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Sudanese Activist On What Comes Next


In Sudan this weekend, demand for change continues. President Omar al-Bashir stepped down Thursday after 30 years in power. During that time, he sheltered terrorists and was accused of allowing genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. His defense minister took his place, but that man stepped aside on Friday. Then yesterday, the country's head of security and intelligence resigned. And Sudanese activists are pressing for more. That includes Mayada Hassanain, an economist based in Khartoum. She's been protesting there for months, and she joins us now.

Mayada, welcome to the program.

MAYADA HASSANAIN: Thank you, Sacha. It's good to be here.

PFEIFFER: So I assume that the past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for Sudan. It finally ousted its leader, but then another autocrat took his place. And that spurred more protests. And suddenly, that person was also gone. How are you feeling now?

HASSANAIN: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely been - it feels a lot longer than a week, for sure. And you know, we've kind of been dealing with just so many emotions. And you know, I've been feeling very hopeful and then suddenly somewhat doubtful. And then, you know, it's back to just being, you know, persistent and making sure that everything that's happened so far is not lost.

And yeah, I mean, it's definitely been a very emotionally charged, you know, few months and especially just the last week. I mean, I think now morales are high. I think people are still, you know, just sort of keeping their eye on their prize of a full democratic transition to a civilian-led government and not a military-led government.

PFEIFFER: When the defense minister stepped in, was that viewed as a coup - and not in a good way?

HASSANAIN: Absolutely, absolutely. You're absolutely right. It was viewed as a coup. It was not - it was - it was viewed - it's sort of a little bit complicated because people were still celebrating the fact that Omar al-Bashir was no longer president. I mean, after 30 years, that is definitely something that you want people to feel happy about, you know?

But at the same time, what was very interesting was that the people still understood that even though they wanted to give themselves time to sort of celebrate on the streets, they knew that this is not the transition that they were going out on the streets protesting for. This was sort of an internal coup on Omar al-Bashir and the select, you know, few of the leaders in there in the National Congress Party and that it was sort of, like, theatrics of change as opposed to the actual, you know, complete transition out of military rule, out of authoritarian rule, out of, you know, NCP repression.


HASSANAIN: National Congress Party - that is the party that Omar al-Bashir is the head off.

PFEIFFER: You've said that you want civilian leadership eventually. Even beyond that, what's your long-term hope for Sudan and its government?

HASSANAIN: I mean - you know, as of now, ever since sort of the protests emerged, there was - there's a document called the Declaration of Freedom and Change. And it has, you know, nine main points that move from, you know, reparations to ending the war to women's empowerment to, you know, building civilian capabilities. And this document has sort of had, you know, so much support. So many of the protesters are aware of it. They're like, yes, this is what we want.

You know, there's just these demands like, you know, ending the war in Darfur and Blue Nile, South Kordofan; making sure that people in these conflict zones get, you know, the reparations that they're owed; you know, making sure that the institutions that were sort of built around the NCP and the ruling party and Omar al-Bashir are kind of dismantled. These are just some of the examples that people really and truly want.

And I think, most of all, they just want to make sure that the pillars of, you know, a democratic system that are unwavering and that can withstand, you know, future challenges are put in place now.

PFEIFFER: Mayada, just from your voice, we can hear that you're relatively young; you are youthful. And women and young people have taken on central roles in these protests. Why do you think that is?

HASSANAIN: Well, I think it's because, you know, they have the higher stake in this. You know, it's essentially their future that is being shaped right now by, you know - and that has been shaped by the policies of the NCP over the past three decades. And I think they, you know, unfortunately felt, you know, the brunt of all these unfair policies, of all the corruption, of all of the state repression. You know, it's incredible. So many of the protesters are, you know, as young as 15, 16. It's amazing to see all these people just out in the streets literally putting themselves on the front line of death to fight for their own futures and futures of future generations.

PFEIFFER: That's Mayada Hassanain, who's been among the protesters in Khartoum, Sudan.

Mayada, thank you so much.

HASSANAIN: Thank you very much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.