Legacy of colonialism requires legacy of mentorship
Ever since the long process of de-colonization in Africa, French foreign policy on that continent has been something of a puzzle.
As previously noted to be the case for Britain, too forceful activity on the part of the French in Africa will bring charges of colonialism. But to decline to engage with their former colonies will allow the political environment in Africa to continue festering.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has moved away from the spectre of colonialism by decommissioning two of Frence's five military bases on the continent. But given the political environment in Africa, the answer cannot be less French presence. It in fact needs to be more.
In July Sarkozy will host a summit between France and its former African colonies. The summit will likely help France find the answer of what the ideal level of engagement with its former colonies should be. The question that lingers is whether or not France is prepared to make the necessary commitment required.
Sarkozy seems to place at least some of the blame for Africa's plight on African leadership.
"The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history," Sarkozy recently announced.
But France needs to provide desperately-needed mentorship to the leaders of its former African colonies -- in places like The Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic.
That was once the way of France's African policies -- French West Africans were regarded as fully French, and were often offered educational opportunities at that level. Often the bulk of governmental responsibilities were assigned to African leaders, who worked directly under French higher authorities.
The haste of de-colonization allowed cronyism and virulent forms of nationalism-tattooed-upon-tribalism to set in in many of these former French colonies, destroying what progress the French model of colonialism -- one comparatively benevolent in some respects -- had wrought.
The new model of French mentorship with its former colonies clearly cannot simply be an updated version of the old model. La Francophonie could prove to be valuable tool of multi-national mentorship to these colonies. Unfortunately, some of the more developed members of La Francophonie have little to offer in this regard.
Belgium, for example, was known for the brutal oppression of its colonies in Africa. Greece has few positive examples to offer to France's former colonies, judging from the status of its finances.
That would leave the burden of leadership in La Francophonie to France, Canada, and Switzerland. Nor could these three countries direct all of their attentions to Africa. Haiti is indesperate need of this manner of help.
France's hard road in Africa is one that it doesn't have to travel alone. Hopefully, the results of Nicolas Sarkozy's Africa summit will help him realize that.