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Homepage > Publication Type > Open Letters > Universities Should Divest from Sudan

Universities Should Divest from Sudan

Washington  |   10 May 2005

The International Crisis Group and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard University Lecturer Samantha Power urge U.S. universities to examine their investment portfolios to determine whether they should divest themselves of stock held in companies that operate in Sudan.

Divestment from these companies would send a strong signal to the Sudanese regime and those who support it about the unacceptability of the government’s actions in Darfur.

Since fighting erupted in Darfur in February 2003, Sudanese government forces and government-backed militias called Janjaweed have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by systematically attacking civilians from specific non-Arab ethnic groups in a vast conflict zone roughly the size of France. More than 2.4 million people have been driven from their homes, and at least 200,000 people have died from violence and from disease and malnutrition exacerbated by the conflict.

In a letter (full text below) addressed to the presidents of more than 100 universities, Crisis Group Special Advisor John Prendergast and Ms. Power urge universities to review their portfolios for investments in companies with ties to the Sudanese government. Although President Clinton enacted sanctions in 1997 that prohibited trade and financial transactions between U.S. companies and Sudan, the Sudanese government maintains economic and commercial ties with numerous multinational companies.

The letter cites Harvard University’s recent decision to divest itself of stock in a major subsidiary of China National Petroleum Company, PetroChina Ltd., due to that company’s close ties to the government of Sudan. The oil sector in particular is lucrative business for Sudan, and the regime draws on oil revenue and other investments to purchase the weapons used against its own civilians in Darfur. Further, China is one of the Sudanese government’s strongest allies and the Chinese government has worked assiduously to block multilateral actions to sanction the regime and stop the killing.

Mr. Prendergast and Ms. Power believe that universities who follow Harvard’s action would send a clear message to the companies involved and to the Government of Sudan that it is intolerable to support those who profit from the atrocities committed in Darfur.

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