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Sudan's military reinstate prime minister as protesters prepare for a demonstration

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A month after a coup ousted civilian leaders in Sudan, protesters demanded a return to civilian rule. Now, the military seems to be walking things back. They've reinstated the civilian prime minister, but protesters are getting ready for another big demonstration.

NPR's Eyder Peralta is in the Sudanese capital. Welcome back, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: First, can you bring us up to speed on just the last few weeks that brought Sudan to this point?

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, look, the past few years have been a roller coaster for Sudan. I mean, in 2019, popular protests prompted a coup that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. A transitional government was formed, and last month, the military pulled off another coup. They put a lot of civilian leaders under arrest, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. But the Sudanese took to the streets by the tens of thousands to protest. Dozens were killed.

And now, the military seems to be trying to walk back its power grab. This week, Hamdok signed a deal with the military. He was released from detention and reappointed the prime minister. And he said he accepted the deal because he just didn't want any more protesters killed on the streets.

CORNISH: Where are you in the capital and what have you been seeing and hearing from people there?

PERALTA: I'm near downtown. And in a lot of ways, life is pretty normal here. Shops are open. Traffic is moving. But some streets are still blockaded by protesters. And we saw young people walking around handing out posters with pictures of some of the demonstrators who had been killed by the military.

I spent a while today talking to a group of friends who were gathered at a cafe. They were all women in their 20s, and all of them were just depressed about what was happening. Let's listen to two of them - Zaydnab Abdel (ph) and Naurest Saley (ph).

ZAYDNAB ABDEL: I don't know how to express my feelings (unintelligible). I just hate it. I hate Sudan. I don't want to live here.

NAUREST SALEY: After these situations, I don't know (unintelligible). Maybe 10 years, then...

PERALTA: 10 years?

SALEY: Yes, 10 years. Then we can be a country or - we don't have electricity. We don't have water. We don't have any.

PERALTA: So the problems of Sudan go deep. They're economic. They're social. And when Bashir was ousted in 2019, there was so much hope that the country would change, that it would liberalize, that it would become more democratic. And now, to them, that seems far away or even impossible.

But there's a huge protest, like you mentioned, tomorrow, and organizers are calling for a million people to show up to the streets. I asked these two young women if they would go, and without hesitation, they said, absolutely.

CORNISH: What are some of the other demands - policy demands that demonstrators will be calling for?

PERALTA: They're actually really simple. They want the military to get out of the business of running the country. And the reason they're protesting is because this deal that was signed between the military and Prime Minister Hamdok is essentially a power-sharing agreement. Under the terms, Hamdok is prime minister, but General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will continue to lead this transitional government.

And tomorrow looks like a pivotal day. And if lots of Sudanese show up, it will be a repudiation of the deal and of the civilian leader who accepted it.

CORNISH: What are the prospects, though, for such a deal and how could it shape the future of Sudan?

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, that's the huge question. And I think it's a battle between pragmatism and idealism. Prime Minister Hamdok seems to have taken the pragmatic route. He's arguing that the military are the ones with the guns and there is no way to sideline them without bloodshed. And the streets are dreaming big.

But look, in the past, Hamdok has been able to guide the mostly young people who take to the streets to accept pragmatic deals that inch Sudan toward democracy. It's unclear whether he'll be able to do that again this time.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta reporting from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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