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In Sudan, a new revolution to keep the spirit of an old revolution alive

After a popular uprising brought down the regime of former president Omar Al Bashir in 2019, a transitional government has led Sudan. It established a timetable for democratic elections, and started undertaking economic reforms. But to some Sudanese, the pace of reforms has been too slow. Special Correspondent Benedict Moran and video journalist Jorgen Samso report.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In 2019, a popular uprising in Sudan brought down longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, who the government promised to send to the international criminal court where he is wanted for war crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing. Since then, a transitional government has led the country, establishing a timetable for democratic elections and economic reforms but progress has been slow and impatience is growing.

    NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Benedict Moran and video journalist Jorgen Samso filed this report from Sudan's capital Khartoum.

    Some of the images in this story are disturbing.

  • Benedict Moran:

    On the streets of Khartoum, it's a game of cat and mouse. Sudanese police launch tear gas at angry protesters and protesters throw the tear gas right back at police. These youth are barricading roads, and burning tires, to express their frustration at the slow pace of Sudan's democratic transition.

  • Iman Yassin:

    We thought things would get better but nothing is getting better. That's why we are protesting.

  • Benedict Moran:

    In 2019, activists like these brought down the country's longtime military leader Omar al-Bashir, ending 30 years of authoritarian Islamist rule. 'Peace, Liberty, and Justice' was the slogan of the revolution then; it remains the slogan today.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Protests brought the former government down, and these protests are about keeping that revolution alive. Sudan is at a turning point, and the very soul and identity of the country is at stake.

    Two years later, the anger and impatience on the streets is palpable.

  • Mohamed Ibrahim:

    We have people that were killed, and there has been no justice in Sudan.

  • Protester:

    The revolution was supposed to realize 'peace, liberty, and justice'. But it wasn't realized. So we are prepared to do another revolution to ensure peace, liberty, and justice.

  • Benedict Moran:

    To many Sudanese, the former president may be out, but his brutal military is not. Sudan is now led by a fragile alliance. On the one side are the civilian activists who led the revolution. on the other are the former security forces that were part of the ancient regime.

    Together, they are reforming the economy, planning democratic elections, and ensuring justice for past crimes.

    But the government includes those who are implicated in past crimes, presenting a difficult conflict of interest.

    At the height of street protests in 2019, Sudanese security forces opened fire on a Khartoum sit-in, killing more than 100 people. There has been no investigation into their deaths.

    Today, their faces are memorialized on the streets of Khartoum. On the third of every month, friends and supporters gather in this square to sing revolutionary songs, read the Koran and remember those who died in Sudan's struggle for democracy. 25-year-old Abdelsalam Kesha was killed that day in 2019.

    Amna Buheri is Kesha's mother.

  • Amna Muhamad al Buheri, Mother of killed protester:

    I want justice for all the martyrs. Not only for my son but for all the people who were killed in the December revolution. Before the June 3 massacre and after.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Activists believe many of the bodies of the June 3 massacre ended up in the back of this hospital. During a recent blackout, a foul stench alerted the neighborhood to this container. The refrigerated morgue's power had been cut and inside were dozens of rotting bodies. Decomposition was advanced.

    When the bodies of the alleged victims' were sorted for DNA testing, body parts fell off with their clothes.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Activists like Muhamad Hijazi Osman stand watch here around the clock.

    He is afraid the government could hide the bodies, evidence that could be used to put the killers behind bars.

  • Muhamad Hijazi Osman, Activist:

    We are here because we have a debt to our brothers and to the people who are inside, to find out what happened to them.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Painful economic reforms have also brought people out on the streets. In December last year, the U.S. State Department removed Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, after the country agreed to provide compensation to victims of past attacks and normalize relations with Israel.

    But the move has been no panacea. Under the former government, the country accrued massive debt. To qualify for debt relief, the Sudanese pound was recently deregulated, and subsidies for food and fuel were canceled.

    Inflation is now nearing 400 percent, wiping out people's savings and making life expensive for many ordinary Sudanese.

    Haja Haloof sells spices at a Khartoum market.

  • Haja Haloof:

    I can't even describe how expensive life is. People don't come to the market as often as before, and they can't afford to buy anything. Sometimes I come to the market with this, and I return home without selling anything, because people cannot afford it.

    There's widespread shortages of things like bread and other crucial imports. The price of fuel has skyrocketed. 65-year-old Abu Bakr El-Shaikh is waiting in line for fuel.

  • Abu Bakr El-Shaikh:

    Before I could have filled up the tank two times, with the same amount of money. Now it's less than one gallon of fuel. I'm so angry, and so nervous. It never happened before, even when the British colonists left Sudan, it wasn't as bad as it is now. Unless you are a thief, you can't afford life in Sudan.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Sudan is now selling off some of the country's 650 state-owned companies, 200 of which belong to the Sudanese military. And trying to lure foreign investors to spur economic growth and create jobs. Crucial steps to keep the revolution moving forward.

    Jonas Horner is an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

  • Jonas Horner:

    There is a risk of backsliding. The economy represents the number one risk to the transition. It is really the job of the civilian side of this transition to illustrate to Sudanese, to ordinary Sudanese who are struggling under these economic pressures, that they can do the job of responding to what Sudanese are most concerned about on a day to day basis. Without doing that, Sudanese may begin to withdraw and have already begun to withdraw their support for the transition.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Horner says Washington is taking an increasing interest in the success of Sudan's transition.

  • Jonas Horner:

    Currently, Sudan has increasing geopolitical relevance. It is situated in a very tough neighborhood. If successful, Sudan's transition potentially offers a genuinely inspiring example of a move from a true entrenched autocracy to a democracy and greater plurality. And that certainly reflects values that will come that will resonate with those in the U.S. and Washington, D.C. and and hopefully beyond.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Back at the market, 50-year-old Al-Hadi Habeeb Allah says his prices for fruits and vegetables have doubled over the past 10 days.

    Life is worse than under the former ruler Bashir, he says, but he has hope for the future.

  • Al-Hadi Habeeb Allah:

    This is part of the process. It's a labor of hard work and we need to suffer before we have a new transition and a new reality in Sudan. This is an experience Sudan must go through to have a better future.

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