Understanding The Coup In Sudan with Nima Elbagir | Crooked Media
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October 28, 2021
What A Day
Understanding The Coup In Sudan with Nima Elbagir

In This Episode

  • Sudan is in the grips of a coup after the military seized control of the country, and in the past several days, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets. Nima Elbagir, CNN’s senior international correspondent, joins us to discuss the news.
  • And in headlines: investigators are still piecing together why a prop gun killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust,” America issued its first-ever passport with a nonbinary gender marker, and a U.S. military official said China was “very close” to a Sputnik moment because of a recent missile test.
Show Notes






Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, October 28th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day celebrating two full years of these little conversations at the start of episodes.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, today is our official anniversary, which means two years of 100% raw, unfiltered weapons-grade banter.


Tre’vell Anderson: The pleasure is honestly ours.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is what I look forward to every day. On today’s show, the investigation continues into the fatal shooting on the set of the movie Rust. Plus drug maker Merck announces a deal to bring low-cost COVID treatment pills to the world.


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, Sudan is in the grips of a coup after the military seized control of the country. Since 2019, the military and civilian government had been sharing power through a joint council after the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir.


Gideon Resnick: But on Monday, the military dissolved the council and detained several officials. That includes Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. And in the past several days, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets. Here is an unidentified demonstrator talking to Al Jazeera in the capital of Khartoum”


[Al Jazeera clip] [translating] An urgent call to all Sudanese civilians who want to protect the revolution. What the military is doing is a betrayal to all citizens on all fronts. It is the duty of all civilians to move and to block all roads outside to prevent any military force to move. Right now, all of us must unite to show the truth.


Gideon Resnick: The military crackdown thus far has been violent. Armed forces reportedly shot at civilian protesters in Khartoum on Monday, killing at least 10 and injuring 140 more.


Tre’vell Anderson: We wanted to learn more so we have with us again, Nima Elbagir, CNN senior international correspondent. She is originally from Sudan. Welcome back to What A Day.


Nima Elbagir: Thank you so much.


Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks for being here. To get us started, I, you know, first want to ask kind of a personal question. This is your home country. It’s going through this current transition period. What are you personally feeling right now about what’s going on at home?


Nima Elbagir: I mean, I think all the stories we do are incredibly personal because you speak to people about their families and their homes, and it’s especially the kind of investigative work that we do. It’s, people take such risks to speak to us, but I think I’m 43-years old. I’m going to be brave, I’m going to say, I’m 43-years old and I have experienced to two and a half periods of democracy. I think that’s incredibly horrifying in anyone’s lifetime. We’re very lucky in that my family, my parents, are in Cairo at the moment. They were visiting Egypt. There are so many other families who aren’t as lucky and so many other members of our family that we’re very worried for. But there’s just something really awful about calling and calling and not having those calls ever be picked up. My mum, I just have to say, told me a little story about the last uprising. My younger sister, Yousra—who’s a fantastic journalist, you should follow her if you don’t, Yousra Elbagir—was in Sudan covering from inside Sudan, and my mother tells this story about the worst moment of her life when she called Yousra’s phone and a man picked up, and it was during demonstrations. And that is what’s happening to a lot of mothers and fathers right now is they call the phones of their loved ones, of their children, or their siblings, and someone else, a stranger, picks up. And immediately, that means either their dead, or they have been attacked in some way because their phone has been taken from them, or they are now in the custody of the military. And that’s happening to families all over the country right now. And it’s, I mean it’s just unbearable. It’s unbearable to think about that.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. It’s unbearable to hear it, too. I want to get back to some questions about how this all came to be. So this coup came just weeks before the top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was supposed to transfer control of the council over to a civilian leader. Tensions had been rising over all of this recently. Can you walk us through a little bit about why that’s the case?


Nima Elbagir: One of the key issues had been that even after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, the former dictator, there was a massacre in June. Bashir was ousted in April, in June there was a massacre at the sit-in site because these extraordinary protesters insisted that they were not ceding their territory, because they knew that that was their source of strength until the generals had conceded to civilian rule. And they attempted to break apart the sit-in and people died. And there are still families who don’t know what has happened to their loved ones. And bodies were dumped in the Nile, they were weighed down with rocks and stones. So the bone of contention seemed to be around whether the generals and the military and the paramilitary forces would get immunity. And the reason we believe that is because one of the first things that happened is that the committees looking into the June massacre, the committees looking into the corruption these were immediately dissolved. And that is the big concern is that there will not be justice. So now we’re in this awful impasse. And again, these same extraordinary protesters have taken to the streets. It’s a combination of complete civil disobedience, so bringing the economy to a standstill in this very thoughtful, very clever idea that the generals cannot be allowed to make any money out of the country while they are holding the country hostage?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Could you detail a little bit about what the protest movement looks like?


Nima Elbagir: It’s everyone. If you want to feel just like you have wasted your life watching 14-, 15-year olds in running battles with fully Russian riot gear wearing soldiers, and having either no sense of their own mortality, or really sadly, I think a sense of that this is the only way the world will pay attention. There was one young man who walked towards the tanks and his friends were piling up on top of him and he was baring his chest and saying: the world is watching, and if it’s not watching, maybe, maybe they’ll watch now. And it’s just humbling people are willing to do this for their freedoms. What is really extraordinary, though, is that both in the first uprising and this uprising, it has been mainly led by young women, and Sudan is quite a conservative culture in a lot of ways. What really worries me and what we covered at the time was that security forces focused in on the young women and this sense that if they could shame them, if they could dishonor them as they saw it through assault and sexual violence, that it would be so traumatizing to both the women, but also the men who stood by and quote unquote, as they projected at the time, “allowed it to happen.” And I just remember one young woman was jailed up until the night of what was supposed to be her wedding night, and so everybody came to where she was being detained, all of her female family members and friends, and they did all the beautification rituals, and she went to the sit-in site in her wedding dress with her husband, had the religious ceremony there. They were, of course, detained and she went back to the jail cell in her wedding dress. And so when we went to interview her, she still had all the beautiful henna markings on her hands.


Gideon Resnick: Wow. There have been a number of coups across the world this year. Do you see any sort of commonality between them? Are there any sort of undercurrents? It seems that you’re talking about in terms of democracy that people feel attached to, even when they haven’t experienced it for that long—is that some sort of undercurrent that we could connect some of these?


Nima Elbagir: Absolutely. I think you have two opposing currents. You have one, which is the ways in which President Trump, populism in Europe, you’ve had this imbalance in the way that the global community now deals with rogue rulers. And this sense that you can get away, we can go back to those bad old days after the reset of the Arab Spring and what happened post-Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East. And at the same time, you have again, just this fundamental human hunger for freedom, and freedom of speech, and the ability to live with that sense of dignity.


Gideon Resnick: What do you think this all means for Sudan’s future? What can we expect to happen next year?


Nima Elbagir: if this is pulled back from the brink, and possibly there is still a chance it could be, the fact that General Burhan in his press conference was talking about the prime minister as THE prime minister, not the former leader, not the former prime minister, I think it’s very interesting. The fact that the U.S. is taking its time legally defining this via the State Department as a coup speaks to perhaps some hope that this can be pulled back from the brink.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m wondering from your vantage point, what could or should the international community be doing to help the people of Sudan, both from kind of the institutional legal context, as you’ve mentioned, but also regular regular-degular people as well, right? What can they do to help the people of Sudan?


Nima Elbagir: People need to keep talking about it—regular, what did you call it? Regular-degular? I love it. You know, the more regular you are, the less wonky and banging on about foreign policy you are, the more, I mean, I think if the kind of the global race reckoning and the broader kind of civil liberties reckoning that we’ve had across the world in the last few years should have taught us anything is that our shared humanity is so important, and so injustice anywhere calls to justice everywhere. And we just have to keep tweeting and retweeting. Set an alarm if that’s what it needs to kind of tweet out at your representatives and say, hey, are you continuing to follow up with the generals in Sudan about this? Because there are kids my age who look like me, who probably listen to the same music, there are kids who matter to me. And that’s the most important message anyone can send.


Tre’vell Anderson: Nima Elbagir, CNN Senior International Correspondent. Thanks so much for joining What A Day.


Nima Elbagir: Thank you so much for giving this a platform. You guys are amazing.


Tre’vell Anderson: All right. So we’ll have a link to some stories in our show notes so you can learn more about the coup and the civilian protests against it. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


A lead projectile was recovered from the shoulder of Rust director Joel Souza, part of the evidence that was collected from the set in New Mexico in the days since a fatal shooting a week ago. Investigators are still piecing together how actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that ended up killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring Souza. According to an affidavit released on Wednesday, Dave Halls, an assistant director on set, reportedly told a detective that he should have checked every round in all the chambers of the gun he handed to Baldwin, but that he didn’t. He mistakenly said that the gun was cold. The armorer for the movie, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, reportedly told a detective that no live ammo is kept on set and that she had checked dummy rounds that day. Apparently prior to the shooting, the crew took a lunch break and there was ammunition left on a cart on the set. It’s still unclear how and why live ammunition was on set, and the Santa Fe County District Attorney said that could help determine if criminal charges are brought here. At a press conference briefing on Wednesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff talked about conditions on site more broadly.


[clip of Santa Fe Sheriff] I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe. I think there was some complacency on this set, and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry, and possibly by the state of New Mexico. But I’ll leave that up to the industry and the state to determine what those need to be.


Tre’vell Anderson: As always, we’ll keep following this developing story.


Gideon Resnick: Competition is heating up to be the nicest pharmaceutical company—it would not be hard to win that title—because drug maker Merck announced yesterday that it will share a royalty-free license for its promising COVID-19 pill with the world. In a large trial, the drug, called molnupiravir, halved the hospitalization and death rates in high-risk COVID patients shortly after infection. Merck made the deal with the U.N.-backed nonprofit the Medicines Patent Pool, which says generic versions of the pill could be made in a 105 countries for as little as $20 per treatment. And an affordable drug could be a viable alternative to vaccines in low-income countries, where issues like high prices have meant just 3.1% of those populations have gotten at least one dose. Remember what we said about a nice pharmaceutical companies? It is unclear how many pills could be produced when manufacturing plants are up and running, but the Medicines Patent Pool predicts some will be able to deliver the drugs to shelves by the end of this year.


Tre’vell Anderson: The United States has issued its first-ever U.S. passport with a non-binary gender marker. Its recipient was Dana Zzyym, a military veteran who is intersex and who sued the State Department in 2015 after being denied a gender neutral passport. They won the case in 2016 and received their passport just five years later, after what I can only assume where printer error related delays. Just kidding. Zzyym had had to take the State Department back to court in 2018 after the department failed to comply with the 2016 ruling. Upon receiving their passport, which will allow them to travel outside the country for the first time in years, Zzyym told The Washington Post that quote “I feel good about standing up for myself in other intersex and nonconforming people.” Under President Biden, the State Department announced in June that it would add an X gender marker to passports, and all passport applicants will be eligible for that option by early 2022, after the department updated systems and forms.


Gideon Resnick: Good for them and I hope the trip is good. It’s like one huge trip in one go. That’d be nice. Prepare to gather your family around a black and white TV and root for the U.S. military because its highest ranking official just described a recent missile test by China as, quote, “very close to a Sputnik moment.” That refers to the Russian satellite launch that kicked off the space race. So the test was of a hypersonic missile, which could theoretically evade radar systems and deliver non-nuclear attacks on U.S. soil. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley described the test as quote, “a very significant technological event,” and said quote, “we’re going to have to adjust our military going forward.” Now we can assume that those adjustments will cost about the same amount that our country has spent in its entire existence to keep our planet from becoming one big hot yoga class. Experts in the field have argued that hypersonic missiles don’t differ all that much from intercontinental ballistic missiles that have been around for many decades. In more significant military news, Iran has agreed to resume nuclear talks before the end of the month. According to its chief nuclear negotiator, the aim of the negotiations is to bring back the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions—that was until Trump decided he was over it in 2018.


Tre’vell Anderson: Trump, the gift that keeps on giving.


Gideon Resnick: We’ll never forget him. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: today does, in fact, mark exactly two years since the first episode of What A Day came out in October of 2019? I am [wash]. We’ve been through a pandemic together, an election, and Facebook finding new ways to be bad. It has really just been amazing doing the news with you folks every day. We are excited for many more episodes of this show to come.


Tre’vell Anderson: Many, many, many more to come. Stay tuned people. Thanks for listening. All that good stuff.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, thank you very, very much from the bottom of our hearts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, experience your Sputnik moment, and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just instructions on how to troubleshoot printer errors like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And thanks for two years!


Gideon Resnick: I haven’t aged at all. You know? I, uh, it’s done nothing to me. Nothing.


Tre’vell Anderson: I think your therapist would disagree.


Gideon Resnick: Perhaps. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.