Sudan Activists Look to Prod Bush on Capital Markets

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Activists seeking an end to the bloody civil war in the Sudan want the incoming Bush administration to close U.S. capital markets to Chinese companies they say are financing genocide in the African country.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College who is a leader in the Campaign for Sudan, said he has contacted Bush transition officials requesting information on closing U.S. capital markets.

"Who can say what will happen?" said Reeves. "We plan to press for higher visibility for this tragedy, and we hope that President-elect Bush will not go eight years without mentioning Sudan, as President Clinton did."

The Islamic government in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum has waged an ongoing war against the largely Christian and animist south for the past several years. The conflict has prompted charges that the Khartoum government has pursued a policy of forced starvation against the rebels. Relief agencies estimate that one million people have died in more than a decade of fighting.

U.S. activists claim that the mainland Chinese government has financed the Sudanese conflict by investing heavily in Sudanese oil projects through several state-owned companies, including PetroChina, which owns 40 percent of the Greater Nile Petroleum Project.

PetroChina is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, as is Talisman Energy, a Canadian company that is also heavily invested in Sudan. Chinese companies also plan to bring several billion dollars in bond offerings to U.S. capital markets to support the drilling in Sudan and other activities.

Last month, Elliott Abrams, head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom - which has loudly condemned the Sudanese government - asked President Clinton in a letter whether he planned to close U.S. capital markets to Chinese companies doing business in the Sudan in violation of U.S. sanctions on Khartoum.

Clinton responded that such a move "could . . . have a negative impact on the American people, as our commitment to the free flow of capital would be undermined, with adverse consequences for our economy."

But Reeves said that even the threat of closing U.S. capital markets could have a serious impact on the projects and the Sudanese government's ability to prosecute its campaign against the south.

"If the market gets the impression that a ban is likely or even possible that will undermine investor confidence in these IPOs, which have already suffered because of investors feeling jittery about potential fallout," said Reeves.

He added that the threat of a ban might convince other companies to avoid doing business in the Sudan.

On the congressional front, aides say Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) plans to reintroduce his "Sudan Peace Act" sometime this session. The act would send humanitarian aid to the Sudanese rebels and increase sanctions on the Sudanese government if it continues to prosecute the war.

The act passed by a voice vote through the Senate and House last session but was tabled before final passage.