Morocco has expressed its desire to rejoin the African Union, 32 years after dramatically exiting it in protest of a decision to include the Western Sahara as an independent member, according to the BBC.
Writing to the just concluded AU summit in Rwanda on Sunday, King Mohammed VI of Morocco expressed his country’s desire to rejoin the union, saying the time had come for Morocco to take up its natural place within its institutional family.
“Through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions,” the Monarch wrote.
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Morocco’s request to rejoin the AU must be taken through a vote before it is validated.
Reason for Exiting
In 1984, Morocco dramatically left the African Union after the organization recognized the Western Sahara as an independent state and endorsed it as a member in the union.
For decades, Morocco has described the Western Sahara as its “southern provinces” despite numerous efforts by local Sahrawi people to obtain their right to self-determination.
Morocco’s “occupation” of Western Sahara since 1975 has been a major sticking point in the region’s power plays, with the international community, including the AU, promising to continue pushing for the rights of Western Sahara’s people to hold a self-determination referendum.
Morocco, which is the only African country that is not an AU member, has, over the last 32 years, consistently rejected requests to join the union, insisting that Western Sahara’s membership must be withdrawn or frozen.
Efforts to End Stalemate Frustrated
In March this year, Morocco reportedly expelled UN staff members from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara in protest over UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s use of the term “occupation” to describe the status of the territory.
In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi fighters under the Polisario Front, promising the Western Sahara a self-determination referendum, which is yet to happen.
Decades after the ceasefire, the deadlock rages on, with numerous violations of the agreement as the two parties continue to wrangle over the proposed referendum.
Mohammed Abdelaziz, a long-time leader of the Polisario Front, died in May this year.
Morocco’s announcement to rejoin the African Union is seen as a perfect opportunity to break the stalemate.