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Protesters Demand Sudan Transition To A Civilian Government


Tensions in Sudan are flaring as thousands of protesters are refusing to break up a sit-in outside the military's headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

GREENE: Pro-democracy activists have camped out there for weeks demanding the ruling military council hand over power to a civilian government. These protests have ramped up despite Sudan's longtime leader Omar al-Bashir being ousted in a military coup weeks ago. NPR's Eyder Peralta has been out there with the protesters and joins us. And Eyder, I mean, these protesters have incredibly serious demands for the future of their country. It sounds festive out there, though.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: It does. I mean, if you remember Occupy Wall Street, it feels kind of like that. And it feels kind of like that and a mix of a music festival. And - but protesters here have surrounded the military headquarters. And they've set up tents and stages, and they're sleeping here. This is a 24-hour protest. And right now, it's about midday here, and it's 110 degrees. But as you can probably hear, they're still marching.

In a lot of ways, what you're hearing here is a celebration of a newfound freedom here in Sudan. Young Sudanese, they're flexing this newfound power. And they're telling the military in their face, in their territory, that they are not going to move until they hand power over to civilians.

GREENE: Well, is that going to happen? I mean, there had been negotiations with the military over the possibility of some kind of handover. But protesters are still out there and, as you say, don't seem to be going anywhere. So what is - what message are they sending now?

PERALTA: Yeah. And negotiations just - they haven't gone very well. I mean, over the weekend, there had been a breakthrough. Both sides agreed that there would be some kind of power-sharing agreement between the military and the protesters. But the military has been clear that they want to keep power. They want control of this transitional council. And what they have put on the table is that this council would have 10 members, and seven of them would be military.

The protesters say the military can keep a seat at the table because they say they need the protection of the military, but they want the majority. They want control. They want to control this transition. And they say that the military is just part and parcel of the Bashir regime, that they were the ones responsible for a lot of the atrocities that have happened in this country for the past few decades.

GREENE: So, I mean, is the military signaling, though, that they respect the idea of democracy even if they want to, you know, hang onto power through the transition?

PERALTA: This is happening. I mean, look, there's a new freedom here. But the military has said that the protesters have to get off the streets. And they are saying, we're not getting off the streets. In fact, they've started burning tires again, which they had not done since Bashir was ousted. So they are sticking to their ground here, the protesters. And the military's telling them, get off the streets.

GREENE: Quite a moment. That's NPR's Eyder Peralta. He's NPR's East Africa correspondent, hearing from him in the capital, Khartoum. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.