October 20, 2020
File – Rescuers work by floodlight at the wreckage of the destroyed Ufundi House in Nairobi, Kenya on Aug. 9, 1998, next to the American embassy building at left. PHOTO: AP
By Nabeel Biaj | VOA News
WASHINGTON – One of the attorneys representing victims of the 1998 terror attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa and their families says the majority of his clients reject the deal that would result in President Donald Trump removing Sudan from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Michael Miller says the deal, in which Sudan would pay $335 million to settle claims related to the bombings, discriminates between victims based on their nationality, paying American victims and their families far more that it will pay East African victims who worked for the American embassies.
“I do not believe an American life is worth more than a fellow co-worker who is the in the next desk because one was born in Kenya and one was born in America,” Miller told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus in an interview Monday.
The August 1998 truck bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed a total of 224 people and injured thousands of others. Victims and their families sued Sudan in American courts, based on findings that Sudan harbored al-Qaida operatives who planned the attacks.
Miller says his clients deserve over $3 billion compensation, as awarded by a federal district court in Washington. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling that would have freed Sudan from some of the punitive damages.
“So the Trump administration can take Sudan off the terror list, that’s their business, that’s the business of the United States government, but they cannot stop us from enforcing our judgment.” said Miller.
Meanwhile in Sudan, Sovereign Council Chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok both welcomed Trump’s announcement on Monday.
President Trump tweeted the “new government of Sudan has agreed to pay 335 million dollars to terror victims and families.”
Once the payment is deposited, the tweet said, Trump will lift Sudan from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
The U.S. designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 because of Sudan’s support for international terrorism and for hosting al-Qaida terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.
In a televised address hours after the announcement, Prime Minister Hamdok called the announcement a great deal and a well-deserved achievement for the Sudanese people.
“What we have achieved today through our continuous dialogue where our experts continued to negotiate with the U.S. administration for more than a year, we managed to bring down these sanctions from 10 billion to a few hundred million of U.S. dollars,” he said.
The prime minister said his government secured the $335 million from gold exports and confirmed the money is in the process of being sent to the U.S.
Suliman Baldo, a senior policy analyst at the Sentry — a Washington-based organization that seeks to root out corruption in African governments — told South Sudan in Focus that the settlement will improve Sudan’s reputation.
He said it was unfair Sudan was still labeled a state sponsor of terrorism after the fall of the Bashir regime.
“The new government — the transitional government — has met a lot of conditions that the US administration has required for this delisting and therefore that it was only fair that having responded to all the demands of the U.S. that the U.S. meets its part of the bargain,” he said.
He says once the money is deposited, President Trump is expected to officially notify Congress which in turn is expected to approve the settlement and pass legislation to restore Sudan’s sovereign immunity against future litigation.
Despite initial opposition to the deal from some U.S. lawmakers including Democratic Party senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, Baldo expects Congress to approve the settlement and confirm the delisting of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“We don’t anticipate any problems because Congress was basically in agreement that this needed to be done and it was actually ahead of the administration in agreeing on the language of the bill at the level of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee … which received support from all the principals,” he said.
It is not clear when the money will be deposited, but Sudanese officials say the process will be complete within a matter of days.