Sudanese leaders say they foiled coup attempt

NAIROBI, Kenya – Sudanese authorities said they foiled a coup attempt on Tuesday, the latest sign of instability in an African country struggling with lingering economic difficulties under a fragile transitional government.

Soldiers attempted to take control of a state media building in the town of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but were pushed back and arrested, according to Sudanese state. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, describing it as an attempt by military and civilian elements to derail the country’s transition to democracy, said the plotters tried to prepare the ground for a takeover by orchestrating insecurity in eastern Sudan in recent weeks.

“What has happened is a coup orchestrated by factions inside and outside the armed forces, and it is an extension of attempts by the remnants since the fall of the old regime to interrupt civil democratic transition, “Hamdok said.

The possibility of another coup has haunted the Sudanese transitional government since 2019, when the country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was toppled in a military takeover sparked by popular protests generalized.

Government officials said the plotters were led by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Disgruntled officers have hatched several other plots since 2019, but all were foiled before they came to fruition.

Tuesday was the first time an attempted takeover hit the streets, said Amjad Farid, former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Hamdok. The latest events have underscored the urgent need to bring the Sudanese army under full civilian control, he added.

“There will be no stability without civilian control over the entire state apparatus, including military and intelligence agencies,” Farid said. “A real reform process must begin now. “

The failed coup was the latest drama in an increasingly turbulent part of the world. Ethiopia is embroiled in a brutal civil war in its region of northern Tigray; Somalia is torn by power struggles between its president and prime minister, and Eritrea’s international isolation has deepened with US economic sanctions, imposed last month, on the country’s military 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 events have reminded us of the deep political fissures that threaten this transition.

Some military officers are unhappy with plans to send Mr. al-Bashir, currently in prison in Khartoum, to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He faces charges of 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 say how the coup attempt was foiled or whether it involved violence.

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 attempted, but apparently unsuccessfully, to read a statement on the state radio station. What the statement would have said was not immediately clear.

By mid-morning, traffic was proceeding normally in central Khartoum, although the army cordoned off the main bridge between Khartoum and Omdurman. Authorities said they would begin questioning those they suspected of mutiny, who could number in the dozens.

There is little relief in sight for the lingering economic hardships that have plagued Sudan – the spark of Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 – undermining public confidence in Mr. Hamdok’s government.

Some Sudanese also fear that the military is not really willing to share power.

In November, the army chief of staff is expected to hand over the leadership of the Sovereignty Council to Mr. Hamdok – a largely ceremonial post, but one that nonetheless means full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades. decades.

Last year, Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt when gunfire hit his convoy on his way to work in Khartoum.

Although the United States last year lifted decades-old economic sanctions against Sudan in return for its government’s acceptance of recognizing Israel, high inflation and rising unemployment have sparked popular discontent.

The difficult economic changes demanded by the International Monetary Fund to stem inflation, which is hitting more than 300% a year, and to help the country qualify for new loans, have contributed to the feeling of unease.

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