King Mohammed VI delivers a speech to the African Union on Tuesday, January 31.

It’s been just over a week since an overwhelming majority of African Union (AU) member states (39 of 54) agreed to admit Morocco to the pan-African organization after a 33-year hiatus. The historic decision is a crowning achievement for Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who has made Africa a foreign policy priority during his reign. As he outlined in a speech to the AU the day after the news broke, Morocco’s African links “have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us.” Indeed he cited his 46 visits to 25 African countries and noted that “since 2000, Morocco has signed nearly a thousand agreements with African countries, in various fields of cooperation”—almost twice as many as during the period between 1956 and 1999.

 

Not surprisingly, world leaders, institutions, and policy observers welcomed the widely-reported decision. Here’s a sampling of what’s been said:

 

  • “OAU [the Organization for African Unity, predecessor to the AU] finds itself again” – Alpha Conde, President of Guinea and newly elected chairperson of the AU
  • “Morocco will now be able to throw its political, military and economic clout, as well as its direct experience of terrorism, behind [AU] operations” – Terence McNamee and Greg Mills of the South Africa-based Brenthurst Foundation and J Peter Pham at the Washington-based Atlantic Council
  • “Both the African Union and Morocco are key partners for the EU. We look forward to working with both the African Union and Morocco to consolidate the EU’s growing partnership with Africa.” - European External Action Service
  • “If the family grows bigger, we can find solutions as a family,” Senegal’s President Macky Sall in a Voice of America report
  • “As Morocco claims its place as a major player in Africa, I hope that Western powers grappling with the same issues can recognize the deeper significance of this latest development:  that with cooperation and unity comes strength.” – Former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel in The Hill
  • “… the return of Morocco in the AU family would further enhance African voice and weight at the international level and would facilitate the resolution of critical challenges facing the continent” – Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen
  • “With Morocco, the AU gains a well-connected—and deep-pocketed—member as it seeks to move away from international funding and become more self-reliant in the face of isolationist tendencies in the U.S. and Europe. Rabat, meanwhile, gets a seat at the table of an increasingly influential AU that is likely to open up investment opportunities across Africa.” – Wall Street Journal
  • “Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) is a welcome move that is likely to strengthen the unity of the bloc and possibly lead to more African involvement in regional disputes. It was high time that a country as big a player in Africa as Morocco reclaimed its rightful place in the union.” – Gulf News

While nine AU member countries were against Morocco’s return (and six countries abstained from the discussion) King Mohammed VI spoke candidly: “We know that we do not have unanimous backing from this prestigious assembly. Far be it from us to spark off a sterile debate! We have absolutely no intention of causing division, as some would like to insinuate!” With enthusiasm he countered, “You will see: as soon as the Kingdom becomes a member and is able to contribute to the agenda of activities, its action will, on the contrary, help bring about unity and progress. We participated in the creation of this beautiful pan-African edifice and we naturally look forward to regaining the place that is ours within it.”

By Jordana Merran

13/02/2017