Sudan’s fragile transitional government said it foiled an attempted coup on Tuesday involving military officers and civilians linked to the ousted regime of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the coup attempt was the “latest manifestation of the national crisis”, in reference to deep divisions in Sudan during its move to democracy.
In a televised speech, he said the plotters had “made extensive preparations, which were showcased in the security breakdown in cities… blocking of national roads, closure of ports and persistent instigation against the civilian government.”
Information Minister Hamza Baloul said later the coup attempt had been thwarted and those behind it “brought under control”.
“We assure the Sudanese people that order has been restored and the leaders of the attempted coup, both military and civilian, have been arrested and are being investigated,” he said.
“Authorities are pursuing supporters of the defunct regime who participated in the coup attempt.”
The military said “most” of those involved in the coup attempt had been arrested, including 11 officers.
“The army regained control over the sites that perpetrators sought to seize,” it said. “Searches and investigations are still ongoing for others involved.”
State television had aired patriotic songs as it announced the coup attempt and urged “the people to confront it”.
In Khartoum, traffic appeared to be flowing smoothly, including around army headquarters, where protesters staged a months-long sit-in that eventually led to Bashir’s overthrow in a palace coup by the army in 2019.
Security forces closed the main bridge across the White Nile connecting Khartoum to its twin city Omdurman.
Anti-coup demonstrations broke out later in several cities.
At Port Sudan in the east of the country, protesters raised Sudanese flags and chanted “No to military rule” and “No to coup”, eyewitness Mohamed Hassan said.
Students took to the streets and shouted similar slogans in the eastern city of Gedaref, another eyewitness, Amal Hussein, told AFP.
– ‘We will not allow a coup’ –
There have been previous coup attempts since Bashir’s ouster which officials have blamed on Islamist supporters of the former president.
Sudan has had a long history of coups. Bashir, a one-time general himself, came to power on the back of an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
Since his ouster, the ex-president has been kept in Khartoum’s high security Kober prison and is facing trial over the coup which brought him to power.
He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his prosecution of a deadly scorched-earth campaign against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.
During a visit to Khartoum last month, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan signed a cooperation deal with the transitional authorities that marked another step towards Bashir facing trial in The Hague.
In an address to troops on Tuesday, powerful paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo said: “We will not allow a coup to take place.
“We want real democratic transition through free and fair elections, not like in the past,” said the commander, widely known as Hemeti.
Under an August 2019 power-sharing deal, Sudan is ruled by a transitional government composed of both civilian and military representatives, and tasked with overseeing a return to full civilian rule.
The deal originally provided for the formation of a legislative assembly during a three-year transition, but that period was reset when Sudan signed the peace deal with rebel groups last October.
– Two years under transition –
More than two years into the transition, Sudan remains plagued by chronic economic problems inherited from Bashir as well as deep divisions among the various factions steering the transition.
The promised legislative assembly has yet to materialise.
In June, Hamdok had warned of worrying divisions within Sudan’s military and security establishment.
“The coup (attempt) … clearly indicates the importance of reform to the military and security sectors,” he said on Tuesday.
Civilians and former rebel groups have stepped up calls for armed groups and paramilitary forces to be merged into the regular army.
In recent months, tensions have reportedly simmered between paramilitaries and army commanders over the integration process.
The transitional government has launched a package of tough economic reforms to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, seen by many Sudanese as too harsh.