Seven months of war between rival generals in Sudan have resulted in thousands of deaths, millions of displaced persons and the risk of disintegration of the country, which was already in a fragile state before the outbreak of hostilities.
As the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue their brutal offensive in the Darfur region (west), experts fear a "Libyan scenario", in reference to the inextricable political crisis shaking this North African country neighbouring Sudan, where two governments are vying for power, one established in the west and the other in the east.
In Sudan, the RSF, which now controls most of the capital Khartoum, has made lightning advances in Darfur. At the same time, the government and army leaders have left the capital to retreat to the city of Port Sudan, which has been spared the fighting, exacerbating fears of a break-up of the country.
"Continued fighting could lead to terrifying scenarios, including division," warns Omar Youssef, spokesman for the Forces for Freedom and Change (FLC), the civilian bloc ousted from power in the 2021 putsch led by the two generals who were allies at the time and are now at war.
"The growing wave of militarisation (of civilians) is aggravating the social fissures", he added to AFP.
At the negotiating table, the two sides, unable to gain a decisive advantage, have little intention of making concessions, as demonstrated once again by the failure in early November of talks sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia, leading to fears of fragmentation of the country if the status quo is prolonged.
Failure to reach a political solution could lead to a situation similar to that in Libya, which has been plunged into a major political crisis since the 2011 revolt, with "more than one government, with no real effectiveness or international recognition", explains Fayez al-Salik, political analyst and journalist.
- Offensive in Darfur -
The conflict that broke out on 15 April between the head of the army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and his deputy-turned-rival, General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, has claimed more than 10,000 lives, according to an estimate by the NGO Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled), which is widely considered to be an underestimate.
It also displaced more than six million people and destroyed most of the infrastructure.
At the beginning of November, new massacres were reported following a large-scale offensive by the RSF in Darfur, where the militia quickly claimed control of army bases in almost all the major towns in the region.
In the town of Ardamata alone, hundreds of people are reported to have been killed by armed groups, who have forced more than 8,000 people to flee to neighbouring Chad in the space of a week, according to the UN.
The European Union (EU) said it was "appalled" by the "more than 1,000 deaths" in two days in Ardamata, warning of possible "ethnic cleansing".
Since the start of the war, the UN has counted more than 1.5 million internally displaced people in Darfur, a region the size of France and home to a quarter of Sudan's 48 million people.
- No winners -
While General Daglo can count on the support of powerful allies, foremost among them the United Arab Emirates, General Burhane retains his role as de facto head of state on the international stage, regularly taking part in UN and Arab League summits.
On the ground, however, the unbridled advance of the RSF in Darfur "gives them an advantage and allows them to move within their base", according to Mr Salik, referring to the Arab tribes.
It is Arab militiamen, the Janjaweed, who form the bulk of the RSF troops and who in the 2000s, under the command of General Daglo, carried out a scorched earth policy in Darfur, pillaging, raping and killing members of non-Arab ethnic groups on behalf of deposed dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Despite the paramilitary advances in Darfur, the chances of either side achieving a decisive victory remain slim, according to a military expert speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.
According to him, "even if (the army) manages to regain control of Khartoum, which looks very arduous, sending troops to retake the areas of Darfur controlled by the RSF represents an enormous logistical challenge", with more than 1,400 kilometres separating Khartoum from the town of El-Geneina, on the border with Chad.