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.

Perhaps more importantly, it will bring Morocco and its adversaries in the self-styled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) face to face as members of the AU. The bloc accepted Morocco’s return with consensus, where even the SADR government that claims to represent the people of Western Sahara, voted in favour of Morocco in return for Morocco’s unconditional request to re-join. Morocco’s exit 33 years ago was attributed to the bloc’s recognition of the SADR as an independent state with sovereignty over Western Sahara. Those reservations appear to have subsided in favour of dialogue.

Morocco’s stance of not putting forward conditions for its re-joining also earned it the support of some AU heavyweights like Algeria and South Africa, who had reservations about the kingdom’s entry due to what they said was Morocco’s “occupation” of territory belonging to another member-state. All states have so far decided to defer discussions on the dispute to a later date. Rabat’s ability to overcome the protests of some of the AU members is in itself a victory signalling a possible softening of member-states’ position on Morocco’s claim to the territory.

Member-states realise that, given the union’s plans to become self-sufficient (much of its budget is covered by foreign states), it is in their interest to bring wealthy Morocco back into the bloc. Re-admitting Morocco was a move towards more inclusion and more independence that can only be beneficial to the continent.