Colorado lawmakers are following a national trend in their effort to require the state to divest pension funds from companies that do business in Sudan. If House Bill 1184 is passed, Colorado will join six other states with similar laws in place. Sudan divestment legislation is also pending in 23 other states.
The outlook is good for HB 1184. The bill has bipartisan support from 76 legislators, said primary sponsor House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in a Rocky Mountain News article. U.S. Rep Tom Tancredo joined Romanoff Sunday in a rally at the Capitol in support of the measure. The bill passed unanimously out of committee last week and was scheduled for a second reading on the House floor Monday morning.
Nearly a half million people have died in the genocide in Sudan, according to United Nations estimates, and another 2.5 million have been left homeless. The goal of Sudan divestment legislation is to financially punish companies that indirectly support the janjaweed militia by doing business in Sudan.
I’m against economic sanctions in almost every case. But Sudan is an exception, a rare instance where narrowly focused divestment makes practical as well as moral sense.
Partly that’s because Sudan’s economy depends on foreign oil companies, giving the outside world leverage. And 70 percent of Sudan’s oil revenue goes to weaponry, like bayonets used to gouge out people’s eyes.
The oil companies in Sudan aren’t American; the biggest players are Chinese companies. Pressure on them is also one way to get the attention of the Chinese government, which is Sudan’s main protector in the U.N. Security Council.
So in this case pressure on a small number of foreign companies could help get Sudan’s attention, and that of its protectors in China, without hurting ordinary people. And Sudan has shown that it can be nudged and embarrassed into behaving better: the best example is the way that pressure (including economic sanctions) led Sudan’s leaders to end their brutal war in southern Sudan in 2005.