Sudan's failed coup a distraction from government's failings, activists say

Sudanese people watch in dismay and indifference as army generals and civilian politicians lock horns over failed coup attempt

Gen Abdul Farrah Al Burhan visits the Al Shagara military complex on the outskirts of Khartoum, where Tuesday’s coup plotters are known to have served. Photo: Sudanese Armed Forces Media Office
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As the dust settles on an attempted coup in Sudan this week, democracy activists and residents of Khartoum said the threat was the least of the country's worries.

Tuesday's failed attempt by those loyal to former dictator Omar Al Bashir to grab power and the transitional government's response have added to the feeling of instability surrounding the path to democracy as the military and political arms of the two-year-old government trade barbs.

“The coup attempt was just a ruse to distract us from the economic hardship and the failure of the ruling elites,” Abdel Rahim Rekab, 62, who works at the Free Zone Authority, told The National.

Mr Rekab said he has witnessed what he called “real takeovers” by the army since he was 11, when, in 1971, army officers staged a short-lived mutiny that aimed to topple the government of Gaafar Nimeiry.

The Sudanese people are fed up with these politically motivated statements. We are caught up right in the middle between passive politicians and power-hungry army generals
Samar Abu Bakr, civil engineer

In his experience, mistrust between the two sides of Sudan's government will be impossible to bridge.

“Do they want to fool us into believing that the Military Council, which is led by members who served in the Security Committee set up by Al Bashir to crush the demonstrations in 2019, staged a coup against themselves? They want to stay in power and rule forever,” he said angrily.

The Sudanese military has said 21 officers and a number of soldiers have been arrested in connection to the failed takeover.

The army is part of a power-sharing agreement signed two years ago with the civilian Forces of Freedom and Change Alliance, under which the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council governs the country until January 2024, when democratic elections will be held.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also voiced his condemnation of the “orchestrated coup attempt by forces of darkness and loyalists of Al Bashir".

State media said the plotters tried but failed to gain control of the building housing government TV and radio stations.

“One day, they say the prime minister escaped an assassination attempt, another day they talk about failed coups. This is the third time in two years they claim they have thwarted a coup,” Samar Abu Bakr, a 34-year-old civil engineer, told The National.

“The Sudanese people are fed up with these politically motivated statements. We are caught up right in the middle between passive politicians and power-hungry army generals.

“This is a camouflage over the bad economic conditions. The generals want to hide their own failures and steal the limelight.”

Sudanese woman draws graffiti on a wall in Khartoum in memory of those who were killed during the anti-Bashir protests in 2019. EPA

Ticking time bomb

One day after the incident, Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, the top general who currently leads the Sovereign Council, accused civilian politicians in government of ignoring the needs of the Sudanese people, giving an opportunity to disgruntled officers within the army.

Civilian organisations fired back, saying the army is playing ostrich.

Senior leaders at the Forces of Freedom and Change Alliance, an umbrella group for representatives of the opposition that negotiated with the army after Al Bashir was deposed, say the military has not undertaken a much-needed purge of Bashir loyalists and Islamists, who are a stumbling block for any transition towards democracy.

“The crisis between the civilian council and the military was like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode,” Dr Amgad Fareed, former deputy chief of staff at the prime minister's office, told The National.

A prominent member of the Alliance, Dr Fareed said the military has been trying over the past two years to dominate several executive powers in the state-rebuilding process.

“Under the current agreement between both sides, the army should hand over power to the civilians on November 10. It seems there’s a growing opposition within the army ranks to being under civilian leadership. And that’s why we hear about mutinous officers every now and then.”

Dr Fareed says the Sudanese people will reject any military rule in the future and protect the revolution.

“The army is part and parcel of the current crisis and the generals keep sitting on the fence. We should have a unified army without any political affiliation and not influenced by political business after 30 years under Al Bashir, who used to use the army as a tool to implement his manipulative agendas,” he said.

Updated: September 26, 2021, 6:57 PM