Morocco has formally written to the African Union requesting to rejoin the continent-wide organization more than three decades after it left in protest over Western Sahara.

The request was included in a written speech signed by King Mohammed VI of Morocco and addressed to AU members.

Morocco withdrew from the Organization of African Unity, the African Union's precursor, in 1984 in protest over the admission to the organization of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara territory that Morocco also claims.

An African Union summit is taking place in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.

Morocco annexed the mineral-rich Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought a local independence movement called the Polisario Front. A referendum on the territory's future has never taken place.