Farewell to the emir of Kuwait, an Arab patriot and peacemaker
A distinguished leader who won the respect of the international community and the love of his people has been summoned to heaven at the great age of 91. It was a sad day for me personally when I heard that the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, had finally lost his long battle against illness, for which he was receiving treatment in the US.
His wisdom, generosity and natural peacemaking abilities will be greatly missed. I would ask his family members and all our Kuwaiti brothers and sisters to accept my heartfelt condolences on their loss. I was privileged to meet him at my hotel in Beirut some years ago and was impressed by his warm yet dignified personality.
Sheikh Sabah was one of the Gulf’s old-school heads of state who felt a strong kinship with his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts and worked toward making the GCC a cohesive, unified and influential entity. He was a unifier who always tried to bring disputing parties together without taking sides.
Throughout the last half a century — when he served as Kuwait’s minister of foreign affairs and prime minister before he was sworn in as emir and commander of the armed forces in 2006 — he was a calming influence during the worst of storms.
On his watch, Kuwait adopted a role as mediator between Lebanese factions and warring Yemeni parties, he was instrumental in resolving disputes between Bangladesh and Pakistan, and he tried hard to bring Qatar back into the Gulf fold. His tireless efforts to bring nations together did not escape the attention of US President Donald Trump, who honored him with the prestigious Legion of Merit for “his tireless mediation of disputes.”
The late emir was also a renowned humanitarian who was highly praised by former US President Jimmy Carter and a succession of UN secretaries-general. Syrian refugees have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of his generosity. And, subsequent to the 2013 public uprisings in Egypt that unseated the Muslim Brotherhood government at a time when Cairo was on its economic knees heading for bankruptcy, Kuwait joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in coming forward with a combined aid package totaling more than $12 billion.
Emiratis, especially those of my generation, feel particularly close to the people of Kuwait, with whom we shared bread during the 1991 Gulf War and stood shoulder to shoulder with on the battlefield to defeat Saddam Hussein’s invading army. I was delighted to host Kuwaiti guests in my hotels until they were able to return home.
Sheikh Sabah was one of the Gulf’s old-school heads of state who felt a strong kinship with his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts.
Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor
In truth, as a child, I hated being confined to school when I could have been racing camels, running with my falcon and dog hunting bustard or wreck diving, but I very much appreciated the accomplished teachers that were sent by Kuwait to ensure we had a solid educational grounding. They were inspirational and, for that, we owe Kuwait a large debt.
Kuwaitis have always put a high value on education. I have many friends from Kuwait who are all well-educated, knowledgeable and well spoken. Indeed, they are masters of intelligent, thought-provoking discussions. My wish for them and for all Kuwaitis is that the legacy of Sheikh Sabah lives on for years to come in the hearts and minds of his successors. He has constructed the foundations of a modern, tolerant society; now is the time to build upon the blocks of fairness and justice he laid down.
As I say goodbye to an exceptional human being who guided his nation safely through various storms, I would also congratulate Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on his accession and wish him well in his role as emir. May Allah guide his hands and heart on to a path of peace, justice and prosperity.
- Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.