The African Union has re-admitted the Kingdom of Morocco into the continental body, more than 30 years since it pulled out.
The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in 1984 amid a dispute over the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.
In 2014, Morocco rejected the AU’s decision to appoint a special envoy for the Western Sahara, saying the body had no legal authority to intervene.
However, King Mohammed VI has been making diplomatic efforts over the last year to try to win Rabat’s readmission.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan leader addressed the continental body on Tuesday for the first time since his country was re-admitted.
King Mohammed VI said the kingdom’s readmission is not intended to divide it, but to benefit Africa.
“Africa is my home and I am coming back home,” King Mohammed said, to applause from other heads of state. “I have missed you all.”
It is expected that the readmission to the AU would ease Morocco’s entry into fast-growing African economies to the south and help reduce its reliance on stagnant European markets to the north.
In the last few years, Moroccan firms have made significant investments across Africa in areas from financial services to housing projects to fertilizer plants.
King Mohammed promised more of this would follow the readmission. “Africa is indispensable to Morocco and Morocco is indispensable to Africa,” he said.
Several countries, led by South Africa, Algeria and Zimbabwe, had been concerned about the re-admittance, but lost the debate at the summit in Addis Ababa.