France tries to rewrite its role in Africa

December 8, 2013 • Business

A displaced child walks through Bangui’s monastery where she and over 10,000 others found refuge in Bangui, Central African Republic, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. French forces spread out across the town on Sunday, as Seleka forces kept their patrols despite an order to return to their barracks. Red cross officials say over 400 have died since Christian militias attacked the capital last Thursday. French President Francois Hollande announced Saturday that France was raising its deployment to 1,600 troops. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

PARIS (AP) — France is coming to the rescue again, deploying soldiers in a former African colony to help stave off catastrophe — dirty work that Paris says it doesn’t really want. France has its eyes on a dynamic new Africa that is creating jobs, not conflicts.

But the image of France as the gendarme of Africa is hard to erase.

French troops deployed to deal with the deadly chaos in Central African Republic just as some 40 leaders from Africa, including the Central African Republic’s transitional prime minister, met in Paris on Friday and Saturday.

The summit made progress toward creating a French-trained African rapid reaction force to enable the continent to meet its own security needs — while allowing France to maintain ties to the region that may pay off economically in the longer term.

France’s idea of itself as a one-time colonial master cannot be easily shaken off. The French empire unraveled in the 1960s, but a half-century later, African leaders routinely call for help, and the calls don’t often go ignored.

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