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Sudan Divestment Team Heads to Capital

The task force's new campaign comes about three weeks after the UC Board of Regents voted unanimously to divest from nine companies with holdings in Sudan.

This article was first published in the Daily Bruin.

By Sarah Winter, Daily Bruin contributor

After a successful Sudan divestment campaign at the University of California, members of the UC Sudan Divestment Taskforce plan to head to Sacramento tonight to begin their next campaign, this time working alongside influential California politicians.

Over the past several months, California politicians have taken up the issue of divesting some of the state's money from Sudan. The Sudanese government has been accused of conducting genocide during a three-year conflict that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and many more displacements in the Darfur region of the country.

Two of these politicians – State Treasurer Phil Angelides and State Controller Steve Westly – have encouraged withdrawing funds from Sudan, and both are planning to run for California governor in the 2006 election.

The task force's new campaign comes about three weeks after the UC Board of Regents voted unanimously to divest from nine companies with holdings in Sudan.

Members of the task force have worked with the treasurer's office, and the students traveling to Sacramento on Thursday were invited to the capital by Angelides, said task force Co-Chairman Adam Sterling.

Mike Roth, a spokesman for Angelides, said the bus taking the students to Sacramento was funded by a committee under the Standing Up for California Committee, a Web site created by Angelides.

"Certainly Treasurer Angelides has been a strong supporter of campaign," said Jason Miller, co-chairman of the task force.

Separate from the student movement, the two politicians have encouraged California pension firms to divest from companies involved with the Sudanese government.

In December, Westly proposed a motion for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, a state pension fund, to reprimand three of its companies with holdings in Sudan and tell them to withdraw funds from the Sudanese government, said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the controller's office.

The motion was a way of "standing up against the genocide," Robb said.

Robb also said Westly proposed a motion passed by CalPERS calling on President Bush "to increase the American effort to address the genocide."

Most recently, Angelides also called on CalPERS to pursue a divestment policy, but the motion did not pass.

Miller cited the support of California politicians as a factor in the campaign's success.

Sterling said the UC's decision to divest, largely spurred by the students' campaign, brought the task force to the head of the nationwide movement, with the support of Angelides and other politicians.

He said the effort is moving along "with the treasurer being on board," and he hopes it will gain momentum with "the fact that the treasurer is actively leading it."

Members of the task force plan to travel to Sacramento tonight to meet with policy-makers Thursday and discuss the possible reallocation of various state funds that are invested in companies involved with the Sudanese government.

They also plan to lobby for a proposed bill that would prohibit the two largest pension funds in the state – CalPERS and the State Teachers' Retirement System – from investing in companies associated with the Sudanese government.

The event Thursday in Sacramento will include a rally to encourage the teachers' retirement fund to consider divestment, and task force members said they will have the opportunity to meet with policy makers to discuss divestment.

Darfur Action Committee