Published in the Boston Globe, March 27, 2007
By Mia Farrow
I MET Halima in a displaced persons camp called Zam Zam. She described the day her village was attacked, first by Sudanese government bombers, then by the merciless, government-backed janjaweed militia. She said, "The janjaweed tore my baby son from my arms and bayoneted him in front of my eyes." She clasped my hands and said, "Tell people what is happening here. Tell them we will all be slaughtered. Tell them we need help."
Another young mother, Fatima, fled her burning village with her baby tied to her back. When the janjaweed shot her, the bullet passed through the child, killing him. I watched a small boy, shot in the lungs, struggling to breathe, and I have seen others whose eyes had been gouged out with knives.
To my horror I recently discovered that I had inadvertently been helping to finance the genocide in Darfur. My own pension money had been in Fidelity Investments mutual funds. Fidelity has more than $1 billion invested in PetroChina Co. and Sinopec Corp. , two oil companies that have poured billions of dollars into Khartoum's coffers.
Genocide is an expensive enterprise and more than 70 percent of oil revenues have been used by the government of Sudan to purchase weapons and train the janjaweed. These are the people and the weapons responsible for murdering Halima and Fatima's babies, along with more than 400,000 other people.
I have taught my children that with knowledge comes responsibility. Who among us would knowingly be complicit in the murder of innocent people? Just as I must take responsibility for where my savings are invested, we each share the responsibility for where our tax dollars and public funds are invested. Now, there is an important opportunity for Massachusetts' citizens to speak out. As of January, the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board held over $100 million in firms such as PetroChina and Sinopec.
This Thursday, I will testify before the Joint Committee on Public Service in support of legislation introduced by Representative Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat ; , Senator Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat ; and Senator Ed Augustus, a Worcester Democrat , that would divest the board's assets of companies bankrolling the Darfur genocide. This so-called "targeted" divestment strategy surgically focuses on only the most egregiously offending companies in Sudan. Such "worst offending" companies are firms that have a business relationship with the government or a government-created project, provide few benefits to civilians outside the regime, possess no substantive corporate governance policy on the genocide, and have failed to respond to attempts at shareholder engagement. By focusing on these two dozen to three dozen worst offenders, Massachusetts can maximize its impact on the genocidal government of Sudan while avoiding harm to both innocent Sudanese civilians and the board's investment returns.
The moral necessity of divesting from investments in Sudan is broadly recognized and growing. Six colleges and universities in Massachusetts, as well as the city of Newton, have divested with Harvard leading the way. Six states, including California, have already taken a moral stand by divesting. Eighteen other states are considering such legislation.
The Sudanese government is starting to get the message, and their embassy in Washington has responded with numerous condemnations. Massachusetts now has a chance to add its voice to those of thousands of other investors around the world. I urge you to join me in sending a clear message to our elected officials that we refuse to have our money used to slaughter innocent people.
Mia Farrow is an actress and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.