BEIJING (AFP) — Activist group Dream for Darfur accused top Olympic sponsors on Thursday of complicity in the genocide in Darfur and said it would target corporate headquarters for protests, starting with Coca-Cola.
The group, set up a year ago to help end a humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western region of Darfur, said 16 out of 19 top Olympic sponsors it had contacted had failed to speak out against the genocide out of fear of offending China, the Khartoum regime's main backer.
Releasing a report card on the firms in a conference call from New York, Mia Farrow, the Dream for Darfur leader who has branded the Beijing Games the "Genocide Olympics," said cowardice and greed were behind a conspiracy of corporate silence.
"Because sponsors are desperate to win the hearts and minds of 1.3 billion potential consumers in China, they have been frozen into silence on Darfur," Farrow said.
"If the summer Games (in Beijing) go down in history as the 'Genocide Olympics,' it will be because of the Chinese government's support of the regime in Sudan, abetted by the moral cowardice of the sponsors who would not speak out publicly about the genocide in Darfur."
Only three firms -- German sporting goods company Adidas, photographic firm Kodak and fast food chain McDonald's -- got passing grades from Dream for Darfur for taking steps to address the conflict, while 16 firms got failing marks for doing nothing.
Adidas and Kodak had both written letters to the United Nations at the behest of Dream for Darfur, while McDonald's was credited with taking "a series of unspecified actions" on Darfur.
The group said it would stage a protest on Saturday at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, followed by another one at the firm's New York base on Sunday.
Weekend protests will also target the Boston headquarters of office supplier Staples, another Olympic sponsor.
Earlier this month, Dream for Darfur gave the International Olympic Committee a failing grade, accusing it of doing nothing to ease the suffering in the embattled province.
The activist group wants sponsors to pressure China to rein in the Sudanese government, blamed for the crisis in Darfur. China is a top arms supplier to Sudan and a major investor, particularly in its oil industry.
The Darfur conflict, which the United Nations says has claimed the lives of as many as 300,000 people and displaced 2.2 million, has raged since 2003, when rebel groups demanded a greater share of the country's resources.
Arab militias aligned with Khartoum have been accused of violence against civilians as well as soldiers in quelling the rebellion.
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