The arrest of the Salah Gosh, former head of Sudan’s intelligence and security agency, in addition to 12 others last week, was hailed by officials as a success in stopping a potential coup.  Gosh’s arrests exposes expanding cracks in the ruling National Congress Party and President Omar al-Bashir’s 23-year hold on power in this major African oil-producing nation.  Experts point to multiple factors contributing to the further instability in Khartoum – an ongoing economic crisis spurred since South Sudan became independent in July 2011, high food prices, and the loss of oil revenues, Sudan’s economic lifeblood before the South’s independence.

In the government, all of these pressing issues helped sow divisions within the government and put further pressure on the lucrative patronage networks that Bashir and his allies rely on to maintain their power.  Reformists among the political elite were disappointed by the election of a new secretary-general for the Islamic Movement, who is not a reform-minded member.  Experts on Sudan see this foiled coup plot as an explicit warning to any potential reformists in the ruling elite, so that it is clear that the ruling Islamists will not allow for any future dissent while Bashir remains in power.

Intrigue is part of daily political life in Sudan and the United States will continue to encourage Sudan to allow for a democratic transition to occur.  It appears for now that al-Bashir will remain in power for the time being, but the United States must keep an eye on future power brokers among Sudan’s ruling elite should al-Bashir fall sick.  While this failed coup plot is not a direct threat to the United States, American officials must encourage Sudan to become more democratic and continue to watch how the country and its ruling elite respond to the ongoing economic crisis and what that will mean for the future.