In a decisive move, the Regents of the University of California voted at a March 16 meeting to remove investments from nine companies with financial ties to the Sudanese government in protest of the government’s acts of genocide in the Darfur region.
The Regents also approved a provision prohibiting future ties with the companies, which include PetroChina Company Ltd. and Videocon Industries Ltd., until it can be proved that they are no longer tied to the violence in Darfur.
The vote came after two months of deliberation by the Regents’ divestment study group, which included representatives from the Regents, the treasurer’s office, the general counsel and the student-run UC Sudan Divestment Taskforce.
However, the plan to remove the money must be enacted by the state and approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
‘The state legislature must first pass a bill to indemnify the university and Regents against any financial claims that might be made as a result of the divestment, should the pension fund lose money as a result, for example,’ said Trey Davis, director of projects for the UC. ‘A bill has already been introduced for that purpose. The plan calls for divestment within an 18-month period after that.’
The university is also planning to send several letters of concern to companies associated with the Sudanese government, educating them about how Sudan uses business revenue to contribute to the Darfur genocide.
While the exact amount of the investments will not be known until the money is withdrawn, Davis estimates that there is currently between $29 million and $2.6 billion invested in the region.
When asked whether removing the investments could contribute to poverty in the region, Davis said, ‘That was considered as part of the criteria used to determine the companies to be targeted. The nine companies slated for divestment were not deemed to be providing benefits to the people of Sudan.’
Although the divestment process may take as long as a year-and-a-half, the UC intends to support efforts to end the genocide through means other than financial ones.
Sevana Sammis, one of the co-founders and a president of the Darfur Action Committee at UC Irvine, helped organize Camp Darfur, a mock refugee camp in Los Angeles where activists live, demonstrating the conditions that exist in Darfur.
Sammis suggests that students and educators who want to get involved with the effort can ‘call state representatives, write letters to newspapers, talk to friends, church groups and other organizations in an effort to make the genocide in Darfur a top priority in our government.’
DAC Co-Founder and President Yvette Shirinian agreed.
‘The answer is simple,’ Shirinian said. ‘Educate yourself about what’s going on. Once you are aware of the atrocities occurring in Darfur