(WASHINGTON) — A group of Democratic U.S. senators are pushing for the introduction of a bill that would help conclude a settlement agreement between terror victims and the government of Sudan.
The $300+ million deal would see money disbursed to those impacted by the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya & Tanzania.
US courts held Sudan liable because at one point in the 1990’s it harboured al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden & operatives even though it found no direct link between Khartoum & the attacks.
The tentative agreement brokered with the help of US State department lawyers stipulated that in return for payment the US congress would pass legislation reinstating Sudan’s sovereign immunity retroactively.
The proposed law would shield from any new claims arising from terrorist attacks that occurred during its inclusion on the list of states that sponsor terrorism.
It would also pave the way for removing Sudan from the US terrorism list which was decided in 1993 by then US president Bill Clinton.
But the accord, which has the backing of the Trump administration, was frustrated by objections from key Democrats on the Senate foreign relations committee including the ranking member Robert Menendez who asserted that it discriminates against non-US victims particularly Africans who later became naturalized.
The plan would pay $10 million for each U.S. government employee who was an American national when killed, but only $800,000 for each government employee who was a foreign national. Injuries for the U.S. nationals would be worth from $3 million to $10 million, compared with $400,000 for foreign nationals.
Overall, the settlement would provide $235 million for U.S. citizens and the families of U.S. citizens hurt or killed in the bombings and $100 million for foreign nationals.
According to US News website ’The Hill’, a group of democratic US senators seek to include the deal in the upcoming appropriations bill that must be passed by Congress before government money runs out by month-end.
This includes Senators Chris Coons and Tim Kaine - two members of the Foreign Relations Committee - and Senators Chris Van Hollen and Mark Warner who have many federal employees in their home states. Coons is the lead Democratic supporter and it also has strong Republican backing.
Coons told the Hill that he is "trying very hard to resolve some differences between some important senators on the [Foreign Relations] committee."
He said he also spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the August congressional recess about how to move forward, as well as the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.
"My folks are continuing to meet and negotiate with representatives of different groups, whether it’s American nationals whose family members were victims of terrorism or others with real concerns about this," Coons said.
"I’m very eager for us to resolve this in an appropriate and just way because I think the democratic transition in Sudan is fragile and the government in Khartoum, which is in civilian hands at the moment, badly needs to be able to access international investment," he added.
"I’m hopeful there’s a path forward," said the Senator.
Coons said he’s "very anxious" for a deal to be done and not wait until the lame-duck session in December.
Last July Coons pressed Pompeo on the issue during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late July.
Pompeo agreed that finding a solution "is really important."
"We’ve proposed that there’s [a] legal peace resolution in legislation that would be before Congress here in the very, very near term. We think it’s the appropriate time to both bring justice to those from the 1998 bombings and get a real opportunity for Prime Minister Hamdok," Pompeo said.
Many observers believe that this may be the only opportunity in the foreseeable future to resolve the issue given that the US elections are closing in.
They also assert that Sudan is witnessing one of the most serious economic crisis stemming from COVID-19 situation, lack of international support and one of the worst floods in history.
“The transitional government is in a very tenuous position,” a congressional aide told Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last May and faced a domestic backlash when it agreed to pay $30 million to the families of 17 U.S. sailors killed in the Cole bombing rather than address local needs.
“There’s a very small window of opportunity for the victims to get anything.”
Source: Sudan Tribune