Sudan’s fragile political transition has been plunged into uncertainty following a reported coup attempt by soldiers loyal to former autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019.
As Sudan woke up to the government’s claims of the alleged coup, details – including the individuals behind it – remained murky. Bashir himself came to power following a military coup in 1989.
Amid reports of sporadic shooting at a base in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, which is linked to the capital Khartoum by bridge, government officials said the coup involving military officers and civilians linked to the deposed regime had failed.
The reported coup attempt comes amid a period of heightened tensions over Sudan’s long-delayed political transition following the end of Bashir’s three-decade-long rule in April 2019, which followed widespread street demonstrations.
According to local media reports military forces were stationed on key roads on Tuesday and on the main bridges linking Khartoum to the neighbouring cities of Omdurman and Bahri.
Sudan’s state-run television called on the public “to counter” the coup attempt but did not provide further details.
“All is under control. The revolution is victorious,” Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, a member of the ruling military-civilian council, wrote on Facebook. He called on Sudanese citizens to protect the transition.
The prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, said the coup plotters involved both military and civilians and that the first arrests had taken place, adding that the attempt was aimed at undermining the country’s political transition.
A military official said an unspecified number of troops from the armoured corps were behind the attempt and that they tried to take over several government institutions but were stopped.
He said they had aimed to seize the military headquarters and the state television. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media, said more than three dozen troops, including high-ranking officers, had been arrested. He did not provide further details, saying that a military statement would be released shortly.
The state-run Suna news agency quoted Brig Al-Tahir Abu Haja, a media consultant for the military’s chief, as saying that the armed forces “thwarted the attempted coup and that all is completely under control”.
The agency said all troops taking part in the attempt were detained and that investigations had started. It did not provide further details.
Sudan has been wracked by instability since achieving independence in 1956, with the country governed since August 2019 by a hybrid military-civilian ruling council. However, frictions between the civilian and military wings have persisted, as well as tensions within various factions of the armed forces.
Despite an October 2020 peace deal with a number of Sudan’s armed and unarmed opposition groups, including from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the country’s political transition has been halting, confronted by a worsening economic situation and long-lasting tensions between the county’s centre and its periphery.
Exacerbating the situation has been an unpopular attempt by the government to reform the country’s economy in order to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund including a cut to subsidies and a rising cost of living.
Describing the alleged coup, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the sovereign council, called it a “foolish and bad choice”.
“The option of military coups has left us only a failed and weak country,” he wrote on Twitter. “The path towards democratic transition and securing the country’s political future and unity remains one option.”
Later, in a statement read on state-run TV, the culture and information minister, Hamza Baloul, said authorities were chasing others “from the remnants” of Bashir’s regime who were suspects in orchestrated the attempted coup. He did not give further details.