Mitterrand's France pledges to aid Africa, not to meddle
The two-day annual Franco-African summit in Paris this week has allowed Socialist French President Frannois Mitterrand to establish a more personal rapport with the 33 participating African nations, most of them former French colonies.
But it has also given him the opportunity to elaborate on his government's proposed ''new style'' foreign policy for the African continent.
Under Mitterrand, this style has already taken on a definite innovative hue. The Socialists have made pointed efforts to rid French policy of its paternalist , neocolonial characteristics. They have emphasized third-world development, peace, security, and respect for individual independence as its key themes.
''Nothing will be done without the sovereign decision of each state,'' Mitterrand said at the summit.
Chad, a major topic at the informal Paris talks, presents Mitterrand with his first challenge to demonstrate the sort of role he would like France to assume in African affairs.
Reiterating his position that France would not intervene militarily in Africa , Mitterrand said that his government would provide logistic and technical support for the creation of an Organization of African Unity-sponsored African peace-keeping force in Chad.
By itself, France has provided limited economic help and weaponry to the government of Chad President Goukhouni Woddei.
At the proposal of President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, convention delegates appealed for creation of a peace-keeping force as ''soon as possible'' in order to replace the Libyan troops scheduled to be withdrawn from the country over the next seven days.
In addition to Nigeria and Senegal, Mobutu announced that Zaire, Benin, and Gabon had also agreed to send contingents to Chad as part of the force. Other nations reportedly offering to send troops are Egypt, Ivory Coast, and Kenya.
In keeping with its move to end neo-colonialism, France has insisted that the OAU retain the initiative in Chad. ''This is an African, not a French, affair,'' observed a Quai d'Orsay source.
But some African leaders are known to be considerably worried by Mitterrand's unwillingness to take what they call direct action. They feel an assertive French presence on the continent is necessary to maintain security.
Some believe that if the Libyans leave within the next week - as Col. Radoyuane Salah, Libya's military commander in Chad, has said they would - the resulting vacuum might induce another outbreak of civil war.
Conference sources have said it would take at least until mid-December before the first OAU troops could be brought in. There is also some skepticism that a peace-keeping force will get off the ground and, if it is organized, that it will effectively promote peace.
Other issues discussed at the conference - and related to France's ''new style'' Africa policy - were the Namibian situation, the Western Sahara, economic and agricultural problems, and the plight of refugees. France, which recently permitted the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) to establish an office in Paris, said that it fully supported UN Resolution 435 on Namibia. It said France hoped to see an independent nation emerge in 1982.
But one of the most fundamental questions raised at the summit is the problem of raw-material prices in Africa. Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast appealed to European and other Western industrial countries to help the faltering economies of most African nations.