AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In Sudan today, the military staged a coup. They arrested the prime minister and many members of his cabinet and dissolved the transitional government. Thousands of people poured into the streets to protest the coup. At least two died after soldiers opened fire. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in neighboring Ethiopia, and he joins us now.
Eyder, what are you hearing from Sudan in this moment?
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So look; this is officially a military coup. The military leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, came on state TV and said that he was dissolving the transitional government and he was declaring a national state of emergency. The Office of the Civilian Leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, released a statement saying that he was, quote, "kidnapped" and saying that this action by the military is, quote, "a complete coup against the gains of the revolution." The military has also cut the internet and cell service in the country, so reporting this has not been easy. But we have managed to get to some people.
CORNISH: And when you've reached them, what have they been able to tell you?
PERALTA: So activists have called on all Sudanese to take to the streets to protest against the military, and they're sending us videos that show thousands of people on the streets of Khartoum. They're resorting to the chants that we heard when Omar al-Bashir was toppled in 2019, and they're calling for a revolution. They're calling for the fall of the regime. I spoke to Asma (ph), a protester who only wanted her first name used because she fears retaliation, and she says she has seen kids and old people and women out on the streets protesting against this coup. Doctors in Sudan say that at least two people have been killed in clashes with the military, and more than 80 people have been injured. So I asked Asma if there was a sense of fear in going out to the streets. And let's listen to what she told me.
ASMA: There is a sense of fear, but I think the biggest fear is that all what we have done and all the fight that we've been fighting all our life is just going to go to waste. I think everyone feels like this is a determining moment in our history and that we will either step up and do something about it or be silent and just continue to regret this moment.
PERALTA: So she says, stand up now or regret this moment for the rest of their lives.
CORNISH: Just for some context here, this is a vulnerable moment for the country. As you mentioned, Omar al-Bashir was overthrown two years ago. He was an autocrat. And it was, like, people were fined to see the back of him, right? And now Sudan was about to have this transfer of power. What happened?
PERALTA: Yeah, look; at the beginning, the military sided with the street protesters who were demanding a democratic Sudan. And they made a very key agreement that after a certain period, they would cede power to civilians.
And, Audie, this was a fantastic moment in Sudan. There were changes that were unimaginable. People could speak their minds. They came out from under tough Islamic laws. And the military was supposed to turn over power in the coming weeks, but they are now making it clear that they are staying. And I think if this coup sets in, it could mark the end of one of the most remarkable pro-democracy movements we have seen recently on the African continent.
And the activists that made this happen are heartbroken. I spoke to one in Khartoum who is afraid of getting arrested, so they asked me that I not name them. But let me read you a bit of the message that they sent me. They wrote, (reading) I had two panic attacks already. It's too familiar. And I just don't know how we can repeat this again. I just don't know how we can survive another nationwide trauma. We deserve so much better.
CORNISH: One last thing, Eyder - this coup happened one day after the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa was in Khartoum. What is the U.S. saying?
PERALTA: So my colleague Michele Kelemen just spoke to Jeffrey Feltman. And he says that they left Khartoum last night feeling, quote, "mildly encouraged." And everything fell apart on his plane ride to Doha. And now they're telling the Sudanese military that this forceful takeover puts at risk American aid.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta.
Thanks so much.
PERALTA: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.