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Minnesota Senate Set to Weight in on Sudan

April 24, 2007

St. Paul, MN - The Minnesota Senate today is expected to take up legislation that would require the state to drop its investments in companies doing business in Sudan because the five-year conflict in Darfur has been identified as genocidal by the U.S. government. Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Sandy Pappas says the idea is to use economic pressure because of the civil war in Sudan’s western region.

“There are international companies that operate in Sudan that our state Board of Investment has invested with that support the Sudanese government's ability to carry out genocide.”

According to the U.S. government, the conflict between African rebel groups and the Sudanese-government supported militia has caused almost a half-million deaths. Pappas reports that Sudan is funding the war with foreign investment in the country's oil, and Minnesota shouldn't be part of it.

She says her bill is intended to send a message to Sudan. But, it's not just "symbolic."

“The Sudanese government is very sensitive to economic pressures, especially as a number of states around the country and cities and counties and universities join the effort and start divesting.”

She notes the United States has sanctions on Sudan to stop U.S. companies from directly selling to it, but the law has loopholes. Pappas points out that Minnesota has from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars invested in companies tied to Sudan, and that the bill offers a small way in which Minnesota can make a difference.

She adds that using state policy to promote social and moral values isn't anything new.

“There was a divestment from tobacco companies. And, there certainly was concern about investments in South Africa and in Ireland.”

The bill is SF 1075. A companion House bill is HF 1332.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN