Sudan’s civilian prime minister has been restored, but protests continue: NPR

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Sudanese women chant during a demonstration demanding a return to civilian rule in the capital Khartoum on Sunday.

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Sudanese women chant during a demonstration demanding a return to civilian rule in the capital Khartoum on Sunday.

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One month after a coup overthrew civilian leaders in Sudan, protesters demanded a return to civilian rule. And the military seems to be regaining its grip on power.

The military has restored the civilian prime minister, but as recently as today the streets were once again filled with protesters urging the military to stop interfering in governing the country.

How Sudan got to this point

Recent years have been full of ups and downs for Sudan. In 2019, popular protests led to a coup that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir and a transitional government was formed.

Since last month, the military has carried out another coup and arrested many civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. That was when tens of thousands took to the streets to protest. Dozens of them were killed as a result.

To reduce the conflict with protesters, the military signed an agreement with Hamdok. He was released from detention and reappointed Sudan’s Prime Minister. Hamdok says he accepted the agreement because he did not want more protesters killed.

Sudan’s Supreme General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok lift documents during a ceremony to sign an agreement restoring the transition to civilian rule in the capital, Khartoum, on November 21, 2021.

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Sudan’s Supreme General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok lift documents during a ceremony to sign an agreement restoring the transition to civilian rule in the capital, Khartoum, on November 21, 2021.

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What the protesters are asking for

Sudan’s problems are both economic and social – and they are deep. Many people had hopes in 2019 after al-Bashir was ousted. They hoped that the 2019 coup would liberalize the country, create lasting peace in the regions outside Khartoum and make it more democratic.

But many Sudanese say it feels like a long away goal, perhaps even impossible. Zainab Adel and Nawrz Salah have joined the protests for several years. They are both young women who say that their hopes are being tested.

Sudanese anti-coup protesters wave the national flag during a demonstration in the Khartoum-Bahri district of the capital on November 25, 2021.

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Sudanese anti-coup protesters wave the national flag during a demonstration in the Khartoum-Bahri district of the capital on November 25, 2021.

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“I do not know how to express my feelings,” says Adel. “I do not want to live here.”

Salah says that after what happened recently, she is afraid that the pace of change in Sudan will be slow. Maybe, she estimates, the country she dreams of will develop in 10 years.

That appreciation comes in part because the agreement that Prime Minister Hamdok signed with the military is a power-sharing agreement. Under the agreement, Hamdok is prime minister, but General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will continue to lead the transitional government.

How the deal could shape Sudan’s future

During Thursday’s protests, tens of thousands of protesters gathered across the country to reject the agreement. Protesters in Khartoum said they had no problem rejecting Hamdok either.

At the moment, this is a struggle between pragmatism and idealism, where Hamdok seems to have taken the pragmatic path. His argument is that the military has the weapons, so there is no way to override them without more bloodshed.

On the other hand, the protesters are more idealistic. They want the military to be completely removed from the government and held accountable by a civilian commander-in-chief.

Sudanese anti-coup protesters take part in a demonstration on “Street 40” in the capital’s left-wing town of Omdurman on November 25, 2021.

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Sudanese anti-coup protesters take part in a demonstration on “Street 40” in the capital’s left-wing town of Omdurman on November 25, 2021.

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As he walked past burning tires and barricaded streets, protester Mohammed Hajj said they were not angry at Hamdok or even at the security forces that have killed dozens of protesters. But their goal was clear: If Sudan is to change, the military must relinquish power.

“This movement is not about anger,” he said. “We try to build a better future for our children. We do not even think about living that future.”

In the past, Hamdok has been able to guide the majority of young protesters to accept pragmatic agreements that are stepping stones on Sudan’s path to democracy, but what is obvious at the moment is that he is out of step with the protesters on the streets of Sudan. .

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