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Editor’s Note: Ali Breland, the author of the resolution discussed in this editorial, was an opinion columnist for The Daily Texan during the spring semester. He wrote this column supporting the UT System’s divestment from companies in Sudan.

Student Government introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for the UT System to divest from companies that support genocide. The University of Texas Investment Company, known as UTIMCO, manages $25 billion in endowments for both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, investing more than $12 million in companies that fund genocide in Sudan. Student Government is calling for the System “to create or agree upon a blacklist of companies that UTIMCO cannot invest in that is more thorough and comprehensive than the Texas Comptroller’s blacklist.”

In 2003, the genocide in Sudan began, and has killed nearly half a million people and displaced almost 3 million since then. The Sudanese government facilitates these murders, and our University System indirectly funds them. One company in particular that the System should prioritize divesting in is PetroChina, in which the System invests approximately $1 million. PetroChina, which numerous companies have divested from in recent years, owns 40 percent of South Sudan’s oil assets and finally admitted in January that it has done business with Sudan, a U.S.-sanctioned country. In 2005, Harvard University voted to divest from this company, and in 2006, the University of California System, which the University of Texas System constantly competes with, approved a policy to do the same, in addition to divesting from eight other companies that also inadvertently contribute to genocide. UTIMCO should follow these schools’ leads and also divest.

In 2004, the University of California System suggested divestment “when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide,” and in 2004, the U.S. declared this about Sudan. The UC System ended up agreeing upon a slightly different policy, but if the UT System decides not to create a thorough blacklist of companies it won’t invest in, it should at least divest from companies that work with foreign regimes the U.S. has declared are facilitating genocide.

By keeping its investments in these companies, the University of Texas System is knowingly supporting genocide. Allowing our University to indirectly take part in this is completely unacceptable, and we agree with Student Government in urging the System to divest from these companies.

After 11 years of war, human rights violations and genocide, the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur persists. A brief cease-fire brought temporary peace to the area, but 2014 has ushered in a flare-up of atrocities in the region. The International Criminal Court has charged Omar al-Bashir, the current president of Sudan, with three counts of genocide

That genocide has claimed the lives of 400,000 Sudanese and displaced millions more, yet, despite international outcry against the atrocities in Sudan, the UT System continues to maintain its financial holdings in companies involved in Sudan — companies that contribute to the country’s genocide.

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., known as UTIMCO, manages the System’s $20 billion endowment. According to a 2011 Texas Observer article, roughly $5 million of the endowment is invested in companies that have directly helped contribute to Sudanese genocide (although that number may have changed since then). Companies on the list include PetroChina, which has bought oil from the Sudanese government, thereby indirectly contributing to the state-sponsored slaughter of non-Arabs in the Darfur region, and Dongfeng Motor Co., a company that has sold military equipment to Sudanese militias. 

UTIMCO’s dirty investments have led me to start Texans Against Genocide, a group founded with the intention of trying to get UTIMCO to draw the line at genocide, an incontrovertibly bad thing.

Bruce Zimmerman, the chief executive officer and chief investment officer of UTIMCO, is clearly good at the financial side of his job. He has grown the endowment tremendously, and as of 2011 he has regularly beaten general market returns. Regardless, good business doesn’t make good ethics.

Zimmerman declined to comment for this piece.

Zimmerman has said in the past that UTIMCO doesn’t “take social or political concerns into account.” He has said that factoring social responsibility into UTIMCO’s investment could lead to a slippery slope of investment restrictions that could potentially hurt the fund.

Zimmerman told the Observer in 2011, “What you’ll learn in Econ 101 is any externality has an economic cost. That’s not a presumption. It’s an economic reality.”

Zimmerman is right. Taking ethics into account does make investing harder but does not make it impossible. In the last decade, several universities, including Harvard, Stanford and Yale, among others, have divested or eliminated their holdings from companies linked to the genocide in Sudan. These colleges have endowments comparable to UT’s, and show that an endowment can still thrive while making ethically sound investments.

Moreover, the logic that a business’ sole responsibility is to make a profit, irrespective of its social or ethical cost, is riddled with problems. Ostensibly, we hold human beings to a general set of normative ethical and social standards. We expect people to respect our autonomy and not to hurt us or do generally bad things. The idea that a group of people working together to make money is somehow exempt from these standards doesn’t make sense. If I personally gave a government committing genocide millions of dollars and military supplies, you could call me a bad person. UTIMCO participating in these sorts of investments for the betterment of the UT System doesn’t absolve it from this. It just makes it opportunistic.

Obviously, issues like this aren’t cut-and-dried. If UTIMCO is forced to invest in accordance with sound ethics, the group could lose out on potentially lucrative investments. But while investment in morally gray areas, such as tobacco and fossil fuels, is up for debate, an investment in genocide is not.

We can avoid Zimmerman’s slippery slope by making it clear that we draw the line at mass murder. Right now, the UT System doesn’t draw the law line anywhere. Until it does, it implicitly supports genocide.

Breland is a Plan II senior from Houston and the president of Texans Against Genocide, an organization founded in the interest of getting UT to divest its endowment from corporations that fund or facilitate genocide.

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The U.N. and African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan says more than 100 people have been killed and other 70,000 displaced from their homes because of recent tribal warfare in Darfur.

The United Nation-African Union Mission in Darfur says in a report issued Thursday that the deaths and displacement resulted from clashes between the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes in Jabel Amir, the site of gold mines in North Darfur state in western Sudan.

Darfur has been in turmoil since 2003, when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination. Rights groups charge the regime retaliated by unleashing Arab militias on civilians.

The U.N. estimates that 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the long-running conflict.

Clay bones made by UT students and community members will be on display this Tuesday in the South Mall. The bones were made for the project One Million Bones which promotes awareness of genocide in Africa. Photo courtesy of Jenny Nguyen.

UT students and their collaborators will lie 6,500 to 7,000 clay bones on the grass of the South Mall Tuesday. The area usually populated by students studying in the sun will be transformed into a symbolic graveyard of sorts as handmade bones are laid down as part of the national art activism project One Million Bones.

Started by artist Naomi Natale in New Mexico, the UT installation of clay bones is only the latest in a string of nationwide “One Million Bones” projects that span from New Orleans to New Jersey.

One Million Bones is a collaborative art endeavor that aims to promote awareness of genocide and daily atrocities occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Burma. Ultimately, the bones made by UT students will be combined with more than 900,000 other bones in Washington D.C. as part of the largest One Million Bones exhibit in 2013. Through the sheer number of bones present on the South Mall, the UT exhibit hopes to serve as a visible reminder of the staggering loss of life within these African communities.

“The bones symbolize that beneath every person’s skin, we’re all the same, and also helps us to remember victims and survivors from these atrocities while representing hope for the future at the same time,” education junior Julie Zhang said.

Zhang, who estimates she has made approximately 400 bones, is one of eight students in Kara Hallmark’s visual art studies service-learning course that are responsible for putting together the event. As part of the class, these students have organized bone-making sessions on campus and as well as sessions with elementary school students, museums and professors at Southwestern and Temple Colleges.

Hallmark, the course instructor, was hired by Natale as the Central Texas state coordinator for the project after helping graduate student Matthew Remington organize the first One Million Bones display in Austin at the state capitol last spring. The role art could play in promoting social justice intrigued Hallmark, who had previous experience with service-learning in the K-12 system.

“A project like this will create within you a deeper sense of connection with the situation,” Hallmark said. “Art has a way of doing that. It’s that visceral experience in conjunction with knowledge, stories, photographs and video.”

While an intriguing idea in practice, making 10,000 bones for social justice is no easy feat. Hallmark said that in addition to meeting for six hours every week, most students spend countless hours outside of class making bones.

Psychology senior Brianna Herold, Hallmark’s student and the project manager for the UT installation, noted that while time consuming, the project affects everyone it touches.

“Whatever the outcome may be of our total bones or the amount of bones that make it to D.C. in the spring, anyone who has been involved in the project in any form has been affected and inspired,” Herold said.

For Zhang, the effect of the project is already noticeable.

“Before I started on this project, my level of awareness about these genocides and conflicts was at a much lower level, I knew that these atrocities existed in certain countries, but I didn’t know which specific countries and to what extent,” Zhang said. “Through the process of working on this project, I learned more about how people around the world are suffering from these kinds of events and how much they need our help.”

For One Million Bones, the aim of these installations is als to make a significant contribution toward enacting positive change as well. 

For each bone made, One Million Bones, in collaboration with Students Rebuild and the Bezos Family Foundation, donates $1, until they reach $500,000, to the CARE foundation, which works in the Congo and Sudan to enact change.

When the bones are laid down this Tuesday at 11 a.m., primetime for students rushing to classes, Hallmark hopes students take the time to stop and participate as well.

“When we did this the first time, many people joined in and participated spontaneously. I hope that will happen here,” Hallmark said.  “The bones are powerful in large numbers, both visually and symbolically. I hope that students who participate that day have the opportunity to see how art can be a vehicle for social justice as well as the symbol of the bone moving us toward a future of change.”

Printed on Monday, November 12, 2012 as: Clay art to symbolize genocide

Business junior Tory Haddix, biology sophomore Marissa Shiller and government junior Regan Donnenfield weigh bread dough for Challah for Hunger at the Texas Tilleh Tuesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

For Texas Challah for Hunger, a student organization working to raise funds for hunger relief, food is a big part of the equation. The organization sells bread on the West Mall every Wednesday to raise awareness and funds for hunger relief.

Volunteers for Texas Challah for Hunger gather at Texas Hillel, a local Jewish center, Tuesday evenings to make and braid the challah dough. Challah bread is a traditional Jewish bread that was originally used in religious rituals but has now become a part of the Jewish culture. The UT chapter is one of more than 40 chapters nationwide. It donates 50 percent of its profits to the Capitol Area Food Bank, an organization that distributes food and social service in Central Texas.

In addition, each chapter donates half its profits to American Jewish World Service, which uses this money to aid their efforts in Sudan working with refugees.

The organization sets up a table in the West Mall from noon to 3 p.m. to sell challah baked that morning. Each loaf costs $5.

“People smell our fresh baked bread, and people stop and look at us,” Talia Noorily, president of Texas Challah for Hunger, said. “This is how we can do our advocacy.”

Noorily said the Texas Challah for Hunger is a service and advocacy group. She said the smell of fresh bread brings curious people to its table to learn more about the group. Last year the UT chapter raised $7,200 with $3,600 donated to the national cause, and $3,600 going directly to relieve hunger here in Austin.

“We learn about issues and try to fix them,” Noorily said.

At its table on Wednesdays, volunteers educate passerbys with information about the need for hunger relief in Sudan and Austin, Noorily said. She also said the organization calls senators and writes letters to the president. She said the new educational goal of the organization is to focus on telling people about the current events happening in Sudan, which has been plagued by genocide, and Austin.

Government junior Regan Donnenfield has volunteered with the organization for three years and said there is a steady stream of UT and community support.

“We have regulars that come every week,” Donnenfield said.

Former president of Texas Challah for Hunger Zoe Bernbaum said the organization has a Jewish influence, but not all the volunteers are Jewish. Bernbaum said Challah for Hunger demonstrates traditional Jewish values through community service. She said they are trying to alleviate world hunger, and used a Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam,” which means “repairing the world.”

Tuesday night was Challah for Hunger’s first meeting of the semester. Noorily said close to 50 volunteers showed up to help braid.

“There are so many ways to get involved by making the bread or buying,” Noorily said. “Each part is essential and everyone can feel fulfilled.”

An oil field that caught on fire in Heglig, Sudan on Sunday. An official says Sudanese jets bombed three areas in South Sudan's Unity State, including a major oil field. Antonov bombers accompanied by MiG 29 jets bombed the town of Abiemnom in Unity State and the Unity State oil field.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RUBKONA, South Sudan — Sudanese warplanes bombed a market and an oil field in South Sudan on Monday, killing at least two people after Sudanese ground forces had reportedly crossed into South Sudan with tanks and artillery, elevating the risk of all-out war between the two old enemies.

The international community urged Sudan and South Sudan to talk out their disputes, which include arguments over where the border lies and over ownership of oil resources.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Sudanese bombings and called on the government in Khartoum “to cease all hostilities immediately,” U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.

Ban stressed again that the dispute cannot be solved militarily and urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir “to stop the slide towards further confrontation and ... return to dialogue as a matter of urgency,” the spokesman said.

But al-Bashir vowed Monday to press ahead with his military campaign until all southern troops or affiliated forces are chased out of the north.

The bombs fell from two MiG 29 jets onto Rubkona’s market with a whistling sound, turning stalls where food and other household items are sold into fiery heaps of twisted metal.

The burned body of the boy lay flat on his back near the center of the blast site, his hand clutching at the sky.

South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said two were killed in that attack and nine wounded.

Aguer said Antonov bombers accompanied by MiG 29 jets also bombed Abiemnom in Unity State and the Unity State oil field. He said Abiemnom is a two-hour drive from Rubkona. Amid poor communications, the extent of damage at the oil field was not immediately known, nor whether there were casualties. Fighting between ground troops, which started Sunday, was still ongoing in Panakuac, Laloba and Teshwin, Aguer said.

In Rubkona, trucks packed with South Sudanese troops sped off in the direction where the bombs landed as the soldiers fired at the Sudanese jets.

“The bombing amounts to a declaration of war,” said Maj.

Gen. Mac Paul, the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence for South Sudan.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday the U.S. strongly condemns Sudan’s military incursion into South Sudan, and called for the immediate halt of aerial and artillery bombardment in South Sudan.

“We recognize the right of South Sudan to self-defense and urge South Sudan to exercise restraint in its reaction to Sudan’s attack in Unity State,” she said.

Sudanese armed forces launched an attack Sunday more than six miles inside South Sudan’s border, even though the south announced on Friday it was pulling its troops from the disputed oil town of Heglig to avoid an all-out war. South Sudan had invaded Heglig earlier this month, saying it belonged to the south.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July last year after an independence vote, the culmination of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed more than 2 million people.d

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan’s president said Thursday that the nation will not withdraw its troops that this week entered a disputed border region with Sudan.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir spoke to parliament in the midst of escalating clashes along the border with Sudan. He said the country’s military would also re-enter another disputed area, Abyei, currently occupied by Sudan if the United Nations does not urge Sudan to withdraw.

In New York, Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said if South Sudan did not withdraw, Sudan would “chase them out, and not only that, we would hit deep inside the South.”

“I assure you, this occupation will not last for long,” Ali Osman said.

The U.N. Security Council met in public Thursday to read out a statement demanding “a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting” between Sudan and South Sudan.

The council statement, read out by presiding U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, insisted that both countries redeploy their forces 10 kilometers (16 miles) away from a border that they both recognized last year.

Troops from South Sudan on Wednesday captured the oil-rich border town of Heglig that is claimed by Sudan, whose troops withdrew under the onslaught. Kiir said that South Sudan’s military forces, the SPLA, had also advanced past Heglig after occupying it.

“They pursued them up to the so-called Heglig. But these forces did not stop in Heglig, there was not fighting in Heglig,” he said.

Heglig has been the focal point of more than two weeks of clashes between the two nations. Both sides claim the area, but Sudan operates Heglig’s oil facilities, which account for nearly half of the country’s daily production. The town is 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the disputed region of Abyei, whose fate was left unresolved when South Sudan split last year from Sudan.

The U.N. Security Council demanded the withdrawal of South Sudan’s military forces from Heglig and an end to aerial bombing by Sudan of South Sudan. It also urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Kiir to hold a summit to resolve their conflicts.

Fighting along the north-south border has been near constant over the past two weeks. On Thursday, South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing the capital of Unity State, Bentiu.

SPLA spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said that Antonov aircraft belonging to Sudan dropped five bombs on a bridge linking Bentiu to neighboring Rubkotna. The two towns comprise Unity State’s most populated area.

“This is an indiscriminate bombing,” and according to initial reports one civilian was killed and four were wounded in the attack, Aguer said.

Ali Osman, the Sudanese ambassador, said any report of Sudan bombing “is just fiction.”

President Kiir said he had received numerous appeals from the international community to withdraw SPLA troops from the disputed territory, including a call from United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon.

“Last night I never slept because of the telephone calls,” he said. “Those who have been calling me — starting with the U.N. secretary-general yesterday — he gave me an order that I’m ordering you to immediately withdraw from Heglig. I said I’m not under your command,” Kiir said.

The military advance by South Sudan into territory it claims but which is internationally recognized as Sudan’s brought swift condemnation from the United States and Britain. Both nations, along with the U.N. Security Council, urged South Sudan to withdraw from the town of Heglig and condemned the bombings of South Sudan territory by Sudan.

Kiir said he also urged the U.N. secretary-general to re-engage Sudan on the disputed territory of Abyei.

“We withdrew from Abyei. Bashir occupied Abyei and is still there up to today,” Kiir said. “I told the secretary-general that if you are not moving out with this force of Bashir, we are going to reconsider our position and we are going back to Abyei.”

Late Thursday, South Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Agnes Oswaha, told reporters that there will be no withdrawal from Heglig unless and until some sort of mediation of the various disputes with Sudan is in place, and a neutral peacekeeping force is deployed in the area.

Fighting erupted in Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan May of last year, just months before South Sudan formally declared independence from Sudan.

The region was to hold a referendum in January to decide whether it stays with Sudan or joins a newly independent South. But the vote was postponed indefinitely amid disagreements over who would be eligible to vote.

The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people, most of whom are still waiting to return.

The continued clashes have dimmed hopes for a resolution between the two countries on a host of issues left over from their July split, including oil-sharing, citizenship issues and the demarcation of the border.

Associated Press writer Peter James Spielmann contributed to this story from the United Nations.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The presidents of Sudan and the new nation of South Sudan are both predicting the possibility of a new war in an oil-rich region that has seen a spike in cross-border attacks.

Troop build-ups are being reported on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border, the world’s newest international boundary, and rebels in Sudan announced a new alliance with the aim of overthrowing their own government, which is seated in the capital, Khartoum.

The U.S. is pleading for cooler heads to prevail, even as aid workers are withdrawing from the region after two bombing runs into South Sudan by Sudan, its northern neighbor, last week.

After two long wars that spanned decades, South Sudan formally declared independence from Sudan in July following a successful independence referendum in January that was guaranteed in a 2005 peace deal. The world celebrated the peaceful break-up of Sudan. But big disputes that have long lurked in the background are now festering, and flaring into violence.

An agreement to split the region’s oil revenues was never reached. The borders were never fully demarcated. And perhaps most important, the break-up left two large groups of people in Sudan’s south in the lurch, groups that Sudan has labeled rebels and that Khartoum’s military has been attacking for months.

In addition, the Khartoum government is facing a financial crisis due to the loss of oil revenue and rising food prices, said John Prendergast, the co-founder of the U.S.-based Enough Project, which closely monitors Sudan.

“Each spark heightens the possibility of all-out war, and the sparks are occurring with more frequency now,” Prendergast said Monday.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir accuses the south of arming what he calls rebels in Sudan. He said this month that if the south wants to return to war, his army is prepared, as he ticked off recent clashes he said the north won.

US envoy to United Nations says peace could evaporate if oil, border issues persist

A southern Sudanese man dons a shirt made of the new national flag during the Republic of South SudanÂ’s first national soccer match in the capital of Juba on Sunday, July 10, 2011. The game, played against Kenya, comes just one day after South Sudan declared its independence from the north following decades of costly civil war.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

JUBA, South Sudan — A day after the jubilation of South Sudan’s independence proclamation, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. warned Sunday of a “real risk” that the north-south peace process could unravel unless outstanding issues such as oil and border demarcations are quickly resolved.

Celebrations rang out Saturday in the South Sudan capital of Juba, the first day of independence after decades of civil war between Sudan’s north and south. Some 2 million people died in the most recent war, from 1983-2005.

On Sunday, the capital appeared hungover from its massive celebration, though small groups of people still sang and danced on street corners. The new country’s national anthem played from speakers.

The joy of independence day temporarily overshadowed the ongoing hostilities between the northern army and southern-allied forces in the northern state of South Kordofan and other violence along the north-south border. The south and north have yet to agree on a demarcated border, and the issue of oil remains contentious. The south has most of the oil but it must move it through the north’s pipes.

Dozens of world leaders joined a crowd tens of thousands strong in Juba on Saturday. The American delegation was led by Susan Rice, who told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Sunday that the U.S. government remains “focused on the urgency of resolving” the outstanding north-south issues.

Rice said the U.S. government would remain “very actively involved” in supporting negotiations between Khartoum and Juba. U.S. officials say they hope the talks will restart in the next week in a process led by an African Union panel.

“As wonderful a day as yesterday [Saturday] was ... we are mindful that even as those presidents pledge a commitment to peaceful and cooperative relations, that these issues are such that in the absence of resolution there is a risk of things beginning to disintegrate,” she added.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes for his role in the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, attended Saturday’s ceremony and appealed for the two nations to work to “overcome the bitterness of the past.”

Rice dismissed the possibility of U.S. military intervention in South Kordofan, where northern aerial bombardments have driven tens of thousands of black Africans from the Nuba ethnic group into caves for protection from the raids.

A huge explosion near a United Nations compound in South Kordofan state, Tuesday, June 14, 2011. The fighting in Abyei comes as air bombardments have taken place in the north-south border region of South Kordofan. Southern Sudan secedes from the north on July 9. Violence has flared in the run-up to the independence declaration. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A U.N. humanitarian report and aid workers caught in the crossfire reported on Wednesday an increase in violence in a new front near the already tense internal border between north and south Sudan, with dozens of people reported killed in attacks.

The violence in South Kordofan has killed at least 25 people, a U.N. humanitarian report said, though it said local sources indicated that up to 64 people had been killed. The north also bombed an airstrip, preventing the movement of food aid and humanitarian workers.

The increased violence comes less than a month before Southern Sudan will declare independence from the north on July 9, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war that killed some 2 million people.

But the sudden outbreak in violence on multiple fronts has greatly increased fears of renewed war, with some aid workers in the south indicating the northern government of Khartoum may be moving toward wider conflict.

Deng Alor Kuol, the minister for regional cooperation for Southern Sudan, said the African Union talks are focusing on empowering an Ethiopian peacekeeping mission for Abyei.

A cease-fire in South Kordofan seems far away. Deng said there are political issues to be addressed first with Abdul Aziz Al Hilu, the leading pro-southern political figure in South Kordofan, before any agreement that would be “effective” and accepted on the ground.