Sudan Military Rulers Meet With Opposition Leaders Who Demand A Transition Of Power

Apr 29, 2019
Originally published on April 30, 2019 2:01 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Sudan's military rulers are in talks with opposition leaders about what comes next. Protesters have been demonstrating in the streets for months now. They scored one victory when Sudan's longtime strongman, Omar al-Bashir, stepped down a couple weeks ago. Now they're demanding that the military cede power to a transitional council led by civilians. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from the capital, Khartoum. Hey, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: I can hear you surrounded by these demonstrations. Can you just describe what they look like today?

PERALTA: Yeah. So I'm in the middle of this huge military complex. It's the headquarters of the Sudanese armed forces. And two weeks ago, right here, there was gunfire and a huge battle for power. And right now, it's just celebration. You have to remember that Omar al-Bashir ushered in an Islamist government here 30 years ago, and the government has controlled basically every aspect of Sudanese' lives.

And what you're hearing in the background is a celebration of new freedoms. But as you mentioned, there is still a huge question hanging in the air. And that's that the same military that was responsible for ruthless repression is still in power.

CHANG: And what are the people that you're meeting out there - what are they telling you?

PERALTA: One protester told me that it feels like they can finally breathe. This is an incredibly positive crowd. It feels like a music festival, like Coachella. It doesn't feel like a protest. So this change is not insignificant. But this sit-in, it's still going on. And everyone I spoke to says they will not leave the streets until this military hands over power to civilian hands.

CHANG: Now, as we mentioned, opposition leaders have been meeting with the military to hammer out the next steps. What's their ultimate goal?

PERALTA: So the ultimate goal - the protesters want a civilian rule. And over the weekend, the military and civilians and the protesters, they met. And they agreed that there would be some kind of power-sharing agreement when they form a transitional government. And that is progress. The problem is what that looks like.

The protesters want this council to be made up mostly of civilians, and the military is essentially proposing staying in power. They want a 10-member council, and seven of them would be military. And that's - it's pretty clear that the protesters, they won't accept that formula. So there's still a stalemate here.

CHANG: So here in the U.S., you know, we've been able to follow along with Sudan's protests just by looking through social media. What are people there saying about the role social media is playing in this story?

PERALTA: I mean, it's played a huge role, no doubt. I mean, there's been no free media here for a long time. So all of this protest that you're hearing in the back, it's been organized online. The professionals association that led this movement, they communicated on Twitter. And this revolution has been documented by the participants. When you look around here, suddenly you'll see a constellation of lights. And those are cellphones that suddenly are turning their attention to a person on stage or to a bunch of kids doing mock interviews of each other.

CHANG: And Omar al-Bashir, the deposed president, where is he now? I mean, what sort of justice is he likely to face?

PERALTA: Well, I mean, he's in prison here in Sudan. But he is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide for what his army did in Darfur. At the moment, it appears unlikely that he will be extradited to face those charges. But it seems that the Sudanese people will try to hold him accountable for his crimes. But how that's going to happen that's unclear.

CHANG: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta speaking to us from Khartoum, Sudan. Thank you, Eyder.

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