African viewpoint: Colonel's continent?
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.
He had no qualms about pitching his tent in our capitals”
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
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.
End Quote Turkish worker
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'”
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.
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.