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Morocco announces its wish to rejoin the African Union | The World Weekly

Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Sunday announced that his country wants to rejoin the African Union (AU), 32 years after quitting the bloc in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member.

Though Morocco has stated its desire to return to the African Union, it will only do so on the condition that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s membership within the AU is suspended or withdrawn. In response to Morocco’s request to rejoin the AU, newly elected president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Brahim Ghali, argued Morocco should be allowed to rejoin if it recognises Sahrawi autonomy. 

"For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them, so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family. The moment has now come," the monarch said in a message sent to an AU summit taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, the MAP Moroccan news agency reported.

The summit, which is the 27th of its kind, was expected to be the venue where Morocco’s decision would be formally announced, according to an anonymous source speaking to Moroccan newspaper Akhbar al-Youm last week.

Late last month, the chair of the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, visited Rabaat where he received Morocco’s highest state decoration.

King Mohammed’s father, King Hassan II, pulled Morocco out of the AU in 1984 over the union's decision to accept the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a formal member.Morocco considers the territory as part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is neither a member of the UN or the Arab League but is recognised as a semi-autonomous region by 84 UN members and 38 AU members. 

The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco seized the former Spanish territory in 1975.

The UN chief wants to achieve progress in resolving the 40-year conflict over Western Sahara before he steps down at the end of the year.

The dispute over Western Sahara has soured relations between the UN and Morocco. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara an “occupation”. Furious, Morocco ordered the UN to pull out dozens of civilian staffers and close a military liaison office for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar had been on a diplomatic offensive in recent days, according to Huffington Post Arabic, meeting with the presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Senegal, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and the prime ministers of Libya and Ethiopia to inform them all of Morocco’s intention.

Morocco has special status within the AU and still has access to services available to all AU states, but remains the only African UN member not to be a member of the AU.

On the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and a cumbersome legacy. Through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions." - Mohammed VI, King of Morocco

For this reason, some have called in recent years for Morocco to be brought back into the fold of the African Union.

“Morocco is a fully-fledged member of the African family, and no-one has the right to exclude the Kingdom from the AU,” Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye said during King Mohammed’s visit to Senegal in May 2015. “We think that now is the time for Morocco to return to the African Union.”

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