NOEL KING, HOST:
Sudan was moving toward democracy. Sudanese civilians, helped by the military, deposed a dictator in 2019. But then today the military arrested the transitional government's leaders and put the acting prime minister under house arrest. U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman says Washington is deeply alarmed by what's going on. Feltman says a change in the government by force would be, in his words, utterly unacceptable. NPR's Eyder Peralta is covering the story from Ethiopia. Hi, Eyder.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.
KING: So this is a developing story throughout the morning. What do we know so far?
PERALTA: So this is now officially a military coup. The military leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, came on state TV, and he said that he was dissolving the transitional government, and he was declaring a national state of emergency. The office of the civilian leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, released a statement saying that he was, quote, "kidnapped" and saying that this action by the government is, quote, "a complete coup against the gains of the revolution." The internet and the cell networks have been almost entirely cut off. But activists are calling on people to take to the streets to protest against the military, and they're sending us videos that show thousands of people on the streets of Khartoum. They're resorting to the old chants that we heard when Omar al-Bashir was toppled in 2019. They're calling for a revolution, calling for the fall of the regime.
I spoke to Osman Hadadi (ph), an activist, and he was on the streets of Khartoum watching military trucks trying to get rid of roadblocks that they had set up. And he was defiant. Let's listen.
OSMAN HADIDI: No one can stop the Sudanese dream. No one can stop the people's dream. Right now the dream of the Sudanese people is updated day by day - day by day.
PERALTA: The dream, he's saying, is being fought for every day, he says, but the fact is, the military has now taken power once more, pushing civilians out of the equation and perhaps returning Sudan to a military dictatorship.
KING: How did that happen? Because in 2019, and from then on, we are talking about a popular uprising that, along with the military, deposes a much-hated dictator.
KING: Everything looks fine. And then how do we get here?
PERALTA: So the military had agreed that after a certain period, they would cede power to civilians. And this was a fantastic time in Sudan. I was there. There was music. There was hope. And the military was supposed to turn over power next month. There was a tussle between them and the civilians. And now they're making it clear that they are staying. And if this coup sets in, it could mark the end of one of the most remarkable pro-democracy movements we've seen recently on the African continent.
And the activists that made this happen are heartbroken. I spoke to one in Khartoum who's afraid of getting arrested, so they asked me that I don't use their name, but let me read you one of the messages that they sent me. They say, (reading) I had two panic attacks already. It's too familiar, and I just don't know how we can repeat this again. I just don't know how we can survive another nationwide trauma. We deserve so much better.
KING: Extraordinary. In the meantime, you are in Ethiopia, which is itself in the middle of a civil war - all of this happening on the Horn of Africa, which seems particularly unstable right now.
PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, look; this is a season of heartbreak here in East Africa. A similar fragile democratic transition here in Ethiopia has now ended in civil war. And Sudanese government officials I've talked to worry that the fissures between the military and between political factions in that country are deep, and a coup just exacerbates them, and they worry about the potential for violence.
KING: NPR's Eyder Peralta in Ethiopia. Thanks, Eyder.
PERALTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.