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Morocco announces it wants to rejoin African Union after 32 years

King Mohammed’s father pulled Morocco out of AU in 1984 over decision to accept Western Sahara
Moroccan King Mohammed VI inaugurating solar power plant earlier this year (AFP)

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.

"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 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.

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.

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.”