Sudan's military knew about coup plot, general says

Powerful general renews attacks on politicians, says Sudan moving toward the abyss

FILE PHOTO: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and deputy head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) delivers an address after the Ramadan prayers and Iftar organized by Sultan of Darfur Ahmed Hussain in Khartoum, Sudan, May 18, 2019. To match Special Report SUDAN-BASHIR/FALL.  REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

Sudan’s military had advance knowledge about last week’s failed coup attempt, tracking the plotters for nearly a year but failing to find out their “zero hour.”

The country's second most powerful military man revealed the information on Tuesday.

Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the powerful Rapid Support Forces, also restated the military’s commitment to Sudan’s transition to democratic rule.

Free elections, he said in comments to members of his RSF, should be held soon to end the country’s two-year transition following the removal of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

“The preparations for the coup were thorough. That coup was not a surprise. They plotted it for 11 months in absolute secrecy," he said.

“They did good work,” he said, explaining that while the military tracked the plotters for 11 months they could not glean any information on when they planned to act.

“If we didn’t crush it by noon as we did on the day, it would have been a different story,” he said, without elaborating. The coup attempt and the military’s action to foil it was bloodless.

The military said late on the day of the takeover attempt that a senior officer from the armoured corps, Lt. Gen Abdul Baqi Al Hassan Othman, was the coup’s leader. He was arrested along with 22 officers of various ranks and an unspecified number of soldiers. They, along with the government, blamed Al Bashir loyalists for the attempted takeover.

Sudanese head of state Gen. Abdul Farrah Al Burhan visiting 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

Gen Dagalo also touched on relations with civilian politicians and his views on the way forward for Sudan.

“We have pledged to God to shepherd this country to democratic rule. It’s a vow we have made and we will not go back on it,” Gen Dagalo told the RSF members. The group has its genesis in a pro-government militia that fought rebels in Darfur in the 2000s.

“The transitional period must be limited because we don’t have a popular mandate. Our objective is free and fair elections,” he said. “We are looking to the people to stand together and head for the elections.”

Gen Dagalo is also deputy to Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, Sudan’s de facto head of state since the military and a pro-democracy alliance - the Forces of Freedom and Change -signed a power-sharing deal in August 2019, four months after the toppling of Al Bashir's 29-year regime.

His comments on relations with civilian politicians and renewed commitment to a democratic transition came amid tension between the two sides following the attempted coup.

Differences between the two sides have been simmering for months, but they only spoke about them publicly after last week’s attempted takeover in what rapidly escalated into a blame game.

Their differences centre around what they see as encroachment on each other’s authority, going it alone with major policies and lack of sufficient consultations.

On Tuesday, Gen Dagalo had more harsh words for the politicians. “There are people who eat one meal a day and others who don’t even have that. Who is responsible for that? The executive branch is mostly responsible,” he said.

“Are we not supposed to speak up and say that’s wrong? Should we keep our mouths shut? That’s not possible. We have been saying this for years; the country is inching closer to the abyss.”

Updated: September 28, 2021, 3:54 PM