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A week after military coup, protests continue in Sudan

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A little more than a week after a military coup, protesters in Sudan are still out in the streets demanding civilian rule. Now, it's a pivotal moment for Sudan, which two years ago ousted its dictator and one of the most remarkable pro-democracy movements on the African continent. NPR's Eyder Peralta has been covering this story for the past few years, and he joins us from his base in South Africa to help us understand what's happening.

Eyder, let's just start with the protesters on the streets. What exactly do they say they want?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: They want something very simple. They want civilians to rule this country. I spoke to Khalid Ali (ph), and he's a businessman who runs a co-working space in Khartoum. And this weekend, he decided to go out into the streets. And he says everyone was out there - women, men, rich, poor - and all of them are determined to overturn this coup. And he says that as night fell, some of the militias who are allied with the government came out to - come out on pickup trucks, and they began shooting into the crowd. And I asked him, you know, were you not scared? Were people not scared?

KHALID ALI: Absolutely not. The public sentiment is a mix of anger and determination.

PERALTA: Do you think this coup can be overturned?

ALI: Absolutely. It has to be overturned. The people of Sudan have spoken. No military general will rule this country again. This is not going to happen. I mean, unless they decide to kill all of us - that's a different story.

PERALTA: I mean, many of the protesters I've spoken to say they are determined to leave future generations a democratic Sudan, even if that means death.

CORNISH: Can I ask a quick question, though? He said something - no military general will rule this country again. But earlier, we talked about Sudan being, you know, home to a major pro-democracy movement. Can you give us a window into what happened?

PERALTA: Back in 2019, thousands of protesters camped out outside of military headquarters. And Sudan's long-time dictator - he ruled for almost 30 years - Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a military coup. And civilian politicians and the military generals who ousted Bashir came to an agreement that after a certain period, Sudan would have a civilian government. This month, the military was supposed to turn over power to the civilians, and the military reneged on that deal.

CORNISH: Right now, I understand that no civilian politician really wants to work with the military there. So is there any kind of negotiation that's an option, and who would push the parties there?

PERALTA: I think that's the problem, that the positions right now seem at complete odds. You know, the U.S. has a special envoy to the region. And the U.S. is very much pushing the parties to the status quo before the coup, which was a power-sharing agreement. But right now, that just seems - that seems out of step with what the streets want in Sudan. And look. These streets are - they have a lot of experience. They've run these protests for years. They brought down Omar al-Bashir. And I think right now they're confident that they can bring down this new military leadership.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta. He's speaking to us from Cape Town, South Africa, where he's based.

Thanks so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.