NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese authorities said they thwarted a coup attempt on Tuesday, the latest sign of instability in an African country facing ongoing economic hardship under a fragile transitional government.
Soldiers tried to take control of a state media building in the town of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital Khartoum, but were repulsed and arrested, Sudan’s state television said. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who described it as an attempt by military and civilian elements to derail the country’s transition to democracy, said the conspirators had been trying in recent weeks to lay the groundwork for a takeover by the insecurity in eastern Sudan. to orchestrate.
“What happened is an orchestrated coup d’état by factions inside and outside the armed forces, and this is an extension of remnants’ efforts since the fall of the former regime to abort the civilian-democratic transition,” Hamdok said.
The possibility of another coup has haunted Sudan’s transitional government since 2019, when the country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was ousted in a military takeover following widespread popular protests.
Government officials said the conspirators were led by loyalists of Mr al-Bashir. Disgruntled cops have forged several other plots since 2019, but all have been foiled before coming to fruition.
Tuesday marked the first time a takeover attempt has taken to the streets, said Amjad Farid, former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Hamdok. The latest events underlined the urgent need to bring the Sudanese military under full civilian control, he added.
“There will be no stability without civilian oversight of the entire state apparatus, including the military and intelligence services,” Mr Farid said. “A real reform process must now begin.”
The failed coup was the latest drama in an increasingly turbulent part of the world. Ethiopia is embroiled in a brutal civil war in the northern region of Tigray; Somalia is torn by infighting between its president and prime minister, and Eritrea’s international isolation has been exacerbated by US economic sanctions, imposed last month, against the army chief of the country.
The Sovereignty Council, a body of civilian and military leaders that oversees the transition to democracy in Sudan, said in a statement the situation is under control. But the events were a reminder of the deep political rifts that threaten that transition.
Some military officers are not happy with the plans to bring Mr al-Bashir, who is currently in prison in Khartoum, on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur in the 2000s.
The Sovereignty Council, headed by army chief Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, did not specify how the coup attempt was foiled or whether violence was used.
Two officials from the Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition of civil and political groups that led the uprising against Mr al-Bashir in 2019, said the coup attempt was led by the military commander in charge of the Omdurman region. .
It started around 3 a.m. when officers tried, but apparently failed, to read a statement on the state radio station. It was not immediately clear what the statement would have said.
By mid-morning, traffic in central Khartoum would be normal, although the military had closed the main bridge between Khartoum and Omdurman. Authorities said they would begin questioning those they suspected of mutiny, possibly in the dozens.
Little relief is in sight for the ongoing economic hardship plaguing Sudan – the spark for Mr al-Bashir’s 2019 impeachment – which is undermining public confidence in Mr Hamdok’s government.
Some Sudanese are also concerned that the military is not really willing to share power.
In November, the army’s chief of staff is expected to hand over leadership of the Sovereignty Council to Mr Hamdok – a largely ceremonial position, but one that will mean full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
Last year, Mr Hamdok survived an assassination attempt when gunshots hit his convoy as he traveled to work in Khartoum.
Although the United States lifted decades-old economic sanctions against Sudan last year in exchange for the government’s agreement to recognize Israel, high inflation and rising unemployment have fueled popular discontent.
The severe economic changes that the International Monetary Fund is demanding to contain inflation, which is more than 300 percent a year, and help the country qualify for new loans have contributed to the feeling of unease.