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BU splits from Sudan-linked companies

Trustees vote for divestment action

In recognition of the ongoing violence and destruction in Sudan, Boston University has decided to cut ties with any corporations that conduct business with the Sudanese government and avoid any future investments in such companies.

The divestment action was voted on by the Board of Trustees at a meeting on Tuesday, May 9.

“For a university to contemplate a divestment action is a very, very serious thing for us to do, and it’s something we should not do except in the most extreme of circumstances,” says President Robert A. Brown. “But if you look at what’s going on in Darfur and Sudan and what the whole world understands is really genocide, this is one of those special circumstances where the University should take a position.”

Boston University does not currently have any ties to multinational companies that do business with Sudan, most of which are petroleum corporations, but Brown says that it was important that the University make a statement, particularly as the region’s plight becomes a concern to the student community.

“The College of Arts and Sciences Forum had asked us if we had any position in our investment policies with regard to this,” says Robert A. Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), a vice chairman of the Board of Trustees.

 “It certainly influenced the speed at which we brought it up,” Brown adds.

Other universities that have taken divestment action include Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and the members of the University of California system.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Sudan’s Darfur region in an ethnic conflict between the Sudanese government and two rebel factions. Government-sponsored militias, known as Janjaweed, have also displaced nearly two million people, many of whom are living in refugee camps in neighboring Chad. The U.S. Congress declared the actions of the Sudanese government a genocide in 2004.

A peace treaty between the Sudan Liberation Army, the largest rebel faction, and the Sudanese government was signed on May 5, but violence in the refugee camps has escalated since then. Brown says that the treaty did not affect the divestment action.

The companies on the list include telecommunications company Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericcson, China National Petroleum, and electronics company Siemens AG. The trustees’ vote states that the companies “provide the government of Sudan with substantial financial resources and the infrastructure to continue the sponsorship of genocidal actions in Darfur.”