Moroccan King Mohammed VI announced that his country wanted to rejoin the African Union, 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 yesterday said in a message sent to an AU summit taking place in Kigali, the MAP Moroccan news agency reported.
Morocco quit the grouping in protest in 1984 when the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was admitted as a member.
But although Morocco left the club, “it never quit Africa”, King Mohammed said in his message to AU leaders as they began a two-day meeting in the Rwandan capital.
Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.
It maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom even though local Sahrawi people have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.
In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front but a promised referendum to settle the status of the desert territory has yet to materialise.
In his address to the African Union, King Mohammed urged the bloc to rethink its position on the “fantom state” of Western Sahara, saying that a political solution was being worked on under the auspices of the UN.