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Protestors in Sudan took to the streets Thursday to push for civilian rule

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Protesters in Sudan won a victory this week. They forced the military to reinstall the prime minister, the same prime minister the military had ousted and detained in a coup last month. But the protesters want more, and they took to the streets yesterday to demand it. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HONKING)

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Almost at exactly 1 o'clock, protesters emerged from buildings and cars and started blocking streets with cobblestones and burning tires.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

PERALTA: Earlier this week, after massive protests across the country, the military had released Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. On state TV, he signed a deal vowing to work with the military toward civilian rule. It was a huge win for the protest movement, but here they were again demanding much more than the prime minister had agreed to. Mai Faisal (ph) was flinging stones to the middle of the street.

MAI FAISAL: (Through interpreter) Our demands are not about bringing back Hamdok. This is not our demand. Our demand is putting an end to the military rule.

PERALTA: What do you say to people who are saying that you are being idealistic?

FAISAL: (Through interpreter) We were told the same when we took the street during Bashir regime.

PERALTA: But in five months, one of Africa's longest serving dictators was gone. The U.S. and others have encouraged protesters to work with the military. They have the guns. There is no other way, they've said. But protesters are taking a hard line. The military plotted a coup. They've killed unarmed protesters. They say the time to negotiate with them is over. The stance puts protesters in direct conflict with Hamdok, their civilian leader. And as the protesters begin to march, that tension is on full display.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

PERALTA: Hamdok is weak, they chant, but the streets are strong. But just as quickly, other protesters changed the chant to direct their ire at the military.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

PERALTA: Kholood Khair, a political analyst, says that during the month Hamdok spent under military detention, he had become the symbol of the Sudanese struggle against the military.

KHOLOOD KHAIR: But he lost that in very short order with the signing of that agreement on the 21st.

PERALTA: The agreement allows Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to continue leading Sudan. And as Hajir (ph) sees it, there is nothing in it to prevent the military from plotting another coup. The military, she says, has gotten much of what it wanted, including splitting the street from Hamdok.

KHAIR: The vast majority of people still feel that he has now, in many ways, sold out, that actually he is not the linchpin of the civilian resistance.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

PERALTA: At the protest, a dozen protesters turned into thousands - old people, young people, rich and poor. And there was clarity of purpose. They were moving ahead with their demands, with or without Prime Minister Hamdok.

MOHAMED HAJ: My father, my grandfather, my grandgrandfather (ph) - they are under a military rule.

PERALTA: That is protestor Mohamed Haj (ph). With few fleeting exceptions, Sudanese have only known military rule. And they're done. And that's not some idealistic dream, he says. They've been on the streets for two years, and they know it's going to take more time and more lives to change Sudan. But Haj (ph) says they are ready.

HAJ: We are trying to build a better future for our children. We are not thinking even to live that future.

PERALTA: They're ready for that future, even if they don't get to live it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

PERALTA: Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Khartoum.

(SOUNDBITE OF COCTEAU TWINS SONG, "PANDORA (FOR CINDY)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.