Endowment Tied to Sudan

University bought stock in oil firm that activists say helped fuel genocide

Harvard has invested millions of dollars in a Chinese oil company whose financial dealings with the Sudanese government, human rights activists say, have funded that regime’s ongoing slaughter of its own people.

Filings by the Harvard Management Company indicate the University owned 72,000 shares of that oil stock, PetroChina, as of June 30 of this year. Jack Meyer, the management company president, would not say on Friday whether Harvard still owned the stock. If Harvard has held those shares, its stake in the company would be worth $3.87 million today.

PetroChina is a spin-off of the China National Petroleum Company, which is involved in a more than $1 billion joint venture with the Sudanese government to boost that country’s oil production. Revenues from the venture are filling the coffers of the Sudanese regime, which the U.S. government says is guilty of genocide against its own people.

Quarterly filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show the University purchased its first 60,000 shares of PetroChina between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2003. That investment reaped almost immediate rewards for the University as the stock nearly doubled in value over the next three months.

By March 31, 2004, Harvard had increased its holdings in the company to 80,500 shares at a total value of just over $4.1 million. Shares of PetroChina closed at $53.74 on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, up more than 23 percent over the past four months.

“Harvard should dump this blood oil stock yesterday,” John Prendergast, who served as African affairs director at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, wrote in an e-mail last week.

Meyer said the management company does not comment on individual stock holdings.


According to a November 2003 report by Human Rights Watch, China National Petroleum’s investment in Sudan constitutes the company’s largest overseas project to date. The company has helped the Sudanese government build a 1,500 kilometer pipeline as well as a massive oil refinery near the capital city of Khartoum.

“Foreign investment capital in the oil sector is crucial to the regime’s ability to wage war with its own people,” Prendergast said. He added that the joint venture with China National Petroleum “has allowed Sudan to start repaying its debts, earn critical foreign exchange, and fund a massive weapons buying spree.”

Government-backed janjaweed militiamen have destroyed scores of villages in the Darfur region of western Sudan over the past year and a half—leaving more than 50,000 dead.

Human rights activists and international media have said that oil revenues are helping the government pay for weapons for the janjaweed and bombers to conduct air raids on Darfurian civilians.

President Bush and both houses of Congress have declared that the slaughter in Darfur rises to the level of genocide.

Oil revenues also helped fuel the Sudanese government’s 20-year war with predominantly Christian rebels in the southern region of the country. More than two million people perished in that conflict.