After 32 years of quitting in protest of the acceptance of Western Sahara as member of African Union (AU), Morocco is seeking to rejoin the bloc and be more relevant.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI offered a conditional olive branch to African leaders in a speech in Senegal declaring his country wanted to “take back its natural position in Africa.”
Mohammed VI delivered an annual speech usually given at home in Dakar to “show the great interest we take in our continent”, while still firmly maintaining the “unshakeable Moroccan identity of the Western Sahara.”
Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.
Moroccan King emphasised that his nation would “ask no one’s permission to take our legitimate rights,” as “nothing” would change regarding its position on the Western Sahara.
The king arrived late Sunday from Gabon on a three-day trip to Senegal following an east African charm offensive in Rwanda and Tanzania.
He declared that Morocco has “a staggering level of support to take up a seat in the heart of the institutional family of Africans,” referring to the AU.
Morocco 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 is yet to materialise.
Rabat’s membership bid must be approved by a vote of the AU Commission in order to be accepted.
The only African state that is a United Nations member, but is not a member of the African Union is Morocco, which opted to leave its ancestor, the Organisation of African Unity, due to the Organisation’s recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) as a member state.
It reapplied to rejoin the union in 2016.
The AU was established on May 26, 2001 in Addis Ababa and launched on July 9, 2002 in South Africa, with the aim of replacing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.
The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.