NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese authorities said they thwarted an attempted military coup on Tuesday, the latest sign of instability in an African nation battling persistent economic hardship under a fragile transitional government.
Sudanese state television said that soldiers had 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.
“There has been a failed coup attempt,” state media said.
The possibility of another coup has haunted Sudan’s transitional government since 2019 when country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was overthrown in a military takeover prompted by widespread popular protests. Although disgruntled officers loyal to Mr. Bashir have hatched several plots since 2019, 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 Prime Minister Abdalla 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.
Sudan’s information minister, Hamza Baloul, said that the plotters were led by Bashir loyalists, the news agency Agence France-Presse reported.
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. Bashir, the deposed dictator 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 Sudan’s western Darfur region 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. 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, although the military had sealed off the main bridge linking Khartoum to Omdurman. The authorities said 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. Bashir’s ouster in 2019 — undermining public confidence in Mr. Hamdok’s government.
Some Sudanese also worry 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 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.
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