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Congressman Calls for Stronger Action on Sudan As Divestment Bill Passes


The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that would allow U.S. states, localities and private investors to withdraw their investments in Sudan. The bill targets four economic sectors – oil, power production, mining and military equipment – that analysts say are important sources of revenue for the Sudan government. It is now awaiting President Bush’s signature.

Congressman Donald Payne is chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa. He told VOA the bill would make it easier for interested states and communities to divest from companies doing business in Sudan.

“Basically the bill that we passed protects the states from divesting public pension funds from companies doing business in Sudan. There was the possibility that this action, before this legislation was passed, could be prevented by companies suing the states and that they did not have the authority because it’s foreign policy which may only be directed by the federal government. However, this current legislation ensures that states who wish to divest from multilateral companies and other business that do business in Sudan that they are protected from any kind of legal action,” he said.

Congressman Payne hoped President Bush would sign the Sudan divestment bill into law.

“We believe that the president supports the sanctions on Sudan. I am not sure though how he will react to the bill. We’re hoping that since we know his position on Sudan since he’s called what’s happening there genocide as has been declared by both houses of Congress. So we are hoping that he will sign it,” Payne said.

On the stalled deployment of a U.N. hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur, Payne said Congress is disappointed with what he called the continued destructive behavior of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

“Bashir has continually put roadblocks. As you know, first was supposed to be a U.N. force, then he said no it can’t be a full U.N. force. It has to be a hybrid force. Then he said it only could be troops from African countries; then he has had some hold on transportation transporting the physical troops. And it’s just once again a typical behavior of the government of Sudan. They really have no real interest and intent of cooperating to end the genocide in Darfur,” he said.

Congressman Payne said the world needs to punish the Sudan government with stronger action for its behavior.

“We have to come up with some stronger actions on the government of Sudan. We need to start looking at penalizing China more for their cooperation and insisting that they use their influence more on Khartoum. We might even talk about a blockade to prevent ships from coming in and out of the port of Sudan. There must be stronger action against the government of Sudan. They are telling the whole world that they are more important than all 195 countries in the world,” Payne said.

Payne said Congress is weighing the possibility of boycotting the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.

“No question about it. We have been participating in discussions on the boycott. Mia Farrow (actress) and others actually have been pushing for the boycott. China has to decide whether it is going to be a first class world leader or whether it is going to deal with the thugs of the world like the government of Sudan,” Payne said.

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