WASHINGTON – Victims of the 1998 bombings against two United States embassies in East Africa will soon receive up to $ 485 million in compensation as part of a sweeping settlement to remove Sudan from the list of states that support terrorism and, in turn, promote peace with Israel.
But the deal, which is part of the $ 2.3 trillion spending program that Congress is set to approve on Monday, leaves Sudan responsible for potentially billions of dollars in additional payments to the families of those who have. were killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001..
The deal largely puts months of fierce negotiations between the Trump administration and Congress to rest on how to help Sudan’s fragile transitional government and the debt-riddled economy by settling numerous lawsuits that blamed the country of harboring al-Qaeda, mainly in the 1990s.
It also ensures that the American victims of the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – whether they are United States citizens at the time of the attacks or naturalized later – will receive fair compensation by adding up to 150 million. of payments in addition to the 335 million dollars which Sudan has pledged.
The money should be returned to the victims of the attacks in the days and weeks to come, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the current legislation.
“Finally, I can turn the page and carry on the rest of my life,” said Ellen Bomer, a former Commerce Department employee who was blinded and suffering from post-traumatic stress after the explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. August 7, 1998.
“I believe that justice prevails,” she added.
Relatives of 9/11 victims also hailed the deal that allowed their own lawsuits against Sudan – filed in Manhattan federal court from 2002-2004 – to continue despite strong opposition from the Trump administration and the government. from Khartoum.
“The White House has worked all year to give up our rights, in an apparent effort to secure an independent diplomatic victory,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom Strada, was killed in the attack on World Trade Center in New York. . “We can now return to our quest for justice and accountability against those who allowed the murders of our loved ones.”
Sudanese leaders had requested immunity from all terrorism-related lawsuits filed after 1993 – including by families of 9/11 – as part of a broader deal that also tied its removal from the US terrorism list to the acceptance to normalize relations with Israel. President Trump announced in October that Sudan was the third Arab state to sign the Abraham’s Accords, his signing diplomatic campaign to ease tensions for Israel in the Middle East and North Africa.
People close to the diplomatic talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate diplomacy, said this month that Sudan had threatened to pull out of the agreements if it did not enjoy full government immunity. Congress, fearing that the lawsuits might scare off foreign investors, leaving little hope of alleviating widespread poverty and instability.
This sticking point has been hotly debated in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, over the past week, according to people familiar with the negotiations. While disappointed that their country did not receive the so-called legal peace it demanded, officials said Sudanese leaders ultimately decided to stay in peace deals with Israel in exchange for $ 931 million. US aid, loans and debt relief included in the spending bill – and take on 9/11 families in court.
“Sudan is convinced that it will go against these claims,” said Christopher M. Curran, a Washington-based lawyer who was among Sudan’s representatives in the negotiations.
He said Sudan maintained that it did not support Al Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and was only held responsible for the bombings against the embassy in East Africa. after the government of its former president and dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, failed to defend itself in US courts.
Officials on all sides of the debate hope the new aid will help stabilize Sudan and potentially prevent it from being a breeding ground for extremism.
The United States “has critical strategic and national security interests to support Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy,” said Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, both Democrats. “However, this support must not and will not come at the expense of protecting the rights of victims of terrorism.”