Rene — What's Fueling the Genocide in Darfur?

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What’s Fueling the Genocide in Darfur?
By Nat Hentoff, Village Voice
Posted on October 19, 2004, Printed on October 20, 2004
A woman and teenage girl who were raped and abducted by soldiers in
western Darfur have claimed that the Sudanese army organized airlifts
of sex slavesto serve as the “wives” of government soldiers in
Khartoum. . . . “Each of us was raped by between three and six men,”
said Bokur [Hamis, 21]. “One woman refused to have sex with them, so
they split her head into pieces with an axe in front of us.”
– Benjamin Joffe-Walt, Sunday Telegraph, London, September 19
None of the [oil] companies operating in Sudan can reliably ensure
that they and their operations, singly or collectively, do not
facilitate or benefit from human rights abuses. Indeed, they operate
in the midst of the abuses.- Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights, Human
Rights Watch, pages 694-695
George W. Bush, in his September 21 speech to the United Nations,
urged the formation of a Democracy Fund within the U.N. that “would
help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the
rule of law in independent courts, a free press, political parties,
and trade unions.” As old-time labor organizers used to say of
companies claiming that their “fully protected workers” didn’t need
unions, the president is talking of “pie in the sky.”
Structurally, the United Nations is utterly incapable of assuring the
rule of law and human rights in many of its member countries. Human
rights abusers Russia and China, for example, have veto powers in the
Security Council. And of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, composed
of many unremitting human rights abusers, Sudan itself is a proud
My own fantasy of “pie in the sky” is a parallel, independent,
international coalition of countries that would be alert to genocide
emerging anywhere in the world – and then, unlike the U.N., move in to
stop it. But where are those countries? In real life, real time, and
real mass murders and rapes in Darfur, Professor Eric Reeves of Smith
College, who has long chronicled the Khartoum government’s deadly
crimes against its black subjects, is exactly right.
Amid the weak, hortatory criticisms of Khartoum’s genocide by the U.N.
Security Council, Reeves writes, “Khartoum may not be happy with
current world attention, but has yet to hear a clearly articulated
threat – one that will change its behavior fundamentally.”
Reeves continues, “The regime seems to be banking on an eventual
drifting of international attention . . . away from the catastrophe in
Darfur (which will become simply a chronic ‘humanitarian
problem’). . . . In order to disabuse Khartoum of this notion,
international pressure on the regime clearly must include both near-
and long-term economic pressure and punishment, and a vigorous
divestment campaign offers one means of achieving this.”
A reminder: Sudan’s oil reserves yield $2 billion in annual
revenue. That’sa vital part of Sudan’s economy.
But can the diminishing surviving black Africans in Darfur count on
“international pressure” from government entities around the world to
end Khartoum’s horrendous crimes? After Colin Powell told the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee on September9 that the government of Sudan
is responsible for the continuing genocide in Darfur, a lead
editorial, “Genocide,” in the September 12 Washington Post declared:
“In an act without precedent since the U.N. Genocide Convention was
adopted in 1948, a government accused a sitting counterpart
[government] of genocide.
. . . And yet the accused government may not pay a price for
committing this worst of all humanitarian crimes, because there is a
limit to how much powerful nations care.” (Emphasis added.) In
Darfur, the black woman who refused to have sex with Khartoum’s
soldiers who captured her – and had her head split into pieces as a
result- is no longer in a position to testify to the prediction of
that Washington Post editorial, except as one of the many thousands of
posthumous black witnesses to this worst of all current crimes against
Accordingly, we must begin to enact Eric Reeves’s plan for an
insistent divestment campaign against American private and public
institutions that profit from investing in the international oil
companies whose revenues allow Khartoum to arm the government soldiers
and Arab Janjaweed rapists and murderers committing this genocide.
Eric Reeves emphasizes that “U.S. public pension plans alone own over
91 billion dollars of equity (shares) in companies [doing business in
Sudan] like Siemens AG [Germany], Alcatel SA [France], ABB
Ltd. [Switzerland], Tatneft [Russia], PetroChina [China] and a number
of others.”
And note this: “College and university students have a particular
opportunity to force institutional endowments to divest from all
holdings (including through mutual funds) of Siemens AG, Alcatel SA,
ABB Ltd., Tatneft and PetroChina.
“During the apartheid era in South Africa, college and university
students were an immensely powerful force in breaking down this
hateful system of racial discrimination. Students now have [another]
urgent task: to ensure that endowment monies are not invested in
companies implicit in genocide â=80` the deliberate,
ethnically/racially-driven destruction of the African populations of
Whoever wins the presidential election, there will be many politically
involved college students who don’t want to be passive when such
enormous crimes as those in Darfur are being committed.
And I expect many older non-college Americans will want to look into
their investments in these murderous oil companies by private American
institutions – pension plans, employee retirement systems, mutual
funds, etc. – that benefit so many of us.
© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20221/