Morocco Rejoins African Union Three Decades After Withdrawal

King Mohammed VI speaks at an African Union assembly on Jan. 31.

Photographer: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The African Union readmitted Morocco as a member, more than three decades after the country quit the organization in protest over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco became the bloc’s 55th member after the support of “an overwhelming majority of African countries,” Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website, without giving further details. African heads of state began a two-day summit Monday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

Morocco formally submitted its bid to rejoin the body last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s objectives of placing the country “at the center” of Africa’s economic development. The North African nation withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, in 1984 after it recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member state.

The status of the SADR has split the continental body, with 28 of its 54 members voting in July to expel the state -- a move that Morocco would welcome because it claims the portion of Western Sahara ruled by the SADR as its own territory. Upon readmission, Morocco is likely to push for the SADR to be removed from the African Union, NKC African Economics, a Paarl, South Africa-based research group, said in an e-mailed research note before the announcement was made.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said earlier this month 40 African nations backed his country’s bid to rejoin the bloc.

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