NC funds pulled from companies linked to Sudan

by Amy Kingsley

State Treasurer Richard Moore announced Nov. 1 the withdrawal of $24 million in state investments from nine companies linked to the Sudanese government, which US officials have accused of promoting attacks on civilians in Darfur.

Moore described the companies – Bharat Heavy Electricals, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, Nam Fatt, Oil & Natural Gas Company, PECD Berhad, PetroChina Company, Sudan Telecom Company, Tatneft OAO and Videocon Industries Limited – as the worst offenders. Six states have already divested from Sudan, but North Carolina is the first Southern state to make such a move.

Hostilities in the Darfur region in western Sudan broke out in 2003 when the government armed local militias called Janjaweed to quell a rebellion amongst farmers. In September 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized the ensuing violence against non-Arab Africans as genocide. President Bush has also acknowledged the genocide, which has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced two million more.

“In North Carolina, doing right also means ending the pain and suffering of your neighbors,” Moore said, “whether they are right next door or thousands of miles away. In Sudan, hundreds of thousands of our neighbors are suffering.”

Moore made his announcement at the 139th annual session of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. The group is comprised of hundreds of black Baptist churches from around the state.

“This is an organization that has been extremely active on this very issue,” Moore said about the convention.

Moore said he started looking into divestment about one year ago after a peace treaty signed by the Sudanese government failed to stop the bloodshed. He started removing North Carolina’s investments from companies linked to Sudan three weeks ago.

The treasurer said he contacted federal officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, to try to develop a policy regarding Sudan divestment. Those officials either did not respond to his inquiries or did so with form letters, Moore said.

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) identified companies that support the Sudanese government. Both the University of California system and the state of California have removed investments from the nine companies identified by CalPERS. Several universities, including Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, Amherst, the University of Southern California and Columbia, have stopped investing in companies tied to Sudan.

The $24 million that has been divested from Sudan accounts for only .03 percent of the entire $70 billion state pension fund. Moore said the change would not affect retired public employees.

Other companies that do business in Sudan have engaged with Moore to discuss their involvement in the region. He said his office might withdraw investments from other companies if they continue to aid the Sudanese government, but he did not name which companies might be targeted.

“The time has come when we cannot fail to act,” Moore said. “We must help make companies around the world realize that genocide is illegal, and those who endorse it will face serious consequences.”