African viewpoint: Colonel's continent?

Col Muammar Gaddafi in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2008

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo ponders Libya's relationship with the rest of Africa.

To lose one dictator as the year began may have been fortuitous, to lose two and a possible third in the space of three months seems miraculous.

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He had no qualms about pitching his tent in our capitals”

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The desert winds of change blowing across North Africa are howling a firestorm in the direction of the conundrum that is Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and Africans are reeling from the speed of it all.

In the theatre of these revolutions, the man currently occupying centre stage has more reason than others to take up the interests of Africans, and so the death throes of his 42-year-old regime are reverberating across an entire continent.

The colonel's theatrical character seems to have walked out of the pages of macabre fiction, and as the years passed, the character came closer to a caricature of the absolute dictator than to the memory of the 27-year-old captain who took Libya kicking and screaming into the second half of the 20th Century, then remained stuck there well into the 21st.

Tunisia's former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali loved and exploited his Parisian connections and kept his distance from Africans; Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was caught in the net of the Middle East and its conflicts - and was in any case paranoid about black Africa ever since gunmen fired on his motorcade in Ethiopia's Addis Ababa.

The colonel, though, embraced us.

African portfolio
Muammar Gaddafi in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 2008 Libya's wealth has allowed Col Gaddafi to foster close ties with African leaders

He had no qualms about pitching his tent in our capitals and could drive his motorcade across several African borders to attend a conference or just to dazzle us with oil money as an array of designer shaded curvaceous bodyguards attended to his needs.

A brief examination of the colonel's African connections reveals a deep-rooted intent to forge ties with the rest of Africa.

Having come to power in that decade of former UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's "winds of change" speech, there was not a liberation movement that had not received his backing.

From Nelson Mandela's African National Congress in South Africa to Namibia's freedom fighters, plus every rebel without a cause like Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh to Liberia's Charles Taylor, Uganda's late Idi Amin and even that country's present leader Yoweri Museveni - they have all supped at his revolutionary table or taken his money and weapons.

Only the other year Mr Gaddafi was the chairman of the African Union, and has almost single-handedly funded its existence for decades.

As head of this largely mute and ineffective brotherhood of presidents, the colonel pushed for a United Africa over which he would preside.

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We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company - they were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: 'You are providing troops for Gaddafi'”

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His money had of course spent a long time constructing such a possibility.

Libyan investments in Africa through its huge reserves of oil are legion and the soaring price for this black gold enabled the Libya Africa Portfolio for Investments (LAP) to set up a "sovereign wealth fund" in 2006.

And then there is Oil Libya Holding company, the Libyan Arab Company for African Investments, Afriqiyah Airlines and a host of other portfolios.

Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda, is 100% owned by the Libyan sovereign wealth fund, the Novotel Umubano in Kigali is 60% owned by the Libyans; there is real estate in Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, South Africa; brand new mosques in East and West Africa have been built with the colonel's cash.

Did the Africans accept him as a new Kwame Nkrumah, the founding father of Africa's independence movement, or did his money know no ideology?

It is no wonder then, that the colonel's dilemma is making headlines all over the continent.

Questions have been tabled in the Zimbabwean parliament as to whether Zimbabwean forces are involved in propping up Mr Gaddafi's last stand, even as 46 people are languishing in a Harare jail for watching videos of the Egyptian uprising.

Venomous hatred

Rumours are everywhere of a recruitment drive for mercenaries in Nigeria and Ghana.

And now, as things fall apart, the colonel is defiantly holding on with many reports suggesting that Africans, black Africans, are the crutches on which his depleted army is now hobbling.

Egyptian evacuees carry luggage prior to take a bus after fleeing from Libya, on 25 February 2011, at the Ras Jdir border post, near the Tunisian city of Ben Guerdane Thousands of foreigners are trying to flee the chaos in Libya

In the past week, the phrase "African mercenaries" has been repeated by Libyan citizens and rolling news, eyewitnesses to the violence in Tripoli have spat the word "African" with venomous hatred.

Part of the Libyan story now is the scramble to escape of Turks, Germans, Indians, Englishmen, Italians, Malaysians and a host of other nationalities that include black men commonly known as Africans.

In the violence of the last fortnight, the colonel's African connections have only served to rekindle a deep-rooted racism between Arabs and black Africans.

As mercenaries, reputedly from Chad and Mali fight for him, a million African refugees and thousands of African migrant workers stand the risk of being murdered for their tenuous link to him.

One Turkish construction worker told the BBC: "We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company. They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: 'You are providing troops for Gaddafi.' The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves."

Libya's new forces for change have simply picked up where the colonel left off his bloodletting.

And as the world moves to freeze Libya's assets, they must unpick the intricate web of the colonel's investments and decide what is his and what is Libya's - although in 42 years of absolute power it has never been easy to tell the difference.

Belated noises are now coming from the African Union, condemning the use of violence.

Even that anonymous community made from that meaningless phrase - the international community - now deny ever arming him, and claim there is no evidence that their teargas has been used against protesters, as if teargas floats in the colours of a national flag so we can all know where it was made as we choke.

The forces of change must now hope that Mr Gaddafi's fighting friends evaporate, and he can live out his last days in a tent pitched on a hotel lawn once owned by Libya, or Gaddafi plc; or face the music.

For more on events in Africa listen to the BBC's Network Africa Weekend programme on Saturday and Sunday at 0400 GMT and 0600 GMT.

Please read a selection of your views below:

There is no love lost between Africans and Arabs and it definitely does not start with events in Libya; it just provides the best opportunity to clear the Arab country of the despised hue and physiognomy that the African represents. If we Africans are not highly exploitable, we can never be exploited!

Fodei M. Conteh, Sierra Leone & Cyprus

Black Africans today have forgotten the first survival lesson taught by our grandparents "Do not eat anything offered to you by strangers on the roadside -- Do not tell reveal your real or family names -- Do not go into their houses even if they offer to slaughter a fat cow. Stay within your family compound and be satsfied with your mother's cooking." What is happening in Libya today is the ancient curse of the leopard -- rather sad that so many innocent people must get caught in this judgment.

Margaret S. Maringa,

Look folks, Gaddafi current plight is a classic case of chicken coming home to roost. For more than a decade this demon has exported violence in poor African countries. He is the main purveyor of voilence on the continent and his bloodletting extends from Central Africa (Chad) to the West (Liberia). He did not hesitate to lend hand to those who sought to destabilize a peaceful and functioning government. Little did he know that one day his dirty deeds will catch up with him. His time is up and he must heed the will of the Libyan people and leave.

Nyaquoi Gehgan, USA

I come from Sierra Leone now a US citizen. The reason why I left my country in 1998 was because of the war. I bore the blunt of that war and allegedly financed by Ghadafi. I want him gone.and tried for terrorism and crimes against humanity.

Henry Williams, USA/Sierra Leone

Although the name Gaddafi is a known name in Africa, but its a name that evokes diverse opinions within the African continent. To this day Africans find it hard to reconcile what he claim to stand for with his actions over the years. The idea of playing and parading himself as the eagle and leader of a revolution that is very unpopular among Africans would have found a better meaning, if he had sincerely tried to build his country beyond himself. At this moment that he is under the flood-light, we can't but see him better and understand what he is made of, just as many Africans now feel a sense of shame to have had him as the AU chairman not long ago. If Kwame Nkrumah left a legacy, what can we say that Gaddafi built over the ages that are not crumbling even now that he is still alive.

Obaa Emmanuel Livingspring, Madrid, Spain

When I was growing up I first read a comic book of his revolution at the age of ten. Since then as dictators came and went.Colonel Gadaffi has made an impression on me as a Man who truely loves Africa! Infact Libyans could complain that he spent their wealth on other africans! but if those Africans he helped put in power built schools and mosques and many forms of development just to show that Africans can for themselves. if those africans would abandon him to be swallowed by Western Impellialism and their lies and just let him go as a dictator in the name of the so called democracy...if they could do that...they should receive the the names and fate that the western press gives our beloved leader. If there is any one person who was half as generous as he is let them step forward.

Preston White, London

This man has been accused of many things and listening to the West who just recently were happy to accept his generous hospitality, you will think that he is worst than Hitler. The racism and contemptuous attitudes of Arabs towards black African has made a natural sceptic of any overtures from them to forge a closer link with black Africa but Gaddafi was an exception. Yes, he may have been implicated in destabilising some African governments but his contribution to freedom courses throughout the continent and beyond and his investment should not be overlooked. When the West ignored the young military junta in The Gambia following the coup in 1994, he embraced them and supported them with cash and one of the biggest hotels in Banjul belongs to Libya but I now learnt that his former friend Yaya Jammeh is calling for him to go. How time changes?

Musa Bah, London

Sure Gaddafi contributed many unwise, ill advice adventures in the African continent including the destruction of Somali nation. And the Libya people are now taking the same road, using same violent as Gaddafi killing innocent African people in Libya. In my small hometown in northern Somalia there are confirm reports that three Somali refuge from this area were shot dead in Tripoli.

Ahmed, Buhodle, Somalia

Prinston has said it all.Western imperialism is at work here.I think we should support Ghadaffi because when we saw protesters in Tunisia and Egypt they were not carrying weapons but these CIA and MI6 and whatever else Propped agents are carrying weapons how can we tell who kills who in Libya. Ghaddafi is a sitting Leader so he has the right to stop the destabilization of his government.Will the American or any of these hypocritical governments allow it's citizen to protest like that without trying overtly or covertly to control the stages? in fact any government will try to control the stage and work for it's and the people's interest?

Jibrin Ibn Gadamosi, NIGERIA

The lunatic muamur gaddafi,who has been in power for 42 year,yet his quest for power make him to be killing his own people like fowls.It' very unfortunate and regretable that he is using black poor african to carry out this mass killing with europeans weopons. Illitracy and lack of moral convictions has made this mad man to order airstrikes against peaceful protesters.It is not a suprise that it took italian prime minister long before he condem his ally use of heavy bombardment aginst women and children protesters,just because of oil.

Paul Chibuzor Anyaorah, Amaokpala Town, Orumba North, Nigeria

To many an African, black African, who has had to endure the brunt of Gaddafi's numerous escapades characterized pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric and sponsored violence, the sooner he exits the better. for Libya, Africa/the region and world at large. But even as the desired hastened departure of Gaddafi assumes the dominant thinking of his many victims and 'ideological' (that is, if he ever had any ideology) nemesis/critics, the potential reply of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, including the post Hussein Irag, should never be relegated with a whiff to the unconscious, even subconscious. How naive to believe, even wish, that four unbroken decades of consolidated megalomania and active promotion of international terrorism, the latter with the real prospect of Gaddafi having to account for his egregious crimes, will he exit the comfort and protection offered by him being at Libya's helm without a flexing of the muscle. Any surprise he and his sons have hollered to 'fight to the death,' and 'in rivers of blood!' Without a doubt, it is the expected fallout form all this for Libya, Africa/the region and world security, and how it can be managed, that must now actively exercise world thinking. This should be contemplated against the backcloth of the reported plethora of weapons of violence at Gaddafi's disposal, even as he continues to be cornered by his long oppressed masses. Gaddafi's potential to deliberately proliferate such lethal weapons of violenc, as is already evident in Libya, and the implications for Libya, the region and the world should not be taken with a wait-and-see attitude. Ignoring that will sooner rather than later be at our collective peril. Hope not! That said, for now it seems the chickens have come home to roost for Moamar Gaddafi.

A.M. Collier, Freetown, Sierra Leone

It is so sad to hear mute responses from alot of African Governments. Not that they have not formed up there opinions but its largely because alot of these Governemnts have long dismissed him as jocker. Angola for example ruled by another dictator sitting on an oil economy Mr. Jose Eduardo dos Santos has never paid attention to who Gaddafi is. And this factor and attitude reflects in the Angola people as well. Angolan people are busy rebuilding their country. Angola was the only country which infact slowed Gaddadfi's program of wanting to declare the African Union as one nation at the time Gaddafi had wanted. The Angolan President is also heavily involved in Ivory Coast and yet the International community does not seem to know as to how handle Mr. Santos. Oil money I guese!1What is sad however is the fact that while Libya is experiencing all these changes, Angola is sinking deeper and no one would ever attempt to stand up to Jose Eduardo dos Santos.The only good thing is the fact that Gaddafi is going down, and as to whether the remaining dictators ( Santos, Biye and Museveni) have anything to learn will be a wait and see situation. Ultimately they should all go!!!!

Esperanca Baptista, Angola/USA

Gadhafi claims he has no official post, just a leader or patron of the revolution. Then when the noose began to tighten around his neck he said he was like the Queen of the United Kingdom; he had no real power. So I said how amazing and ironic is that this guy overthrew a monarchy only to install himself as a secular monarch, actually in the process of preparing his son, Saif-Islam, to take over him, the Syrian way. It is high pass noon since he should have been gone long ago. This guy has had a hand in many destabilizing events on the continent, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Chad, Burkina Faso and even my country Ghana where he sponsored the 1981 coup of JJ Rawlings. The murderous Rawlings regime stayed for 19years before he and his party were kicked out by the people. Suddenly Gadhafi's time is up, and he has nowhere to run to but to stay, fight and die. He will get his death wish, in the next few days. But then he is not alone, there are a lot of Gadhafis on the African continent who came by coups and metamorphosed into undeclared life-presidents. This is the reason for the muted response coming from the African continent, as no leader has been bold enough to call on Gadhafi to step down. Probably they are praying incessantly that he survives and prevails over the forces aligned against him. Fear is that the wind of change that is currently sweeping across North Africa might turn southerly very soon to blow them away. The signs are written on the wall. The Africans have lost their fear of dictators. When Gadhafi made his coup in 1969, Barack Obama was only six years and in Grade 1. That is how long ago. Game over.

Eric Bottah, Canada

In Africa even a ten year-old has ever heard about this man whose name is synonymous with violence.I agree with the colleagues who have correctly stated that the man destabilished the whole continent by interfering in internal affairs of countries.Like Napoleon Bonaparte he has an insatiable appetite for power and glory.It is the search for these that has consumed all his energies in pushing for an impractical 'United States of Africa' with no one but himself as the omnipotent leader and his fellow lunatic- Mugabe as his deputy. Ugandans were surprised when this demon once came to Kampala and advised Museveni not to leave power for as he put it 'Revolutionaries do not retire' and Museveni has taken up this advice since ! He even had the guts to promote Museveni's son to a military rank of his choice, forgetting that Uganda is not Libya where he is a god. I really dont see him surviving for another week. It is time to leave Libya or commit suicide. Other African dictators who have glued themselves in presidency should better watch out because popular protests cannot be stopped by the barrels of bombs.

Grace, Kampala , Uganda

This demon only turned his sights south toward black Africa after his Arab brothers refused to back him up when Reagan bombed him in 1986. The results were catastrophic with his export of wars and its resultant carnage to our people. I watched with disgust his feeble attempts to correct his sins by giving handouts of his iol money to our governments in Sierra Leone in an effort to make ammends. I was praying that our leaders tell him to keep his blood stained largese and "Go to hell" inspite of our poverty. The guy is comical and I hope he is toppled to face justice for all his crimes.

Bai Turay, USA from Sierra Leone

What amazes me most is the fact that Gaddafi still believes that killing largely unarmed Libyan citizens is good for 'Libya'. I am inclined to believe that it has always been about himself and not Libya or Africa that drives his policies. What kind of a man is he that, instead of accepting that there is more to life than Gaddafi, would rather burn the whole country to spite those that dare challenge his supposed invincibility? He is certainly raising the stacks and I hope that he is also prepared to fall spectaculary and hard enough for the sake of our history. Does anyone remember a GREAT AND SEEMINGLY INVINCIBLE man who was later pulled by his whiskers from a foul-smelling rat hole? The right thing for Gaddafi and his family to do is to stop the killings, gather whatever loot they have hoarded and say their goodbys to Libya. We all know that he is only a human being who has been addicted to power and pampering so much that he now believes that losing those would be the same as being dead. I feel for the fellow innocent black Africans who have found themselves in a hostile Arab community that had never accepted the fact that they also are Africans. The fact that they can prove that they are peaceful economic migrants will not save them as they are a race that had always been dispised by the Arabs. Unlike the fortunate nationalities that are being whisked to safety by the rich governments and countries, the black Africans have to find their own ways of escaping. On the way, they should be praying that they do not come across any groups of Arabs.

Bernedict Dzumbira, Leeds, UK

Arab slave trade on the African continent left a lot of wounds in the minds of those aware of this dark history, from the kidnapping of African Women and Children, to the Genocide of Africans by Oman Arab slave traders, Arab states have been shy in apologising about their continent's role in brutalising Africa.The case of Sudan where an Arab led Government has continued to practice enslavement of Black Africans is a constant reminder in the minds of Black Activists that we need to challenge and hold accountable the Arab states role in Africa colonisation and enslavement on their own continent.

Desire Katihabwa, Aberdeen,Scotland

It serves Quadafi right. He is reaping what he's sown. In Ghana we believe in an old saying, "just prior to the goat"s death, it struggles". This is the end of Quadafi. He is done, gone, finished. This is the man who supported Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to topple a legitimate regime in Ghana in 1981. He used Libyan money to finance such useless actions throughout the African continent. Just like his son said, plans A, B and C are to live and die in Libya. This is absolutely true but I promise them, they have a few weeks to live if these plans work out for them.

Tony Osei-Wusu, Salisbury/USA

Long live Colonel Qaddafi. The brotherly leader is a legend. A man who helped secure the independence of South Africa. He has built his country from scratch. He has entertained us for the past 42 years. Without the Colonel, the politics of the world would've been boring...The other reason I'm not that excited about getting rid of Muammar Qaddafi is because I know that the intentions of the imperialist powers are on Libya's oil... So I say, if there is going be looting of the Libyan peoples resources let it be the brotherly leader of the Revolution Colonel Muammar Qaddafi....As a Somali I support him.

Elyas, Somali

It would be wise for those jumping to conclusions about the role of the so called "Africans" to stop and look at the geographical location of Libya first!! Libya is African in a sense that it is part of continental African; and if those claiming to be Arabs and not Africans are not willing to accept their African identity, then any other African (whether black, red, white or blue) has the right to reside in Libya as it is an African country. Now, this is not suppose to be a matter of races but it has been made so by those who failed to direct their anger at their leader and blames it on other innocent Africans who happens to be in Libya!! The Southern Sudanese weren't willing to be oppressed by leaders who happens to be Arabs but they did not just killed any Sudanese who happens be Arab....they went after government and its forces!! it took them 21 years to get their freedom and they do not kill or resent any Arabs who lives in the South, for example, Yasir Arman is Arabs and he is a leader in the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLA/SPLM)!

Bol, Australia

He has done lot of harm to Africa than any African leader. Even my own country The Gambia's ruler Yahya Jammeh, is mentored and inspired by the green revolution since most of them were trained and mentored in Libya. Yahya Jammeh governement is identical to Ghadaffi system of governing Libyans. He helped and financed Yahya Jammeh to stay in power to build a dictorial rule in Gambia which is one of the most ruthless in West Africa.

Badara, Banjul, Gambia

Whatever every pundits say about Gadafi, his is one of Africa's greatest patriot. He made a mistake and over stayed in power, he will leave without any credits just like Museveni who might go the same way despite the goods thing he might do.

kizito paloguca, Pocatello, Idaho

It is a testimony to the excellence of this African viewpoint article that it has attracted so many high calibre comments. I was torn between my Pan Africanist zeal for Gadaffi and others who have taken a leading position in creating and sustaining a United states of Africa ....and my abhorrence of the methods used in order to destabilise, destroy or prop up regimes on the Continent that are deemed in the strategic interest of the West or the rest, including Gadaffi's Libya. Reading what everyone has written has inspired me to contribute too. It is more than high time that the leaders that will bring our people and Africa upwards and forwards emerge and we will know them by their fruits and not their bribes.

Patricia Lamour, London

One thing seems abundantly clear from the messages posted so far: nearly 42 years in power have not served to give us a standard spelling of the guy's name!To those who applaud him for treating Libya's money as his own and dispensing it to all and sundry, I guess there we have in microcosm what is wrong with our continent. That a man can mistreat his people and misappropriate his country's wealth and still be feted is all that one needs to know. He may have stolen the money but the fact that he built variosu edifices and propped up the AU makes everything alright. Forty two years? Come on, that's more than enough for anyone sit on a throne. Now, it seems his backside's going to be sore from the kicking he's getting, not from sitting so long. Shame on those who applaud a tyrant because they or their country benefitedfrom his largesse.

Ade Daramy, London, UK

As the "international community" ponder on all these different ways of stopping Gaddafi, and cuite all these crimes on the part of the dictator I hope they equally condemn the rebels for murder. Those apparent "freedom fighters" should be held accountable for THEIR crimes when all this is over.

Adjoa, Singapore, Singapore

I think Gadfhi is a good man and should stay in power. The protestors are part of the libyan terrorist organization who is banned in britain and is linked to al qaeda, there leader got out of jail recently and that is why the protest started. Libya is the most advanced African country, what more reform to people want. The protestors in Egypt and Tunisia were peaceful, they did not have tanks, guns, bombs, they did not kill people just for being black and they did not kill police men, member of the military or kidnap anyone. Anyone with a brain can see this is al qaeda at work. They want to turn libya into an islamic state, just watch tv and see the response when asked what kind of country do you want, they do not want to live in American style country with alcohol and naked women.

Phil Latio, Oran, Algeria

I believe this uprising in North Africa is a western plot to de-stabilise the region and get control Libya's oil wealth. The west lost a lot of petrol in the Gulf disaster and are looking to top up their reserves. Gadaffi is a soft target, they've been after him for years and it's not difficult to whip up hysteria against him to add fuel to the fire. Once they have who they want in power, they can get the oil at the price they want. Gadaffi should stay and fight his corner.

Neff Ifititi, UK

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