The Sudan Campaign and American Moral Commitment:
Eric Reeves [June 5, 2000]
Smith College firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton, MA 01063
One of the most remarkable political stories in recent years has been unfolding over the last couple of weeks, and indeed culminates this Friday, June 9th. The “Sudan Campaign” represents a truly extraordinary coalition of political constituencies, bridging many of the deepest fault lines in the American body politic. It also reflects some of the most intensely committed and morally urgent energies to be witnessed anywhere in contemporary American political culture.
Blacks and whites, Jews and Christians, Republicans and Democrats, professionals and working class folks, those inside and outside the “Beltway”—all have been galvanized by a sense that this is the moment to make the terrible agony of Sudan visible, and to bring an end to the 17 years of civil war that have seen 2 million people perish and another 5 million displaced from their homes and land.
Given the rarity of such action, focussed as it is on a distant and geopolitically marginalized country, it should be of obvious newsworthiness. And there has been some fine coverage, especially in the Los Angeles Times of June 1st (a piece picked up in whole or in part by The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The Arizona Republic, among others). But given the scale of activities and involvement, it is troubling that there hasn’t been more coverage, especially since Sudan has so long suffered invisibly, cursed by the greatest form of poverty, geopolitical inconsequence. Here is a truly national effort to bring to bear American moral sensibilities in defining our foreign policy priorities, and it is going largely unreported.
Nor is the Sudan Campaign without significant antecedants in this country. Over the last year US groups and individuals have taken the world lead in advocacy efforts aimed at highlighting the role of oil development in sustaining Sudan’s enormously destructive and brutal civil war, a war in which the Government of Sudan—the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum—has relentlessly targeted the civilian populations of the south and the Nuba region. Aerial bombing attacks on schools, hospitals, and emergency feeding and refugee centers have become commonplace; engineered famine is the Khartoum regime’s version of a “weapon of mass destruction”; and human enslavement is a means for Khartoum to pay its militia allies.
Americans have been in the vanguard of the new divestment campaign which has taken aim at those who participate in Sudan’s massive oil project, a project which requires scorched-earth warfare to provide the necessary “sanitized” security corridor for the oil company workers, and which sends all Sudanese revenues to the Khartoum regime. Companies under fire include Talisman Energy of Canada, PetroChina (a surrogate for China National Petroleum Corp—the major partner in Sudan’s oil project), BP Amoco, Goldman Sachs: the list of corporate complicity is long, and the efforts to hold them accountable have been substantial and effective.
The Sudan Campaign represents a tremendous amount of American effort and commitment. Just how much? Some items are attached below, but a digest would include:
*Vigils, demonstrations, protests at some two dozen major American cities, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Kansas City, Nashville, and Los Angeles;
*52 churches in Atlanta are coming together in an effort to make a major statement about the human catastrophe in Sudan;
*A number of African American pastors are committed to fasting following National Sudan Day (this Friday, June 9th);
*The national effort to boycott oil giant BP Amoco (which has recently helped to capitalized China National Petroleum Corp) moves into high gear on June 9th;
*Political support in Washington grows continually, a fact reflected in the make-up of the Board of Advisors for the Sudan Campaign:
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)
The Hon. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
The Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
The Hon. Donald Payne (D-NJ)
The Hon. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA)
The Hon. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)
Rev. T.D. Jakes
Rev. James Masteller
Rev. Chuck Singleton (Loveland Church)
Rev. Hans Stckelberger Christian Solidarity International)
Dr. Hamouda Fathelrahman (Sudan Human Rights Org.)
Hon. Bona Malwal (Sudan Gazette)
Faith J. H. McDonnell (Institute on Religion & Democracy)
Nina Shea (Freedom House)
Prof. Ibrahim Sundiata (Howard University)
Barbara Vogel (STOP Campaign)
Roger Winter (US Committee on Refugees)
*The range of groups identifying themselves as Coalition Members of the Sudan Campaign is also revealing:
A. Philip Randolph Institute
African American Women’s Clergy Association
American Anti-Slavery Group
American Jewish Committee (DC Branch)
Christian Solidarity International
Congress on Modern Pan-African Slavery
Institute on Religion and Democracy
Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Southern Sudanese Voice For Freedom
Sudan Human Rights Organization (Cairo)
Urban League (RI Chapter)
This is news, and deserves thoughtful and full coverage. When Americans reveal their ignorance or political callousness or narrow self-interest, they are justly taken to task by the news media. By the same token, if they exemplify—in passionate, sustained, and informed fashion—commitment to a greater moral sense of world obligation, that, too, should be reported.
[website for the Sudan Campaign: www.CampaignforSudan.com]
Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2000, Thursday, Home Edition
SECTION: Part A; Part 1; Page 13; Foreign Desk
U.S. COALITION SEEKS SUDAN BOYCOTT;
RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR GROUPS APPEAL TO AMERICANS TO
PRESSURE FIRMS THAT DO BUSINESS WITH THE BRUTAL REGIME.
BYLINE: NORMAN KEMPSTER, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Adopting a tactic that helped to bring down the apartheid government
in South Africa, a grass-roots coalition of religious and secular
organizations appealed to Americans on Wednesday to pressure their
pension funds, mutual funds and local governments to get rid of stock in
companies doing business with Sudan’s often-brutal regime.
“Millions of Americans have become unwitting partners in slavery and
genocide in Sudan through their pension funds and mutual funds,” said
Charles Jacobs, director of the Sudan Campaign, a suburban
Virginia-based umbrella organization established to spotlight atrocities in
the African nation. Sudan has been classed by activist groups and the
Clinton administration as probably the world’s worst abuser of human
Jacobs told a Capitol Hill news conference that the divestiture effort will
concentrate on companies developing Sudan’s newly discovered oil fields,
which finance a government accused of atrocities ranging from the
deliberate bombing of churches and hospitals to complicity in the slave
Two of the government’s major partners–Talisman Energy of Canada and
PetroChina, a company owned by the Chinese government–are listed on
the New York Stock Exchange.
In addition, London-based BP Amoco holds a stake in PetroChina. The
French oil company Totalfina also has important investments in Sudan.
“There can be no neutral shareholders of Talisman Energy or PetroChina or
of BP Amoco,” said Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in
Massachusetts who has studied the use of U.S. capital markets to finance
the Sudanese government.
Reeves also called for a retail boycott of BP Amoco, the only firm linked to
Sudan that sells products to the U.S. public.
Ian Fowler, a spokesman for BP Amoco in New York, said the company
does not do business in Sudan and has no intention of starting.
“What the protesters are objecting to is that we have a 2% holding in
PetroChina, whose parent company does business in Sudan,” Fowler said.
“This is a pretty long link away from the Sudan situation.”
The Muslim-controlled Sudanese government is engaged in a 17-year civil
war against rebels, mostly Christians and followers of indigenous African
religions who are concentrated in the southern part of the country. The
government maintains that about 1 million people have been killed in the
war. U.S. human rights groups put the death toll at 2 million or more, most
of them civilian followers of minority religions.
By either count, the Sudanese conflict has claimed more lives than the
wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Somalia and Sierra Leone combined.
The Clinton administration has put Sudan on its list of countries supporting
terrorism and has imposed economic sanctions against the regime. The
administration’s most recent report on religious persecution said the
Sudanese government forces Christians and adherents of African religions
to convert to Islam under threat of death, condones a slave trade that
preys on Christians and is engaged in a concerted effort to wipe out
non-Muslim religions and even a minority Muslim sect.
But Jacobs said the administration seems to have had little impact on the
Sudanese regime. He said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lamented
during a recent meeting that atrocities in Sudan are “not marketable to the
American public,” meaning that they do not produce the same sort of
reaction that pictures of armless and legless babies in Sierra Leone seem
Religious persecution in Sudan has been an issue for conservative Christian
groups in the U.S. for several years. But opponents of the regime recently
have broadened their base. The Sudan Campaign now includes secular
groups, among them the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, a liberal civil rights
organization, and the Family Research Council, founded by Gary Bauer, a
conservative Republican and former presidential hopeful.
The campaign also includes diverse religious groups, such as the
Washington branch of the American Jewish Committee, several
predominantly African American churches and the Salvation Army.
Dateline: Washington, D.C
June 1, 2000
The Sudan Campaign
AFRICAN-AMERICAN CLERGY TO FAST FOR FREEDOM IN SUDAN
African-American clergymen will initiate a 21-day fast to call attention to
the genocide of Africans in Sudan. The fast begins on June 9, “National
Sudan Day,” when people in over 20 cities around the nation will pray,
protest, and conduct seminars on the plight of the South Sudanese and others in Africa’s largest country who have been the target of a religious war. Two million people have died in Sudan’s civil war, which has witnessed a revival of the black slave trade.
The Sudan Campaign, a broad coalition of religious and rights groups is
currently organizing a national effort to press the Clinton Administration
to break its silence on the crisis in Sudan which pits the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum against African populations that resist the imposition of Koranic Law.
Tens of thousands of women and children have been captured and enslaved, the result of raids on African villages conducted by Arab militia. Over 30,000
slaves have been redeemed by rights groups in Europe and the United States.
Reverend Michel Faulkner, a Sudan Campaign Board member and pastor of the Central Baptist Church in New York City, initiated the idea for the fast
after he participated in the Campaign’s inaugural event at Capitol Hill and heard the testimony of Francis Bol, an escaped Sudanese slave. Bol was captured when he was seven and given to the brother of the raid leader
who kept him as his slave for ten years. Bol now works with the American Anti-Slavery Group in Boston.
Faulkner said, “We are fasting today and for the next 21 days to ask for God
to hear our prayers. Our prayer is for God to loose the chains of slavery
and oppression that exist in the Sudan. We are asking God to draw the attention of the world to the cruel bondage there and prompt His people to fast and pray for their release according to ISAIAH 58:5-6 ‘Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?'”
Joining the fast are Pastor Chuck Singleton of Loveland Church in Los
Angeles and head of the Committee on Pan-African Slavery. Singleton has been active in the abolitionist movement for years, and is a Board
member of the Sudan Campaign.
Also joining is Pastor Marvin Williams of Gethsemene Garden in Atlanta,
Georgia. On June 9, Williams will lead a protest with representatives of
over 40 churches in Atlanta at the Capitol.
The fast will be formally announced at the Lincoln Memorial at 9 am, at a
ceremony conducted by the fifth grade class from Denver Colorado, whose
efforts to redeem slaves made national headlines. Barbara Vogel, the class teacher, will bring 24 of her students to Washington in an effort, so far unsuccessful, to meet with the President. The class will hold a press
conference at 10:30 on Capitol Hill and will be joined by several Congressmen who have taken up the cause of South Sudan.
For More Information Contact:
Dr. Charles Jacobs, Director,
The Sudan Campaign 202-835-8763
See also Sudancampaign.com
Sudan Campaign Update
What We’ve Done–What You Should Do On National Sudan Day June 9th
Dear Friends of Sudan;
Sudan Campaign Update
On May 23rd, The Sudan Campaign became a powerful force for the besieged people of Southern Sudan. On that day, we unleashed a new and powerful force for freedom based on an unassailable coalition that spans the entire religious, racial and political spectrum of American life. Liberals and
conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Christians, Muslims and Jews, all pledged to fight for the survival, the dignity and the freedom of a people world leaders would abandon.
Our campaign continues daily with prayers and pickets at the White House. We are asking the President to end his silence on Sudan. At the same time, we are pledging that we will not wait: Americans, through our civic and
religious organizations will give direct aid to the people of Sudan who are
targeted for extinction.
On June 8, Barbara Vogel’s class comes to Washington and will gather at the
Lincoln Memorial to rededicate as American abolitionists. They will spend
the day lobbying Congress and asking to meet with the President.
June 9th is National Sudan Day and people from around the nation (and around the globe) will pray, protest, conduct seminars and show films about the genocide in Sudan. These events are registered on www.sudancamaign.com and more are posted daily.
There are indications that our new coalition is making progress.
African-American pastors in the Campaign have sent a letter to the
Congressional Black Caucus, asking them to come to the front of the battle
and specifically asking them to meet with President Clinton and press upon
him the urgency of this matter.
June 9 is a very important day for the Sudan Campaign. It is our chance to
show that there is grassroots support for Sudan across the country, and that
the time for Clinton to break his silence is now.
In addition to participating in your local city, everyone should make an
effort to do the following:
What You Can Do on June 9
1. Pray or fast with your congregation. Pastor Michel Faulkner from New York has initiated a 21 day fast. Join him. Our press release is included in this
2. Sign our petition and email the link to 10 of your friends and family.
The petition can be signed on-line at www.anti-slavery.com
3. Write one email message to President Clinton urging him to break his
silence on Sudan. Email: email@example.com. Email 10 of your friends
to do the same.
4. Write on email message to BP/Amoco telling them that you are boycotting
their oil due to their investment in Sudan. You can email their human rights
department from this link: http://www.bpamoco.com/_nav/email.
5. Make a donation. We cannot continue our fight for freedom without your
support. You can mail your donations to PO Box 852; Annandale, VA 22003
Event Captain: Rev. Marvin Williams
Contact Number: 404-681-0924
Event: 52 Churches Rally at State Capitol
Event Captain: John Coats
Contact Number: 360-671-5830
Event: Candlelight Vigil at Western Washington University
Event Captain: Lydia Morris
Contact Number: 617-426-8161
Event: Candle-light vigil and gospel show at Faneuil Hall, historic
abolitionist site – 8 p.m.
Event Captain: David James
Event: Moody Church: Luncheon with Gospel Choir and Sudanese speakers
Event Captain: Matt Tassone
Event: Poetry and music performances by local hip-hop artists
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Event Captain: Joseph Warren
Event Captain: Katie Gwinn
Contact Number: 540-745-6868
Event: Local area campaign launch
Event Captain: Jan O’Brien
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Event: Church Event
Los Angeles, California
Event Captain: Deborah Williams
Contact Number: 626-302-5497
Event: Divestment Rally
Event Captain: Michelle Marano
Contact Number: 305-408-1288
Event: School Event
Event Captain: Paul Mattson
Contact Number: 651-642-0846
Event: Capitol Rally
Event Captain: Mel Middleton
Contact Information: MMiddleton@maf.org
Event: Sudan Civil Society Symposium
Event Captain: Langly Granberry
Contact Number: 615-837-1506
Event: “Word of Faith Christian Center” – Church Open House, 9 a.m. to 3
New York City, New York
Event Captain: Stuart Willett
Contact Number: 800-934-4448 x 52612
Event: City Hall Park Rally
Newark, New Jersey
Event Captain: Marsha Meyers
Contact Number: 973-923-0935
Event: BP/Amoco Boycott
Osh Kosh, Wisconsin
Event Captain: Shelvia Koeshall
Contact Number: 920-685-0491
Event: Local Campaign Launch
Event Captain: Keith Humphrey
Event: Church Event
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Event Captain: Loretta Thompson
Contact Number: 919-261-0214
Event: Rally at the State Capitol
Event Captain: Susanne Cusick
Contact Information: email@example.com
Event: Church Event
Contact: David Rossini
Contact Number: 202-835-8763
Event: Rally at Lafayette Park
The Washington Post [May 29, 2000, Monday, Final Edition]
View Related Topics
SECTION: OP-ED; Pg. A23
HEADLINE: Taking Foreign Policy Private
BYLINE: Sebastian Mallaby
The case for humanitarian foreign policy sometimes has a wispy feel: We declare that American deeds should match American values and hope that nobody asks how, or how far, or what precisely those values are. But the humanitarian case is more practical than it sounds. For if the U.S. government refuses to reflect our moral sense, people are likely to rise up, denounce official cynicism and pursue humanitarianism through private channels.
To see how this is so, consider the story of Eric Reeves and Madeleine
Albright. Albright, you will recall, is the secretary of state; Reeves you won’t have heard of. He is a lover of Shakespeare and Milton who teaches at Smith College. He also is incensed by something Albright said about Sudan’s humanitarian disaster.
In a meeting last December, Albright suggested that, much as she deplored the country’s suffering, “The human rights situation in Sudan is not marketable to the American people.” Sudan’s Muslim government may condone the enslavement of black people from the south; it may have pursued a war that has cost nearly two million lives; it may regularly bomb schools and hospitals. But Albright and one of her officials declined to call this “genocide,” explaining that this might require the United States to do more about it.
With all the pressures on a secretary of state, Albright’s position was
halfway understandable. America already is trying to get peace talks going between the government and the rebels; it has imposed sanctions on the government, which is more than can be said for the feckless Europeans. Moreover, Albright has championed humanitarian interventions elsewhere. She fairly judged that America cannot wade chest-deep into every crisis.
Reeves, however, has a different perspective. He does not look at
American diplomacy in the round; he focuses only on Sudan, and he is sufficiently outraged to have taken leave from his job to draw attention to its plight. Albright’s talk of marketability galvanized him and a collection of allies to prove that Americans do care. And by harnessing the quirks of our globalized economy, they have been surprisingly successful.
The war in Sudan, Reeves noticed early on, is like so many in Africa: It is fueled by natural resources. In Sudan’s case, that resource is oil, which is extracted by a consortium of Chinese, Canadian and Malaysian companies. To secure the oil fields, Sudan’s government has intensified its attacks on the civilians who live nearby, destroying agriculture, torching villages and pursuing a scorched-earth policy that amounts to ethnic cleansing. The oil revenues then go to purchase arms to redouble the government’s war effort.
Happily for Reeves, Sudan’s reliance on international oil firms creates an opening for the kind of campaign at which Internet-enabled activists excel. Reeves fires off e-mails denouncing the oil firms that seek profit in Sudan’s agony. He has mined the Web for information on his targets and is squeezing them systematically.
His first target was Talisman Energy, the Canadian member of Sudan’s oil consortium. Reeves has published a score of articles in the U.S. and Canadian press publicizing Talisman’s role in Sudan. Following these efforts, several pension funds–including California’s massive public employees’ retirement system–have dumped Talisman stock, and Reeves hopes the pension funds of New York State, New York City and Wisconsin will follow.
Next, Reeves took on Sudan’s Chinese partner. As luck would have it,
China’s state oil company was preparing a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, so Reeves and allies ranging from Tibet activists to the labor unions began a movement to boycott it. This scared many investors off, and the IPO ended up netting only $ 3 billion, less than half what was expected. Earlier this month Reeves scored another victory: Fosters Resources, a second Canadian firm that had announced oil plans in Sudan, backed off after its financial supporters grew nervous.
More recently the campaign has come to Washington, almost on Albright’s doorstep, with speeches and marches put on by the Sudan alliance. These events draw a mix of supporters, from the Black Caucus to the religious right. Apart from Sudan, these allies have little in common. But all are repeating Albright’s words: not marketable.
At a time when humanitarian intervention is under attack in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, and when human rights groups feel they have suffered a defeat on China, it’s worth remembering Sudan’s lesson. America can’t fix all the world’s problems, and moral outrage can’t be the sole basis for foreign policy. But if America’s leaders relapse into amoral word-mincing, they are likely to be embarrassed by ordinary folk like Eric Reeves, whose understandable outrage hisses through a thousand modems.
[The writer is a member of the editorial page staff.]