(Bloomberg) -- Tensions between Sudan’s civilian politicians and army neared breaking point after an alleged coup bid, risking a democratic transition seen as a rare bright spot in a region marked by dictatorship and conflict.
Two days after the military said it stamped out a mutiny and arrested more than 20 officers, top officials have been trading barbs, laying bare a conflict in the power-sharing government between activists who pushed for the 2019 ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir and army figures who once supported him.
“We are ready for any confrontation if the military component doesn’t want the transitional partnership to succeed,” Khaled Omer Yousif, the minister of cabinet affairs, told Al-Jazeera late Wednesday.
Hours before, the military figure who heads Sudan’s quasi-presidential sovereign council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy both accused the civilian-staffed government of ignoring the Sudanese people’s needs, suggesting that had given coup-plotters an opportunity.
The alleged putsch comes as focus shifts to a critical transition point for the African nation that was a pariah under Bashir’s 30-year rule and is rebuilding ties with the U.S. while seeking investment in its strategic agriculture and maritime sectors.
Under a 2019 agreement, Sudan’s army has to surrender its chairmanship of the so-called Sovereignty Council by mid-next year, a step that would theoretically curtail a monopoly the institution has had on decision-making for at least a generation. It could usher in transparency that’s rare in the broader Middle East and Horn of Africa regions.
That’s prompted some analysts, including Jonas Horner at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, to question the army’s account of Tuesday’s events.
The government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been credited with implementing tough economic reforms, winning agreements on debt relief and beginning to tame hyperinflation that was over 400% this year.
“The coup presented the military with an avenue to show national and international audiences that they remain integral to the security of Sudan’s transition,” Horner said. “They’re saying ‘we’re the only ones that can keep this place together.’”
Sudan has been rocked by a chain of coups, both botched and successful, in the more than six decades since independence. Bashir rode a putsch to power in 1989 and was himself ousted by the military in April 2019 amid a popular uprising. Authorities reported several small-scale attempts in the months afterward.
Al-Burhan, for his part, has praised his forces’ actions and said the army has no intention of taking full power.
“Political parties have nothing to do apart from fighting for their posts and chairs, neglecting the suffering of our people and focus only on attacking and criticizing the military,” he told army recruits on Wednesday.
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