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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Letter urges action from Sebelius on Sudan

By Mary Clarkin

The Hutchinson News.

When Gov. Kathleen Sebelius returns Monday from Thanksgiving break, she will read two letters from Capitol Hill urging her to take economic action to protest genocide in Sudan, said a spokesman in her office.

One letter signer is a fellow Kansan - Sen. Sam Brownback.

The letter, jointly signed by Brownback, a Republican, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., points out that California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon "have already moved to divest from companies doing business with Sudan."

"Hundreds of thousands of people have died and more than two million people have been displaced," the letter states. "There is no question that the government of Sudan orchestrated and continues to direct the genocide in Darfur. Bold action is now warranted."

In addition to the Brownback-Durbin letter, six members of the House of Representatives - four Democrats, two Republicans, none of whom are from Kansas - signed a letter to Sebelius expressing similar sentiments.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based nonprofit Sudan Divestment Task Force issued a press release noting that the letters from Congress went to more than 40 governors.

"Divestment helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, and I hope the example already set by six states will inspire other governors to take action," Brownback was quoted as saying in the release.

Kansas Public Employees Retirement System has about $43.5 million worth of affected investments, but it does not have direct holdings in Sudan, the system's executive director, Glenn Deck, told The Lawrence Journal-World recently.

Overall, KPERS has more than $12 billion in assets, making its Sudan-related investments less than 1 percent.

Foreign-based energy companies dominate the Sudan Divestment Task Force's list of the "top dozen companies that warrant scrutiny in Sudan."

Among companies on the list are PetroChina, the Oil and Natural Gas Company of India and the oilfield equipment division of the United Kingdom's Rolls-Royce.

Daniel Millenson, president of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, said Wednesday that while some states have decided to divest from any company with any connection to Sudan, the organization is advocating "a much more narrowly tailored approach."

Primarily, he said, the group is looking for companies that provide revenue to the Sudanese government, provide little benefit to the disadvantaged regions in the country and have no corporate policy regarding Darfur.

If a company provides benefits to those outside government circles in poor regions of Sudan, Millenson said, the organization isn't advocating divestment.

Millenson also noted that essentially all U.S. companies are already prohibited from operating in Sudan because the U.S.-imposed sanctions in 1997.

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