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After Nearly 30 Years In Power, Sudan's Autocratic Leader Is Out In A Military Coup


After nearly 30 years in power, Sudan's autocratic leader is out in a military coup. Sudan's defense minister announced the news on state TV.


AHMED AWAD IBN AUF: (Foreign language spoken).

SHAPIRO: He said President Omar al-Bashir had been arrested, and the army would oversee a two-year transition period. This follows months of unprecedented demonstrations seeking his ouster. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now with the latest. Hi, Eyder.


SHAPIRO: First, just tell us what happened today.

PERALTA: So for a few days, now thousands of protesters have been camping near President Omar al-Bashir's palace. They were calling for his ouster. And today, people woke up to military songs on state TV. Tanks started rolling across the streets of the capital Khartoum, and troops surrounded the presidential palace. And at that point, everyone sort of figured out what was happening, and they flooded the streets.

It was absolute elation. Thousands of people - young people, old people, kids - they poured out onto the streets. They sang. They chanted. They flashed the victory sign. And hours later, the country's defense minister came on state TV. He was wearing his military uniform. And he read a statement. This was a classic coup d'etat. President Omar al-Bashir had been arrested and thrown out of power by his own military.

And it's really worth pausing on that, Ari, because Omar al-Bashir has been just one of the most ruthless tyrants on the African continent. In the '90s, the U.S. accused him of giving Osama bin Laden a place to hide. And at home, his security forces acted with just unrestrained violence. He tried to extinguish a rebellion in the south with a bloody war. And he was charged with war crimes, with genocide, for what his military did in Darfur.

Omar al-Bashir has the distinction of being the only sitting president to have had a warrant out for his arrest from the International Criminal Court. So his demise is big. This is a historic moment for the continent and the Arab world.

SHAPIRO: And do you know where he is? Is he likely to be brought to justice?

PERALTA: We don't, actually. All the military has said is that he is under arrest, quote, "someplace safe." But where he is has not been revealed.

SHAPIRO: As we said, this comes after months of anti-government protests. What are the protesters you've talked to today saying about this?

PERALTA: They were looking for the regime to fall. They wanted to oust the whole government and all of its affiliated security forces. I spoke to Dalia al-Rubaie (ph), a member of one of the opposition parties. And she says one of their demands is for the military to hand over power to a civilian transitional government. And this coup just means that the same ruling party, the NCP, is still in charge. Let's listen to a bit of what she told me.

DALIA AL-RUBI: It's completely unacceptable. You know, the assumption that people will actually believe that this is not another face of the NCP is really quite insulting. And they're underestimating the knowledge and awareness and commitment of the people in the streets and their convictions for change.

PERALTA: So she says protesters will stay on the streets.

SHAPIRO: And there's going to be this two-year interim government. What does the future hold for Sudan?

PERALTA: I think the stage is set for some kind of confrontation between protesters and the military because, you know, the military says there will be a three-month state of emergency. And they say there is now a night time curfew.

So will the protesters defy the curfew? Will the military continue to allow mass protests? Or, you know, will they react violently, as they have in the very recent past? That's hard to tell. But I think what we know for sure is that this coup against Omar al-Bashir has not resolved the political crisis in Sudan.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta. Thank you so much, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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