Commentary: Genocide in Darfur not acceptable in 21st century

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Early into President Bush’s first term, he scribed the infamous “Not on my watch” in the margins of the report on the Rwandan genocide. Nearly three years ago, another genocide erupted in the westernmost portion of Sudan known as Darfur. An ethnically-charged policy inflicted upon the populous considered to be black African has perpetrated the systematic rape, slaughter and displacement of millions of Sudanese. These attacks are being carried out by the Arab militia, known as the janjaweed, and backed by the Khartoum government. With the low estimates of 400,000 slaughtered, 2.5 million displaced, and 50 percent of the Darfurian population reliant on humanitarian aid, it is no wonder the UN has termed the conflict as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.” Should we simply stand back and watch as another genocide claims hundreds of thousands of human lives, destroys homes, schools and hospitals, and displaces families? My answer is no! There are ways that we, university students here in America, can stop this genocide! (Believe it, because it is true.)

One of the leading reporters on the conflict, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, wrote, “Before he died, Senator Paul Simon said that if only 100 people in each Congressional district had demanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated a determination to stop it.” I urge you to write to your Senators and tell them that we should not allow the mistakes of Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and the Holocaust to be repeated now with the genocide in Darfur.

But in order to stop this crisis, we need to do more than write – we need to become educated and engaged. We need to send a message to the Khartoum government that genocide in the 21st century is simply not acceptable. One way to send this message is divestment, both on the state level, through pension plans, and on the campus level, through the Northeastern University Divestment Campaign. Spearheaded by a new Northeastern student group, FORGE Advocacy NU, both campaigns are currently underway, but we need the support of the student body to accomplish our goals.

Since October 2005, FORGE Advocacy has met opposition on several levels – the biggest and most disappointing lying within communication barriers between the student divestment group and the administration. We are currently still stuck in the arduous process of investigating what companies NU holds stock shares of, so we know whether to implement a plan of divestment. Divestment is essentially the opposite of investment. We want Northeastern to sell any stocks that it holds in companies that do business with the Sudanese government. Many companies, specifically oil companies like Petro China, supply the Sudanese government with millions of dollars in revenues each year, most of which goes directly to supporting the genocide in Darfur. So far Harvard, Stanford and many other universities have divested, and Northeastern should be no different. The major block in retrieving this information is that the university has outsourced its investments to a private firm. It has been roughly four months since we first started the campaign, and we still are trying to get a meeting with the administrators who at least know which firm we have outsourced the (rather large) endowment investments to. It is of the utmost importance to divest as soon as possible because human lives are at stake.

Besides the persistence of the core group of divestment campaign advocates in contacting the administrators, there is a petition circulating through the campus and soon, hopefully, online. We ask for your support. All it takes is two minutes of your time and a signature. You can find copies of the petition to sign this Wednesday at the Volunteer Fair in the Curry Student Center. Please stop by the FORGE Advocacy NU booth between 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. to sign the petition and to find out more about divestment and what you can do to get involved and engaged. We feel that if there is strong student support for the cause, it will make a powerful impression on the administration and ease our access to the integral investment information.

It has been an exhausting process thus far, and there are several more anticipated speed bumps to face, but we want to make it clear to the student body and to the administration that genocide is not a matter to be taken lightly. We will continue to work hard to contact the administration and hope that they will cooperate with us to achieve our ultimate goal of divestment. Even though we’re halfway across the world from Sudan we know that, as Northeastern students, United States citizens and human beings of this world, we can make a difference right here, right now to stop a genocide. For more information about divestment, other FORGE Advocacy NU projects and what you can do to get involved please contact either me at [email protected] or FORGE Advocacy NU President Danielle Scaramellino at [email protected]

– Emily Flynn is a middler communications major and the public relations director of FORGE Advocacy NU’s Northeastern University Divestment Campaign.