“Today we know what is right, and today we know what is wrong. The slaughter of innocents is wrong. Two million people driven from their homes is wrong. Women gang raped while gathering firewood is wrong. And silence, acquiescence and paralysis in the face of genocide is wrong.”
The aforementioned quote was not taken from a history book about the Armenian Genocide, or from the special reports, the United States received about the ongoing Holocaust taking place in Europe during the Second World War. And if you were wondering, no it is not a segment from an account of the incidents of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda or Srebrenica either. The aforementioned statement was delivered on April 30, 2006, during a Washington D.C. rally for Darfur, a war-torn and genocide-torn, if you will, region in the Republic of Sudan. Its deliver became the president of the United States of American since then, although it seems that now he is also paralysed in the face of the genocide he was speaking about that day. However, the issue that will preoccupy me until the CSA Senate spring elections results are published is not whether Barack Obama will walk the walk, but whether Carleton College’s students will prove they do not condone genocide by urging Carleton College to divest from Sudan.
These elections, unlike any other elections are going to have a universal referendum question that will require the student community to take few minutes to consider their position on what is being portrayed as the first genocide of the 21st century. The fate of crisis does not depend on the results of this referendum, but our commitment to the values we claim to have is. Voting yes for divestment from Sudan means voting yes for the right of Darfurians to live without experiencing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed, a government-armed Arab militia. Are we ready to take the right moral and ethical decision? I am, and I hope the rest of the student body is also ready.
The Sudan Divestment movement started thank to students just like you. When Manav Bhatnager and Ben Collins, two Harvard University students, heard on the morning of October 25, 2004 that their college has invested millions of dollars in companies that finance the arms of the Sudanese government they knew what they had to do. They started a campus wide campaign that since then became an instituted worldwide movement orchestrated mainly by the Sudan Divestment Task Force. Since 2004, 60 other leading universities and colleges adopted a targeted divestment policy, including some of the top small liberal arts college in the nation (e.g. Middlebury College, Williams College). 54 other universities and colleges, besides Carleton College, already initiated a similar campaign. Moreover, to all these universities and colleges you can add 27 states (including the State of Minnesota), 23 cities (including Minneapolis & St. Paul) that already divested and 18 countries that initiated a divestment campaign (the United States already divested).
If you are worried about Carleton College’s future, then you should not be. Reports from almost all universities and colleges that already divested show that the cost of divestment is negligible at most (remember, this includes small liberal arts colleges like Carleton). Unless an institution is highly invested in most of the listed companies that are complicit in genocide, its endowment should suffer greatly. Carleton is not likely to be invested in many of the listed companies, if at all, but even if it is not by committing itself to divestment, it is promising to avoid investing in the listed companies in the future. The Sudanese population is also not highly affected by the targeted divestment model, as the model entails targeting companies that fulfil the following criteria: 1) Have a business relationship with the government or government-created project; 2) Impart minimal benefit to the country's underprivileged; and 3) Have demonstrated no substantial corporate governance policy regarding the Darfur situation. We are “fortunate” that the Sudanese government does not share its high oil revenues (most of the listed companies belong to the oil industry) with the populace, as it makes the divestment task easier. Moreover, seeing oil is the main revenue the Sudanese government is generating, divestment may actually change its pattern of behaviour.One should note the public pressure is working. Thirteen companies already changed their behaviour significantly and decided to stop being complicit in the Darfur genocide. Other companies may be on their way to change the strategy. Every company that stops transferring money to the Sudanese government is ceasing to give arms, indirectly, to the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed. As a result, many lives can be saved in the long term. This is not to say divestment is enough, as it is obviously not. The international community needs to pursue a more aggressive policy against the Sudanese government, but such policy is unlikely to materialised in the coming months.
You, students, are going to be the judges in these upcoming elections. You are going to decide to which direction Carleton should head towards when it comes to ethical and moral decisions. I hold the same view Gideon Housner, the chief prosecutor in Adolf Eichmann’s, a Nazi SS Obersturmbannführer (Equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel), voiced after that trial: ‘No one can demand that you be neutral toward the crime of genocide. If (…) there is a judge in the whole world who can be neutral toward this crime, that judge is not fit to sit in judgment’.
-Moshe Emilio Lavi is a second-year student