The African Union admitted Morocco as a member on Tuesday, more than three decades after Rabat withdrew from the bloc’s predecessor over a row about the status of Western Sahara.
Morocco’s King Mohammed, who had been campaigning since last year to join, waved to heads of state at the end of a summit in the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital.
“Africa is my home and I am coming back home,” the king said to applause from African leaders. “I have missed you all.”
The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, after the body recognised Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.
Western Sahara’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek had earlier said progress on Morocco’s admission was a “positive step” since it would put them on an equal diplomatic footing.
Continental heavyweights Algeria and South Africa have been prominent backers of the Sahrawi Republic, the domestic political movement that lays claim to the territory along the northern Sahara’s Atlantic seaboard.