For nearly five years, a brutal genocide has been taking place in the Darfur region of the Sudan, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions -- all with the support of the Sudanese government.
This is an appalling and tragic state of affairs, which is why I've sponsored legislation that would help U.S. companies and governments divest their assets from the region. Divestment is the exact opposite of an investment: it involves organizations withdrawing their assets from the country, which would cripple the Sudanese government's ability to financially sustain the genocide.
As the Los Angeles Times put it in an editorial in favor of divestment last year:
The divestment movement [helps] draw international attention to the appalling situation in Darfur while pressuring the foreign companies working with the murderous Sudanese government to pull out. That could be a catalyst for change in Africa's worst killing zone.
Corporations and local government often face roadblocks in the divestment process, which is why I sponsored legislation that would remove these obstacles while prohibiting the federal government from making new investments in the region. On Tuesday, the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act passed both Houses of Congress, and now only needs the president's signature to become law.
Already, 58 universities, 22 states, and 11 cities have divested their assets from the Sudan, but we need this legislation to make sure this positive trend continues. By protecting and encouraging those who wish to divest, we are ensuring that no one will have to worry that their retirement savings are being used to support an ongoing genocide.
Divestment worked in South Africa -- where our sustained divestment campaign hastened the fall of the apartheid government -- which is why members of the Sudanese advocacy community have organized so strongly behind a similar campaign for Darfur. This legislation was written in partnership with members of this advocacy community, and it will send a strong message to the companies that are supporting this genocidal regime while tangibly crippling the Sudanese government's ability to sustain the conflict.
It should be noted that the Sudan Accountability and Divestment act doesn't require that anyone divest from the region. Rather, it provides the opportunity and protects any American organization that chooses to withdraw its support from the Sudanese government -- an action that I hope will skyrocket after this legislation is signed into law.
If you'd like to contact President Bush and urge him to sign this important legislation, you can click here to do so.
While this is an action that we can take right now to impact the genocide in Darfur, it is but one piece of a comprehensive solution to ending the conflict. This week the Congress also passed $1 billion in humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping funding for the region, and active diplomacy is another key ingredient for stopping the violence and bringing all parties together to negotiate a comprehensive political solution.
Some say that there is little we can do to end this genocide, but I refuse to accept that pessimistic claim. I've visited the region three times and have met with survivors of this conflict, and it is clearly time to move past words and directly towards action -- and passage of the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act will do just that.
I hope you'll join me in telling the President: "Not on our Watch. Not on our dime."