Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
|Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah|
|Emir of Kuwait|
|Reign||29 January 2006 –|
29 September 2020
|Successor||Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber|
|Born||16 June 1929|
Kuwait City, Kuwait
|Died||29 September 2020 (aged 91)|
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.
|Burial||30 September 2020|
|Spouse||Fatuwah bint Salman Al-Sabah (died 1990)|
|House||House of Sabah|
|Father||Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah|
|Mother||Munira Othman Hamad Al-Ayyar Al-Saeed|
Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (Arabic: الشيخ صباح الأحمد الجابر الصباح; 16 June 1929 – 29 September 2020) was Emir of Kuwait and Commander of the Kuwait Military Forces from 29 January 2006 until his death in 2020. He was the fourth son of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
Early life and early career
Al-Sabah was born on 16 June 1929. He received his primary education at Al Mubarakya School in the 1930s and completed his education under tutors. He was the half-brother of the previous Emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who appointed Sabah as Prime Minister in July 2003, replacing the Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Saad Al-Salim Al-Sabah. His brother was killed when Royal Air Maroc Flight 630 was intentionally crashed by its pilot in 1994. Before becoming Emir of Kuwait, Sabah was the foreign minister from 1963 to 2003, making him the longest-serving foreign minister in the world at the time of leaving office, and the second longest-serving so far. As foreign minister, Sabah restored Kuwaiti international relations after the Gulf War. He was also first deputy prime minister while serving as foreign minister. He was acting minister of finance from 1965 to 1967. He was prime minister and de facto ruler from 2003 to 2006, due to Jaber III's ill health.
On 15 January 2006, Emir Jaber, died, making Sheikh Saad, Crown Prince of Kuwait, the new Emir. With Saad's accession, Sabah was likely to become the new Crown Prince, retaining his function of Prime Minister. But the Constitution requires that the Emir be sworn in before Parliament, and the oath of office is complex. Saad was unable to take the oath in full. Some reports suggested that he suffered from Alzheimer's disease or some other debilitating disease; it was generally agreed that he was unable to speak at any length. After a power struggle within the ruling family, Saad agreed to abdicate as Emir of Kuwait on 23 January 2006 due to illness. The ruling family then conferred and Sabah became the new Emir. On 24 January 2006, the National Assembly of Kuwait voted Saad out of office, moments before an official letter of abdication was received. The Cabinet of Kuwait nominated Sabah as Emir. He was sworn in on 29 January 2006 with the National Assembly's approval, ending that crisis.
Dissolution of the National Assembly
In March 2016, Sabah suspended the National Assembly to keep those in opposition from questioning the Kuwaiti prime minister over the government's actions.
Sabah dissolved the National Assembly on 19 March 2008 and called for early elections on 17 May 2008, after the cabinet resigned in the week of 17 March 2008 following a power struggle with the government.
Sabah was a regional and international mediator due in part to his place in the Gulf Cooperation Council's leadership order and his 40 years of service as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister. Under his leadership, Kuwait acted as a go-between for Pakistan and Bangladesh, Turkey and Bulgaria, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, factions in the civil war in Lebanon, and the Gulf States and Iran. In 2016 Sabah hosted several United Nations sponsored meetings of leaders from the warring factions in the Yemeni Civil War.
Sabah established Kuwait as the key mediator in the Qatar diplomatic crisis that began in 2017, meeting with Saudi and Emirati officials before leaving for Doha to discuss the rift with Qatari leaders. His ongoing efforts were publicly supported by Qatar and other interested parties from the region as well as the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. At the beginning of September 2017, Sabah discussed the situation with top officials in Washington, D.C., including U.S. President Donald Trump, who "hailed his efforts" to mediate and "applauded Kuwait's 'critical contributions to regional stability'". There were some questions from the boycotting countries about any preconditions. French President Emmanuel Macron stated French support for Sabah's mediation efforts after a meeting in Paris on 15 September 2017, reiterating statements of support for the initiative. Trump and Sabah had a third meeting at the White House on 5 September 2018.
Sabah is credited with playing a role in the creation of the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine, or Fatah, in October 1959 in Kuwait City. Several of the early leaders of Fatah, and later the Palestine Liberation Organization, also formed in Kuwait in 1964, were close to Sabah, like Khaled al-Hassan.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called Sabah a "global humanitarian leader", saying, "His support of disaster relief, peace efforts and advancing public health are an inspiration. Other world leaders can learn from the wise example set by my friend, His Highness the Emir."
According to the 2014 Middle East Coutts Report, Sabah provided the largest individual donation in 2013 among GCC members in support of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, $300 million. In 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited Sabah as a humanitarian leader globally and presented him with a Humanitarian Award. Ban said, "It gives me great pleasure and honour to be here today to recognize the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait. This is a great humanitarian day. We are sitting together with a great humanitarian leader of our world". In 2015, Sabah pledged $500 million toward easing the Syrian humanitarian crisis at a UN Summit convened in Kuwait.
In August 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed gratitude for Kuwait's leadership in humanitarian action, adding, "But it's not only the humanitarian leadership of Kuwait, it's the wisdom, the dialogue, the promotion of understanding that Kuwait has shown in relation to all conflicts in the region. Kuwait has no agenda. The agenda of Kuwait is peace; is understanding." Guterres further noted the positive role Sabah played in the GCC crisis and recalled that when he was High Commissioner for Refugees (June 2005 to December 2015) Sabah presided over the three conferences to mobilize the international community to support the Syrian people.
Jailing of critics, including Members of Parliament
Dozens of protesters in Kuwait were arrested for criticizing Al-Sabah. In 2010, the U.S. State Department said it had concerns about the case of Kuwaiti blogger and journalist Mohammad Abdul-Kader al-Jassem who was on trial for allegedly criticizing the ruling al-Sabah family and accusing Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sabah of mismanagement and corruption, and faced up to 18 years in prison if convicted. He was detained after a complaint against him was issued by the office of Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
In January 2013, Ayad Al-Hirbi was sentenced to two years in prison for tweeting: "We call on the Kuwaiti government to abide by international agreements it has signed respecting human rights. As a nation, Kuwait must work toward broadening freedoms, not limiting them."
Al-Sabah jailed several members of parliament for criticizing him publicly. In February 2013, a Kuwaiti court sentenced three former MPs to three years in prison with hard labor for insulting Sabah, and sentenced another man to five years in prison for insulting Sabah. At the time, over 300 people were detained in Kuwait on charges of insulting him.
In 2016, a Kuwaiti court sentenced 16 people to two years in prison after they were found re-circulating a 2012 speech by opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak which criticised Al Sabah. Al-Barrak, a former MP, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2015.
Death and succession
After months of hospitalization in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the United States, Sheikh Sabah died on 29 September 2020 at the age of 91 due to long-term health issues. The Kuwaiti government declared 40 days of mourning. Sabah's half-brother, the crown prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf, was announced as the Emir of Kuwait. Al-Sabah was buried at Sulaibikhat Cemetery alongside his family.
Honors and awards
Foreign honors and awards
- Albania : Honorary Citizen of Tirana, Albania (12 April 2008)
- Albania : Grand Cordon of the Skanderbeg's Order (decorated by President of Albania Bamir Topi on 27 May 2012)
- Azerbaijan : Heydar Aliyev Order (14 June 2009)
- Italy : Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (26 April 2010)
- Mexico : Collar of the Order of the Aztec Eagle (20 January 2016)
- Spain : Collar of the Order of Civil Merit (23 May 2008)
- Turkey : Collar of the Order of the State of Republic of Turkey (21 March 2017)
- United Arab Emirates : Recipient of the Order of Zayed (13 March 2006)
- United Kingdom : Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (27 November 2012)
- United States : Legion of Merit, Chief Commander Degree (17 September 2020).
- United Nations : United Nations Humanitarian Leadership (9 September 2014)
- International Organization for Migration : IOM Humanitarian Medal (24 November 2014)
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