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July 28, 2001
Column #1039


     Oil money is fueling new Muslim attacks in southern Sudan on Christians. Since a new pipeline was built two years ago, the government's military budget has doubled, according to The Washington Post. 

     Eyewitnesses say new helicopter gunships are conducting a ruthless bombing campaign to drive tens of thousands of southerners off their land. Why? The oil lies beneath them in southern Sudan, and is now piped to the north to fund the government's war against its own people. ''Human rights groups and aid workers say the government has razed villages, bombed hospitals and churches and supports the militias' abduction of southerners as slaves,'' the Post reported.

     This is an intensive new phase of the civil war that in 18 years has already killed 2 million people, made 4 million homeless, and enslaved at least 200,000 women and children.

     Ironically, there is a strong new ray of hope for southern Sudan in Washington, in an amendment to the Sudan Peace Act passed by the House by a stunning 402-2 vote. The amendment, authored by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) would prohibit any company developing oil or gas in Sudan from raising capital in the United States or listing securities in American financial markets. 

     U.S. law already prohibits American firms from drilling for oil in Sudan. But foreign companies, who are now pumping 200,000 barrels of Sudanese oil a day raise money for their ventures in New York and are listed on stock exchanges.. 

     ''Think of the absurdity of it,'' Bachus told me in an interview. ''We prohibit our companies from drilling for oil, so they are not participating in genocide. Yet we allow the six companies who do go there, to raise capital in our markets!''

     When Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, was asked about the Bachus Amendment, he at first called it ''a very minor issue.'' Then he added, ''The clear outcome of such a law, would effectively be to move financing from New York to London....I am most concerned that if we move in directions which undermine our financial capacity, we are undermining potential long-term growth of the American economy.''

     The Bush Administration and the Senate agree with his view. The Senate version of the Sudan Peace Act passed last week, does not include anything like the Bachus Amendment. 

     House and Senate conferees will meet soon to decide the outcome.

     To Bachus, ''The issue is very basic: dollars or lives? I am personally committed to ending the slaughter in Sudan. We have a moral obligation to shut off the money supply that buys the guns and finances the war machine. The United States must send a new message: stop the killing, stop the murder and torture, end the terror or we end the investments.''

     The initiative was originally proposed by the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. It asserted the U.S. Government ''should strengthen economic sanctions against Sudan and should urge other countries to adopt similar policies. The United States should prohibit any foreign company from raising capital or listing its securities in U.S. markets as long as it is engaged in the development of oil and gas fields in Sudan.''

     Would such a sanction have any effect?

     One of Canada's largest oil producers, Talisman Energy Inc., would sell its 25 percent share of a Sudanese oil project, to keep its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, Talisman CEO Jim Buckee said, ''I don't think anybody could afford not to have access to U.S. capital markets.''

     In the past three months, Christian Solidarity International has freed 6,706 Sundanese slaves by paying the price of two goats per slave; 54,426 have been freed since 1995. Recent interviews with freed slaves reveal Sudanese Government troops and Arab militias rape, mutilate, beat and forcibly convert black Christian women to be Muslim. 

     A 12-year-old said she was ''tied with a rope to other children, and forced to march to the  North. Many men raped me. If you are not taken as a proper wife, they use you anytime of the day or night. My master, Osman, cut my genitals.''

     CSI's President Hans Stuckelberger backs Bachus: ''The moral fiber of the United States, with its longstanding tradition of liberty and justice would be gravely endangered if the American government were to knowingly allow ''slave stock'' to be bought and sold on Wall Street.

     Bachus, a Baptist, quoted the Book of Esther on the House floor, where Esther is asked by Mordecai, ''Do you think if you hold your peace at a time like this that you shall escape judgment?'' 

     People of faith should contact their Senators.

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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