia, said Mayanja, 39. The former development worker in Africa has lived in several countries torn apart by conflict. She came to Winnipeg in 2011 to work on a PhD in peace and conflict studies.

"Whenever I see a cellphone, I see more bloodshed," said Mayanja, who owns a cellphone. "It's a necessary evil."

An urgent global response to "conflict minerals" is needed to stop the genocide in Congo, where Mayanja has seen kids forced to work in mines, and rape and child soldiers used as weapons of war.

'Do I need a new phone, computer and tablet every year?'

-- Evelyn Mayanja

It can start with something as simple as shopping more carefully for new electronics or holding off on replacing them, she said.

"Do I need a new phone, computer and tablet every year?"

Consumers may not know where the minerals in their cellphones come from but they can check to see if its maker has done anything to ensure human rights are being respected at the source, she said.

Rather than having "apathy and indifference," shoppers can go online and do some research before making purchases, she said. Mayanja pointed to the website Raise Hope For Africa that has ranked electronics companies on conflict minerals.

People can lobby their MPs to demand the government intervene in the exportation of minerals extracted illegally from Congo, she said.

At least 10 Canadian mining companies are operating in the DRC, she said. One, Anvil Mining Ltd., faced a class-action suit for allegedly providing logistical support to the military that massacred 100 Congolese citizens in the port city of Kilwa in 2004.

The suit was filed by the Canadian Association Against Impunity, an organization representing survivors and families of victims of the massacre.

The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court ruling in favour of the coalition, saying the complaint should be heard in Congo or Australia, where Anvil also operated. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal. As is traditional, the justices gave no reasons for their ruling.

People have been stripping the former Belgian colony of its resources -- and killing whoever gets in the way -- with impunity for years, said Mayanja. A lack of leadership in the DRC and apathy in the international community have allowed it to happen, she said.

"We need help."

Mayanja is hopeful. In 2012 she was asked to speak at schools during the Kony phenomenon. A 30-minute video called Invisible Children became one of the biggest viral sensations in Internet history, briefly turning little-known African warlord Joseph Kony into a household name among young North Americans.

"It stirred some interest," said Mayanja, who spoke to students about the atrocities committed by Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army and its use of child soldiers. For a time, an army of kids wrote letters, petitioned and lobbied governments to step up efforts to catch him. "Now it is dead," she said.

If all those young people grow up demanding devices that are free of conflict minerals, there is hope for Congo, said Mayanja, who plans to return to Africa to teach one day.

It all comes down to the golden rule, she said.

"If everyone imagines the children forced to work in mines and to fight were their own, could we let the atrocities continue?"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2014 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets vs. Ducks Series promo

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.
  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google