Western Sahara refugees (file photo)

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Western Sahara has welcomed Morocco’s readmission to the African Union, 32 years after members refused to withdraw help for the territory’s independence.

It was a “good alternative” and “an opportunity to work collectively,” a prime Western Sahara official informed the BBC.

Morocco controls two-thirds of Western Sahara and sees it as a part of its historic territory.

Nonetheless some, together with the UN, see Western Sahara as Africa’s final colony.

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Find out more about Western Sahara

A referendum was promised in 1991 however by no means carried out on account of wrangling over who was eligible to vote.

1000’s of Sahrawi refugees nonetheless reside in refugee camps in Algeria – some have been there for 40 years.

Media captionForty years in a refugee camp

What distinction will this make to Western Sahara?

It’s not clear what occurs subsequent however Western Sahara is hopeful committee arrange by the AU will handle the problems that either side have raised.

Some AU delegates mentioned that it might be simpler to resolve the problem with Morocco contained in the AU.

Sidi Mohammed, a Western Sahara official, informed the BBC that Morocco’s return to the AU signifies that it might now be anticipated to place “in apply choices taken by the AU with regard to a referendum in Western Sahara”.

Mr Mohammed dismissed the suggestion that Morocco would now search to get the AU to vary its place, saying that the no nation may unilaterally change the AU basic settlement, saying it opposed colonisation.

In his speech on the AU summit, King Mohammed VI of Morocco mentioned the readmission was not meant to divide the continental physique.

Algeria fell out with Morocco over Western Sahara – has that modified?

No. Algeria has all the time been an enormous supporter of Western Sahara’s Polisario Entrance and it had needed Morocco to just accept independence of the territory as a situation for readmission.

Zimbabwe and South Africa had been additionally supportive of this stance however they had been outnumbered by those that needed Morocco again within the fold.

Why did the AU not insist on Morocco recognising Western Sahara?

There isn’t a particular provision within the AU constitution that bars any nation from becoming a member of it.

Morocco merely utilized and the request was accepted by greater than two-thirds of the 53 members.

Morocco has been concerned in intense lobbying and utilized in July final yr to rejoin the continental physique.

King Mohammed toured varied African nations in search of help for the bid.

Why did Morocco wish to rejoin – is it a shift from being Arab-focused to wanting in the direction of Africa?

No. Whereas culturally the nation’s identification aligns with Arab states, its financial pursuits more and more lie in Africa.

This can be a strategic transfer to proceed exploring its pursuits in mining, development, medical, insurance coverage and banking sectors on the continent.

Moroccan troops went into Western Sahara after Spain withdrew in 1975.

How did we get right here?

  • 1975-76: Morocco seizes two-thirds of Western Sahara after colonial energy Spain withdraws.
  • 1975-76: Polisario Entrance declares the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile in Algeria. 1000’s of Sahrawi refugees flee to western Algeria to arrange camps.
  • 1984: Morocco leaves the Organisation of African Unity (which later turned the African Union) in protest on the SADR’s admission to the physique.
  • 1991: UN-monitored ceasefire begins in Western Sahara, however the territory’s standing stays undecided and ceasefire violations are reported. The next decade sees a lot wrangling over a proposed referendum on the way forward for the territory however the impasse just isn’t damaged.
  • March 2016: Morocco threatens to drag its troopers out of UN world peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, after UN Secretary-Basic Ban Ki-moon makes use of the time period “occupation” when referring to the territory.
  • Might 2016: Lengthy-time Polisario Entrance chief Mohamed Abdelaziz dies aged 68

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