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Sudan's pro-democracy movement hopes to force a transition to civilian rule

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's head overseas now and check in on events in Sudan. It's been more than two weeks since Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned. He had tried and failed to broker an agreement between the military and a massive pro-democracy movement. Hamdok's resignation only further fueled protests in the streets of the capital Khartoum and other cities. Protests ignited by a military coup back in October.

Kholood Khair is a managing partner at Insight Strategy Partners. That's a think tank based in Khartoum. We reached her in Nairobi. And first, I wanted to know, what do her contacts in Khartoum say about how the protests are going?

KHOLOOD KHAIR: So today was another big protest day. The trend that we're seeing increasingly is that there is more violence from the regime. So today, for example, we've heard that around 70 people have been shot, some of them by snipers.

KELLY: Seventy people shot just today.

KHAIR: Just today.

KELLY: Wow.

KHAIR: And seven already confirmed dead as we speak. But, of course, that number looks set to rise just because of the nature of the wounds that are being sustained. Of course, alongside that, you get, you know, the disappearances of different activists from different walks of life. You get, you know, the other human rights abuses, rapes both at the protests and then also between protests. But the protesters have said that they will continue to go out into the streets and push for full civilian democracy. So this looks set to continue.

KELLY: What do the protesters want, and how unified a movement is this? Is it a diverse coalition? Just paint me a picture of who these people are.

KHAIR: So, you know, the Sudanese street is a very large and very diverse group of people. So you have women's groups, students' groups. You have neighborhood initiatives. You have just individuals who are sort of sick and tired of the repression first under Bashir and now under the new military junta. But at the bedrock of the street movement are the neighborhood resistance committees, which are, by and large, made of young people who work within their neighborhoods to bring about a political coalition to unify, effectively, the voice of the street and push for civilian democracy.

The unfortunate thing with the resistance committees is that while they have been the most active and the most united part of the civilian block, they haven't really been taken as seriously because they refuse, quite rightly, to become a political party. They refuse to behave in many of the ways that political parties have in Sudan because they see that it's not going to get them what they want. Political parties typically fragment. They cannot sort of agree to work together. Resistance committees have made that the hallmark of their political approach.

KELLY: Well, and - I mean, it had been looking as though Sudan was on a path to democracy after the revolution you mentioned that ousted a longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir. Is it clear what the military wants? Is there any sign that the military might be interested in stepping aside and steering Sudan back onto that path to democracy?

KHAIR: It doesn't seem like the military is invested in such a process. And that is embedded in their desire to evade accountability on many fronts. So what we have now is a political landscape where it looks like, tacitly or overtly, all sorts of international actors from, you know, liberal democratic countries to more autocratic countries in the Gulf - they all end up supporting the military in some shape or form because they feel that the military is some kind of boon for stability. But, of course, that hasn't played out either under Bashir and certainly now, when we're seeing so much instability in the country both politically, both in terms of security out in the streets and also economically.

KELLY: Kholood Khair of Insight Strategy Partners - that's a Khartoum think tank - thank you.

KHAIR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Ashish Valentine
Ashish Valentine joined NPR as its second-ever Reflect America fellow and is now a production assistant at All Things Considered. As well as producing the daily show and sometimes reporting stories himself, his job is to help the network's coverage better represent the perspectives of marginalized communities.
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