Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

Darfur crisis needs more attention

In late February, state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and state Rep. Fred Kessler introduced a bipartisan bill that would stop the state of Wisconsin from investing in companies that have ties to the government of Sudan. The bill targets between 20 and 25 companies that the state has economic interests in, mostly through mutual funds.

Both Sen. Harsdorf and Rep. Kessler see Senate Bill 57 as a way for Wisconsin to put some economic muscle behind the calls to end the genocide that is sweeping the Darfur region in Sudan. While well intentioned, SB 57 certainly is not an end-all solution. No person can truly believe that divestment by a single state government will put an end to the funding of an oppressive regime, nor that just getting our money out of the country completely cleans the blood off our hands. Nevertheless, the bill offers a chance to take the first step in an intervention we should have begun long ago. If nothing else, the debate over SB 57 gives us the opportunity to examine and discuss the atrocities committed daily in Darfur and will hopefully spur more citizens to action.

Yet there are opponents to SB 57, including the executive director of the state's Investment Board, David Mills, who see the bill as fiscally irresponsible. In a time of skyrocketing national deficits and tight budgets for both municipalities and states, it can be agreed that taxpayer dollars should be spent prudently. However, this does not mean that the bottom line should be the only factor that influences state financial interests and legislation.

Advertisements

Social responsibility must be considered. As Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., outlined in his much-heralded speech to the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, "It is that fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, that makes this country work." The brightest points in our history have come when we put aside our own political or economic gain to fight for what is truly right, to stand by those who are trampled by a system that keeps them voiceless. This is one of those times.

As George Orwell said, "Ignorance is bliss." Indeed, we have done an excellent job in this country of tuning out tragedy that is beyond our borders. The United States has sat idly as more than 200,000 human beings have been murdered, and we have chosen to direct our resources to other conflicts of choice. Now, as SB 57 cycles through the state Legislature, we must ask ourselves, what is the next course of action? If the economic sanctions don't prove effective at ending genocide, what will we do?

The only international force currently in the region is that of the African Union — which has sent 7,000 troops who lack the advanced weaponry of western countries to keep the peace in an area the size of Texas. Calls for United States and United Nations intervention have thus far gone unanswered, as well. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has resisted humanitarian aid and has rejected offers for peacekeeping forces that could potentially bring an end to the ethnic cleansing, further complicating the precarious situation. Clearly, the resolution of the conflict may require drastic measures by major world powers.

Although Senate Bill 57 is a small step, it is nonetheless an important one. Genocide cannot be overlooked, no matter where in the world it occurs. Increasing the understanding and awareness of the Darfur situation is a necessary step in the solution. The College Democrats encourage all students to take a closer look at the tragedy that is happening in our world today. It is our responsibility as members of the human race to turn simple words into stronger action and press our government to go beyond divestment and commit to doing our part to end genocide before an entire people are destroyed.

To discuss further what we can do to end the genocide in Darfur, we invite you to join the College Democrats at 6 p.m. tonight. A short documentary will be shown to get all of us up to speed on what has been happening in Sudan as well as the complexities of the situation, and members of Action in Sudan will also share what they're doing to help the situation. The event is TITU, so keep checking uwmadisondems.org for updated information.

Oliver Kiefer ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in economics. He is the fundraising chair for the UW-Madison College Democrats.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *