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Protesting genocide

Students encourage MU to divest from companies in Sudan
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:39 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Paul Lentz, left, helps stage a “die-in” protest with STAND Mizzou: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition at MU’s Speaker’s Circle on Tuesday. The protest is part of Global Days for Darfur Week and aims to raise awareness of the genocide in Sudan.

Students are asking MU to stop investing money in companies operating in a country that they say supports genocide.

STAND Mizzou: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition recently passed a resolution encouraging MU to withdraw funds from foreign companies operating in Sudan. A nation that has been entangled in a civil war for more than 50 years, Sudan has also come under international scrutiny in the last four years for the genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place in the western region of Darfur.

Events

Peaceful protest

Protest includes: a die-in, in which participants lie on the ground to represent those killed in Darfur; call-ins to Missouri legislators requesting that they pass Darfur-related legislation; and the signing of a petition to divest the UM System from companies that do business with Sudan. When: Today, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Where: Speaker’s Circle, MU campus near Brady Commons.

Human rights art exhibit

When: Now through Friday (6 to 9 p.m. through Thursday and 6 to 11 p.m. Friday) Where: 908 E. Walnut St.

Benefit concert

Features local artists; all proceeds from donations will go to the Genocide Intervention Network civilian protection fund When: 7 to 11 p.m. Where: Courthouse Square Cost: Suggested donation of $3 to $5


In August 2005, the Missourian reported that more than $900 million of Missouri pension funds and more than $54 million from the University of Missouri System was “directly invested” in foreign oil and energy companies that operate in Sudan.

Claudia Liddle, STAND Mizzou’s divestment coordinator, said that the point of the resolution is to hurt the Sudanese government economically and encourage it to stop supporting the genocide.

“So far, they haven’t responded to political pressures,” Liddle said. “The idea is that by divesting funds from corporations operating in Sudan, they will respond to economic pressures.”

So far, Liddle said, 41 universities have divested funds from companies in Sudan. STAND Mizzou’s resolution recommends that “the University of Missouri Board of Curators should declare that it, or its investment managers, will not make further investments in offending companies until the Sudanese government stops its military and militia forces from committing genocide.”

The resolution will be submitted to the Missouri Students Association, the student governing body at MU, and taken to the inner-campus government bodies, so it can be passed on all four UM System campuses.

Julie VanMater created STAND Mizzou in August 2006 after she spoke with a friend who worked at the Genocide Intervention Network.

“He said, ‘You know, this can really be big at MU,’” VanMater said. MU’s organization, which now has 50 to 60 members, is one of more than 600 chapters across the country dedicated to ending genocide, especially in Darfur.

This week marks Global Days for Darfur, part of a national campaign by STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition to raise awareness about the genocide occurring in Darfur and encourage people to get involved in ending the conflict.

Jeremy Grove, 21, and Danni Lombardo, 18, both participated in Tuesday’s die-in protest. Both lay on the ground to represent people killed in Darfur.

“I’m not a member of STAND Mizzou, but I am against the genocide, and I support the cause,” Lombardo said, holding a poster that read “400,000 killed.”

The exact number of victims in Darfur is hard to estimate. The genocide has been carried out by the Janjaweed, an Arab militia force backed by the Sudanese government, against ethnically African blacks. Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that 200,000 people have been killed.

As of January 2007, about two million people had been displaced and were living in refugee camps, according to Human Rights Watch.

VanMater emphasized that Global Days for Darfur is not just for students.

“We really want people to get involved,” VanMater said. “It may seem like there’s nothing we can do, but there are tangible ways for citizens of Columbia to make their voices heard.”


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