WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush signed a bill Monday that allows states and local governments to cut investment ties with companies that do business with Sudan. The bill is aimed at pressuring Khartoum to end the violence in the Darfur region.
The president signed the bill into law despite expressing reservation about the legislation interfering with national foreign policy in December. To soothe his concern, he qualified his signature with a note that said he reserves the power to overrule state and local divestment decisions if they conflicted with foreign policy.
“I share the deep concern of the Congress over the continued violence in Darfur perpetrated by the government of Sudan and rebel groups,” Bush said in a statement issued from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he celebrated the new year with his wife, Laura, and friends, according to The New York Times.
Sudan’s western Darfur region is the site of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million forced from their homes since 2003.
President Bush is one of the few leaders in the world who has called the conflict genocide.
The violence occurs between the African farmers in Darfur and a nomadic Arab militia known as the janjaweed. The international community widely considers the Arab central government responsible for supporting the janjaweed with arms and money, although Khartoum has denied its involvement.
Christian leaders have increasingly become involved in Darfur activism as evangelicals move towards greater involvement in social issues. Leaders involved include Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance, the Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, and Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The new Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act seeks to use economic pressure to force the Sudanese government to be more cooperative in ending the conflict. The measure makes it easier for mutual funds and private pension fund managers to divest from companies with ties to Sudan. It also protects these investment managers from lawsuit as they cut ties with Sudan.
Meanwhile, states and local governments can now prohibit debt financing for companies that do business in Khartoum. Furthermore, companies that seek contracts with the federal government must prove they are not doing business in the north African country.
Both houses of Congress had passed the bill unanimously in hopes of pressuring the Khartoum to do more to stop the conflict.
There is frustration with the Khartoum government’s lack of cooperation with the deployment of a United Nations-African Union mission to maintain peace in Darfur. The United Nations Security Council had voted unanimously in July to deploy 26,000 troops, but as of Monday, the level of ground forces is far below that level. There are only 9,000 troops, mostly A.U. forces, reported U.N. officials, according to The New York Times.
The United Nations hopes to boost the number up to 26,000 ground troops in the next several months.