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Civil Disobedience Campaign Enters Second Day In Sudan

Jun 10, 2019
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now to Sudan and Day 2 of a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing the ruling military junta to give up power and hand it over to a civilian government. Now, this comes one week after troops forcefully broke up a sit-in at the Defense Ministry. Dozens of people were killed. That sit-in had lasted two months and had succeeded in the peaceful overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir. It had given protesters hope for democracy.

NPR's Eyder Peralta is there. He is in the capital, Khartoum. He joins us now. Hey there.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hi. So what is the scene in Khartoum today? What is the mood among protesters?

PERALTA: So, I mean, it's still a pretty quiet city. About 80% of the stores are closed. It's not like yesterday, when the city was a ghost town, but it's not normal. I mean, this is a city that feels under siege.

Pretty much every block you drive through or walk through, there are paramilitary troops called the Rapid Support Forces. And they are on tanks and on pickup trucks with machine guns. They're on foot. They're patrolling with sticks and whips. And there's a real palpable fear in the air.

I was here about a month ago, and I was talking to people on the streets in the open. And now I'm doing interviews in moving vehicles. That's how scared people are.

KELLY: People - what, pulling them into the vehicle with you so that you can talk to them?

PERALTA: That's right because it's hard to talk on the streets because there's so many military men around. And also, you know, the government has shut down most of the Internet, so people don't know what's going on. So they're just very fearful. Some of them have just stayed home since the sit-in was broken up last week.

KELLY: And what about the violence? I mentioned dozens of people were killed. I know there's been some dispute over exactly how many with the opposition saying more than a hundred killed. The government says it's closer to 61 - but either way, a lot of people.

PERALTA: Yeah, and it's still happening - the violence - because protesters, they're still continuing to build roadblocks, and the security forces are dispersing them quickly. The government, you know, says that there's nothing going on. Today, they called us to a hospital to show us that it was open and that it was treating patients.

And I asked Dr. Mohamed Toum (ph), a government health official, about reports and video that we had seen of troops surrounding hospitals and shooting into them. And this is what he told me.

MOHAMED TOUM: No, if they are - if you are to fire on soldiers outside, they are to secure the facility because - for example, they need to secure the patients, secure the doctors or nurses who are working there.

PERALTA: So the troops were protecting the hospitals, he says. But as he said that, two young doctors shook their heads. They told me they couldn't talk to us about it, but it was clear from their faces and from the little that they told me that they did not agree with what this minister was saying.

KELLY: And when you talked to people, when you dragged them into the - into your moving vehicle with you to just try to find out what ordinary people are thinking, what do they tell you about what's going on in their country?

PERALTA: A lot of them can't believe what's happening. Khartoum, the capital, has always sort of been insulated from the violence and repression that the rest of the country has had. And this is really the first time that these paramilitary troops have been brought into the capital. And so they can't believe what they've done here, how much carnage they've suffered.

And I spoke to this one young woman who says she's leaving Sudan. She was one of the first female protesters on the scene, and she says she's too heartbroken to stay.

KELLY: NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from the streets of Khartoum in Sudan. Thank you very much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Mary Louise.

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