With Morocco's return, African Union now complete

The North African nation became the only one on the continent not to belong to the AU after withdrawing its membership from the AU's predecessor 33 years ago when the body recognised the independence of the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

But several countries, led by South Africa and Algeria, had expressed concerns during the debate, insisting Morocco should first recognise the independence of Western Sahara.

The African National Congress (ANC) says it regrets the decision of the African Union (AU) to readmit Morocco to the organisation.

The West African kingdom, which was the only country in Africa that was not a member of the continental bloc, was reintergrated during the 28th Summit of the African Union at Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in a ceremony on Monday.

Hopes that the move could pave the way for peace-building were bolstered after Western Sahara - regarded by Morocco as part of its historic territory - welcomed the readmission. After talks with Polisario leader Brahim Ghali last month, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said: "It is unfathomable that Western Sahara... still remains colonized".

Thirty-nine of the 54 states approved Morocco's return to the AU.

However, SADR foreign minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek said that "from the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions. we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union".

"We have just received the official support of Ghana, which brings the number of countries that unconditionally support Morocco's [return to the African Union]", Les Echos newspaper reported, citing a Moroccan diplomatic source.

The conference noted with "deep concern" the "persistent" deadlock in the search for a solution to the Western Sahara conflict, and highlighted the need for "further global efforts to facilitate a "rapid" resolution of this conflict".

"Africa is indispensable to Morocco and so Morocco is indispensable to Africa. Why don't you allow the Sahrawi to choose their future freely?" he said. Rejoining the AU will bolster those efforts and further cement Morocco's bond with its African neighbors.

  • Jon Douglas