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Upset Over Rising Prices, Protesters In Sudan Take To The Streets


This is what the past week has sounded like across the northeast African country of Sudan.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Foreign language spoken).

GREENE: Protesters have been on the streets by the thousands demanding the ouster of an 3-three-decade-old regime. And the government has responded with violence. Human rights groups say at least 37 people have been killed. NPR's Eyder Peralta has been following this story from his post in Nairobi.

Hi, Eyder.


GREENE: So let's start with why people are in the streets in Sudan. This has to do with food, right?

PERALTA: It does. It started over the price of bread. The government decided to end subsidies, and the price of bread tripled overnight. But this really speaks to the huge economic problems faced by Sudan. This is a country that is still reeling from the loss of most of its oil revenue when South Sudan became independent. So the country has seen inflation go through the roof. People can't get cash; they make hours' worth of lines for $20. And then they get to the stores, and the shelves are bare. But look. Today I was talking to Wael (ph), who's a protester in the capital, Khartoum, who only wanted his first name used because he's afraid of the government. And here's what he told me.

WAEL: It's not about economics. It's about - they are not going to improve the country. I am 25 years old. I cannot see my future here inside this country.

PERALTA: So life is hard is what he's saying. But he feels like the government does have the resources and they're just misusing it. They're looking out for themselves, he says, so President Omar al-Bashir has to go.

GREENE: I just listen to that. I mean, it's a young voice we have heard from so many countries in the world, someone demanding more of their government. And you have Omar al-Bashir in power for, as we said, some 30 years - a strong man. I mean, could this be the end of his rule there?

PERALTA: Let me play you something that will explain a lot.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

PERALTA: So that's what people across Sudan are chanting. And it translates roughly to - the people demand the fall of the regime. And if you remember, that was a hugely popular chant during the Arab Spring.


PERALTA: And the Sudanese, they took to the streets back then, too. And since 2011, people have taken to the streets. And every single time, the security forces have managed to tamp these protests down. Analysts I've spoken to say this is a bit different. There is a lot more people on the streets, and this seems like an emboldened protest movement. Across the country, we've seen reports that protesters have attacked government buildings. And one more thing that's good to remember is that popular protest movements have brought down two governments in Sudan, once in 1964 and again in 1985.

GREENE: But Eyder, besides sending police out on the streets and causing people to die and be injured, has the government actually said anything about trying to improve people's lives?

PERALTA: So President Omar al-Bashir delivered a speech a few days ago, but he blamed everyone else. He said that the protests were part of agents and mercenaries and infiltrators who are just trying to exploit these economic hardships. We've also seen some reports that the troops who have been sent to deal with protesters have instead sided with them. So that's something really important to watch. But the military has officially issued a statement that they are 100 percent with President al-Bashir.

GREENE: Eyder, Thanks a lot.

PERALTA: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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