The United Nations has described Sudan's western Darfur region as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. It is estimated that 200,000-400,000 Darfurians have been slaughtered, 2.5 million more have been driven from their homes, and the Sudanese government's blockade of humanitarian aid to the displaced have left over 3 million in danger of starvation. Despite the genocide, the Sudanese economy has remained strong, supported heavily by direct foreign investment in the oil industry.
Divestment has proven effective in similar situations, as in 1986, when State pension funds and university endowments began to divest from companies that conducted business operations in South Africa and played a major role in ending apartheid in that country.
The Democratic-led Congress is working to stop the genocide and violence in Darfur. In June the Oversight Committee held a hearing on China, which is hosting the 2008 Olympics, to use its unique influence and economic leverage to stop genocide and violence in Darfur. Having continually pressed President Bush to do more to stop this genocide, Speaker Pelosi also raised the issue with Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi in May.
In our continuing efforts to address the genocide and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, on July 31, 2007, the House passed the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act, H.R. 180, which will require the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a list of companies whose business activities in Sudan directly support the genocidal practices of the regime in Khartoum.
The measure authorizes state and local governments who choose to divest their pension fund holdings from companies on the list and contains “safe harbor” provisions for managers of mutual funds and corporate pension managers who choose to do the same. The measure also bans U.S. Government procurement contracts with companies on the Treasury list and authorizes the prohibition of these types of contracts at the state and local level.
Although the government of the United States currently bans companies from conducting business operations in Sudan, millions of Americans are inadvertently supporting the Sudanese government by investing in foreign companies that conduct business operations there.