Sudan's new prime minister has pledged that his country will soon compensate hundreds of Kenyans and Tanzanians who have been awarded nearly $6 billion in compensation for the 1998 US embassies bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
“We took corporate responsibility on addressing these claims and reaching an agreement on them,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told the Wall Street Journal in the US last week.
“A settlement with Kenyan and Tanzanian survivors of some of those killed in the attacks will be reached “definitely in weeks, not months,” Mr Hamdok said.
But US attorneys representing the affected families are sceptical about Mr Hamdok's assurance.
At issue are payments by Sudan to 570 relatives of US embassy employees or contractors killed in al-Qaeda's nearly simultaneous attacks on the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
None of the awards ordered by US courts will be available to the thousands of Kenyans and Tanzanians who were harmed by the attacks either directly or indirectly but who were not employed by the embassies or by private companies that did business with the embassies.
224 PEOPLE DIED
A total of 224 people died in the twin bombings — 214 in Nairobi and 10 in Dar. The death toll includes 212 Africans and 12 Americans.
US courts have held Sudan liable for $5.9 billion in compensatory damages to the designated groups of survivors because it sheltered al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as he plotted the embassy attacks.
The survivors could receive an additional $4.3 billion if the US Supreme Court overturns a decision by a lower court disqualifying them from punitive damages that would also be paid by Sudan.
“We have reached out to the attorneys representing Sudan and offered various creative proposals for resolution of their obligations to the victims of the bombings,” Chicago-based attorney Gavriel Mairone said in an email message.
Those offers “take into consideration Sudan's economic situation and the economic situation of our clients whose lives have been destroyed and many of whom were thrown into poverty for the last 20 years with the loss of their 'breadwinners' (fathers or mothers / spouses),” Mr Mairone wrote.
“We are waiting for a serious counter-proposal from the prime minister,” added the attorney who specialises in terrorism-related cases.
Mr William Wheeler, a US attorney also involved in the Sudan litigation, said in a separate message to the Nation, “We are always working very hard to obtain settlements for our clients, but it is too early to make any type of prediction.”
Prime Minister Hamdok held talks in Washington last week with the aim of having Sudan removed from the US list of countries that are said to sponsor terrorism.
Sudan was hit with that designation in 1993. Sanctions arising from that blacklisting have prevented the country from participating fully in the global economy.
In order to be removed from the terrorism list, Sudan must meet a series of US conditions, including payments to the embassy bomb victims.
Mr Hamdok was appointed prime minister in August in the wake of an uprising that topped long-ruling Sudan dictator Omar al-Bashir.
The new leader has promised to institute sweeping reforms in Sudan's domestic and international policies.
Mr Mairone, however, is not convinced that the prime minister will make good on his stated intentions.
“The road forward requires the government of Sudan to demonstrate its commitment to international norms through deeds, and not merely aspirational words,” the attorney said.
Sudanese officials, he added, have previously been “pleading poverty as an excuse for 'getting away with murder' without accepting the responsibility for the harms and economic devastation they inflicted upon the victims.”