Sudan’s Leaders Say They Thwarted a Coup Attempt
Government officials blamed the bid on loyalists of the country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was overthrown in 2019 by a military takeover prompted by widespread popular protests.,
NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese authorities said they thwarted an attempted coup on Tuesday, the latest sign of instability in an African nation battling persistent economic hardship under a fragile transitional government.
Soldiers tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were rebuffed and arrested, according to Sudanese state television. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, describing it as an attempt by military and civilian elements to derail the country’s transition to democracy, said that the plotters had tried to lay the ground for a takeover by orchestrating insecurity in eastern Sudan in recent weeks.
“What happened is an orchestrated coup by factions inside and outside the armed forces, and this is an extension of the attempts by remnants since the fall of the former regime to abort the civilian democratic transition,” Mr. 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 overthrown in a military takeover prompted by widespread popular protests.
Government officials said that the plotters had been led by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Disgruntled officers have hatched several other plots since 2019, but all have been foiled before they came to fruition.
Tuesday was the first time that an attempted takeover had spilled onto the streets, said Amjad Farid, a former deputy chief of staff to the prime minister, Mr. Hamdok. The latest events underscored the urgent need to get Sudan’s military under full civilian control, he added.
“There will be no stability without civilian oversight over all the state apparatus, including the military and intelligence agencies,” Mr. Farid said. “A genuine reform process needs to start now.”
The failed coup was the latest drama in an increasingly turbulent part of the world. Ethiopia is embroiled in a vicious civil war in its northern Tigray region; Somalia is torn by power struggles between its president and prime minister, and the international isolation of Eritrea has deepened with American economic sanctions, imposed last month, against the country’s army chief.
The Sovereignty Council, a body of civilian and military leaders overseeing the transition to democracy in Sudan, said in a statement that the situation was under control. But the events were a reminder of the deep political fissures which threaten that transition.
Some military officers are unhappy with plans to send Mr. al-Bashir, currently in jail in Khartoum, to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He faces charges including genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur in the 2000s.
The Sovereignty Council, which is headed by the army chief Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, did not specify how the coup attempt had been foiled or whether it had involved any violence.
Two officials with 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 had been led by the military commander in charge of the Omdurman region.
It started at about 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 midmorning, traffic was reported to be flowing normally in central Khartoum, though the military had sealed off the main bridge linking Khartoum to Omdurman. The authorities said that they would begin to question those they suspected of mutiny, who may number in the dozens.
There is little relief in sight for the persistent economic hardship that has plagued Sudan — the spark for Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 — undermining public confidence in Mr. Hamdok’s government.
Some Sudanese also worry that the army is not truly willing to share power.
In November, the army chief of staff is expected to hand over leadership of the Sovereignty Council to Mr. Hamdok — a largely ceremonial post, but nonetheless one that signifies full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
Last year, Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt when gunfire struck his convoy as he traveled to work in Khartoum.
Although the United States lifted decades-old economic sanctions against Sudan last year in return for its government’s agreeing to recognize Israel, high inflation and soaring unemployment have driven popular discontent.
Tough economic changes demanded by the International Monetary Fund to stem inflation, which is running at more than 300 percent a year, and to help the country qualify for new loans, have contributed to the sense of unease.