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Divesting from Sudan

Divesting from Sudan

October 13, 2007 —

Since early 2000s, the situation in Sudan, where some people have estimated that over 200,000 people have been killed, has gained increasing attention around the world. A new strategy has emerged in the U.S. to attempt to force the repressive Sudanese government to stop the violence.  Divestment, a strategy used in the 1980s in opposition to the South African government’s apartheid policy, has been revived and is quickly spreading.  Intended to withdraw funds and money from the country, supporters of divestment hope it will force the Sudanese government to stop using money for its military regime.

The current ethnic violence began in 2003 when rebels from the Darfur region attacked government facilities; in response, the Sudanese government began systematically attacking villages in Darfur.  Since then, over 200,000 people have been killed and by some estimates, another 2 million are now displaced.  The United States imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, but investors may still invest in foreign companies that partake in business in the Sudan.  Due to a massive foreign debt (estimated at $25 billion), the Sudanese government relies on foreign companies to continue its military aggression in Darfur. The Human Rights Watch has connected the revenue from this business and genocide and reports that the government of Sudan uses 60 percent of all oil revenues as military expenditures.

The Sudan Divestment Task Force revived divestment as a way to inflict financial pain on the Sudanese government.  The idea behind divestment is simple: If enough states, universities, religious organizations, and pension funds divest from companies doing business in Sudan, share prices will drop, and companies will stop doing business in Sudan in order to protect their own interests. This will deprive the Sudanese government of the money it needs to continue its violent military campaign. According to proponents of divestment, the connection between oil revenues and arms purchases means that cutting revenues will leave less money to fund the violence.

As of August 2007, foreign corporations continued to conduct business in Sudan.  And more than 50 Americans universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, and the University of California had all divested from these companies.  Other universities are considering taking similar action, as are cities, unions, religious groups, and states. 

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