Ellen Johnson Sirleaf African Union decides to readmit Morocco

These nations have long supported the campaign for self-determination by Western Sahara's Polisario movement.

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African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 play

African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017

(AFP)
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The African Union agreed Monday to readmit Morocco 33 years after it quit the bloc, following a difficult debate over the status of Western Sahara, according to presidents attending the summit.

"Morocco is now a full member of the African Union. There was a very long debate but 39 of our 54 states approved the return of Morocco, even if the Western Sahara question remains," Senegalese President Macky Sall told journalists.

"As we have said, if the family grows bigger, we can find solutions as a family," he added.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed that "the majority of the member states have accepted Morocco's application to rejoin the African Union."

"Africa wants to speak in one voice. We need all African countries to be a part of that voice."

Delegates attending the debate described an emotional and tense discussion, with heavyweights like Algeria and South Africa against the re-admission of Morocco.

These nations have long supported the campaign for self-determination by Western Sahara's Polisario movement.

Morocco maintains that the former Spanish colony under its control is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory's independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

Some nations find it unthinkable that Morocco should sit in the same room as Western Sahara and the debate has been "an emotional call for the fight against colonisation," according to Institute for Security Studies analyst Liesl Louw-Vaudran.

The AU seems to have decided to leave the resolution of the Western Sahara question for another day, hoping that with Morocco back in the fold they can better advance the dossier.

"I think that one we're going to leave that until we have more chance to discuss it," said Johnson-Sirleaf.

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