The morning of August 7, 1998, seemed no different from any other Friday morning — until the bomb went off. One moment, I was at my desk at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The next thing I remember was a suffocating darkness, the smell of smoke, and screams of coworkers.
Twenty years later, many of my former colleagues still sleep with the lights on to avoid being reminded of that horrible darkness. And all of us who survived still struggle to come to terms with that awful day.
The damage from that attack can’t be undone. But many of us who survived still believe in the possibility of a restorative justice that will increase the chance for peace in the region.
That is why we are hopeful that President Trump and Kenyan President Kenyatta will use their meeting this week and the changing diplomatic situation with the Republic of Sudan to finally secure justice for the victims and take a positive step toward peace in the region.
Sudan funded, sheltered, and trained the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. This fact was proven in U.S. Court during a long trial in 2010, which resulted in a judgment that Sudan pay compensation to U.S. embassy employees and their families. In 2014, French bank BNP Paribas pled guilty to laundering hundreds of billions of dollars for Sudan to help it bypass international sanctions and move money to terrorists.
For 20 years, the United States had imposed severe sanctions on Sudan for its support of terrorists and for refusing to abide by international law. This punitive measure restricted Sudan’s ability to do harm. But it also left the United States with little leverage to enforce our court judgments against Sudan and secure any type of restorative justice for Americans killed or injured by terrorists supported by the Sudanese government.
That all changed last year when President Trump lifted U.S. sanctions against Sudan to reward Sudan for distancing itself from terrorists — a first step toward normalizing relationships between Sudan and the West.
Despite the easing of sanctions, however, Sudan has continued to reject the validity of U.S. courts and refuse to pay reparations required under international law. And Sudan has yet to apologize to the Americans harmed by the terrorists it helped fund.
It is in the United States’ and Kenya’s interest for Sudan to rejoin the international community. But reconciliation can’t be achieved without honesty about the past.
The United States should not give Sudan the public acceptance and access to Western markets Sudan so desperately needs while it continues to reject the validity of U.S. courts and refuses to apologize for the central role it played in the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of U.S. and Kenyan citizens.
The meeting between the heads of state for the U.S. and Kenya is an ideal opportunity to send a clear message that Sudan must make amends for its role in the 1998 bombing before the United States will consider any additional steps toward normalization.
On behalf of the embassy employees who have waited 20 years for an American President to secure justice from Sudan, we hope President Trump will not let this opportunity pass us by.
Doreen Oport is a former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi who was badly burned and injured in the 1998 attack. She now lives in Texas.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.