DENVER – Calling it one of the toughest actions any state has taken against genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a measure Thursday that requires public pension funds in Colorado to divest from companies that have active business operations with the Khartoum government.
“Colorado has no business supporting companies that facilitate genocide,” Ritter said. “Targeted investment can help ensure our pension funds are redirected in a responsible way, and by joining with other states we can send a strong message that what is happening in Darfur is unacceptable.”
Critics of the Sudanese government say it is trying to eliminate its non-Arab population. To date, more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced.
The bill requires pension funds to maintain a list of companies that either directly or indirectly help the Sudanese government. The pension funds would be required to divest from companies that do not change their business practices in Sudan. The funds would be prohibited from future investment in offending companies until the atrocities end.
Ahmed Ali, secretary general of the Darfur Association in Colorado, told Ritter the new law will put pressure on Sudan to change its ways.
“As a Darfurian, this is a great moment for us. This is the greatest step for what is going on,” he said at a bill-signing ceremony in the state Capitol.
Scott Wisor, field organizer for the Sudan Divestment Task Force, said businesses won’t change on their own.
“You failed to make the moral calculus, so we’re going to make the economic calculus for you,” he said.
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said other states and Congress should pass similar measures to pressure the Sudanese government to stop atrocities he said are continuing in that country. He said 17 other states are considering similar legislation.
“Warnings are not enough. The time for warnings is over. The time for action is now,” Romanoff said.