Sudanese authorities reported a coup attempt Tuesday by a group of soldiers but said the attempt failed and the country’s ruling council and military remain in control.
The development underscored the fragility of Sudan’s path to democracy, more than two years after the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir amid a public uprising against his three-decade rule.
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 also called on the Sudanese to protect the transition.
A senior military official said an unspecified number of troops from the armored corps were behind the attempt and that they tried to take over several government institutions but were stopped.
He said the attempt began at dawn and that a group of soldiers had tried to seize the military headquarters and the state television station in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman to read a statement to citizens. The content of the statement was not immediately clear.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said over three dozen troops, including high-ranking officers, were arrested.
Brig. Al-Tahir Abu Haja, a media consultant for the military’s chief, said in a televised statement that at least 21 suspected officers and some troops were arrested and that authorities were searching for other suspects in the failed attempt.
Footage circulated online showing troops and armored vehicles deployed to main roads and intersections in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Security was also boosted at the military headquarters and other government buildings in the city.
Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the sovereign council, called the attempt 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 the state-run TV, Culture and Information Minister Hamza Baloul said security forces have arrested civilian and military leaders behind the coup attempt, and that they have been interrogated after the military managed to get the armored corps’ camp south of Khartoum under control.
Baloul, who is also the government spokesman, said authorities were chasing others “from the remnants” of al-Bashir’s regime who were suspects in orchestrated the attempted coup. He did not give further details.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok blamed remnants of al-Bashir’s government for the coup attempt, describing it as an effort to undermine Sudan’s democratic transition.
“What happened is an orchestrated coup by factions inside and outside the armed forces,” he said.
Hamdok, the civilian face of the Sudanese government, spoke during an emergency Cabinet meeting that was broadcast on state-run TV, saying the attempt “underscored the need for a complete, clear and transparent review of the transition.“
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the powerful Rapid Support Forces, visited the armored corps camp Tuesday, according to video footage circulated by the council.
The coup attempt, had it succeeded, would have had “devastating consequences to the unity of the military, and the country as well,” Burhan said.
Volker Perthes, the U.N. political envoy to Sudan, condemned the attempt. “The United Nations condemns any attempt — whether a coup or otherwise — to undermine the democratic political transition process and the pluralistic nature of the state as stipulated in the constitutional declaration,” he said.
Sudan has been on a fragile path to democratic rule since the military’s ouster of al-Bashir in April 2019, following four months of mass protests. For decades, al-Bashir’s government, which was allied with the Islamists, had worked to impede ideologues within the military and other security agencies. Al-Bashir himself had come to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
The country is now ruled by a joint civilian and military government. The transitional government has been under increasing pressure to end wars with rebel groups as it seeks to rehabilitate the country’s battered economy, attract much-needed foreign aid and deliver the democracy it promised.
The U.S. government condemned the coup attempt in a statement from Samantha Powers, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development who recently visited Sudan.
“The United States remains committed — alongside allies in the region and around the world — to supporting the continuation of Sudan’s historic transition toward democracy, and to working with actors across Sudan to advance critically needed progress on economic, judicial, governance, human rights, and security reforms,” Power said.