SPRINGFIELD, Ill.– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 23, a bill that cuts all state financial ties with the oppressive and genocidal Sudanese government. Once signed, Illinois will become the first state in the nation to divest itself of financial interest in the repressive state. Since February 2003, the Sudanese government and ethnic militias have been fighting two rebel groups from the country’s Darfur region, resulting in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Currently, two of Illinois’ five pension systems have about $1 billion invested in 32 companies that work in Sudan.
“This bill sends a clear message to the Sudanese government -- the people of Illinois will not condone human rights abuses and genocide, we will take our money elsewhere,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I urge all other states with similar legislation pending to move quickly, to show Sudan that we take human rights abuses seriously.”
Senate Bill 23 prohibits Illinois from investing in foreign government bonds of Sudan, investing in companies doing business in or with Sudan, and investing the State pension in companies doing business in or with Sudan. The bill provides 18 months to remove all current pension investment from companies doing business in the Sudan.
“This is a piece of legislation that really grew out of my belief that we have a moral obligation to stand against oppression when we see it," Sen. Jacqueline Collins said. “Our humanity diminishes whenever we profit from the slaughter and suffering of others.”
“I would like to thank Governor Blagojevich for joining us in making Illinois the first state in the nation to condemn the crimes against innocent men, women and children in Darfur. Illinois was the first state in the nation to end its investment in South Africa with legislation sponsored by former U.S. Senator Carol Mosley Braun when she served as a state representative. Once again with this legislation, we continue to uphold our pact with the people to defend human rights and safeguard their tax dollars,” said Rep. Lovana Jones.
As rebel groups have abducted civilians, attacked police stations, raided, and looted, the Sudanese government forces have systematically targeted civilian communities that share the same ethnicity as the rebel groups -- killing, looting, raping, forcibly displacing and destroying villages. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of another 2 million. On September 9, 2004, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "genocide has been committed in Darfur …and that genocide may still be occurring."
The United Nations Security Council passed several resolutions on Darfur, threatening sanctions. However, these resolutions have had little to no effect.
Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it passed unanimously, while Rep Lovana Jones (D-Chicago) sponsored the bill in the House. The bill will become effective seven months after the governor signs the bill into law.
Senate Bill 23 was modeled after successful anti-apartheid divestment legislation of the 1980s. The bill will have no fiscal impact. Similar legislation is pending in six other states. Harvard University divested its Sudanese-tied investments in April of this year.