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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
16 Dec 2023


Kuwaiti leader dies aged 86

The emir of oil-rich Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, died on Saturday, the royal court said, after three years in power. He was 86.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn... the death of Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait,” said a statement aired on Kuwaiti state television.

State broadcasting had cut its regular programming and switched to a broadcast of Koranic recital before the announcement.

Born in 1937, Sheikh Nawaf was the fifth son of Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ruler from 1921 to 1950.

He started his political career at the age of 25 as governor of Hawalli province, where he remained until 1978 when he started a decade as interior minister.

Sheikh Nawaf was defence minister when Iraq invaded in 1990, setting off a war that drew in armies from around the world to end the occupation.

Kuwait’s national flags at half-mast as the Gulf country mourns the death of its leader
Kuwait’s national flags at half-mast as the Gulf country mourns the death of its leader Credit: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

He was interior minister when Kuwaiti security forces battled Islamist militants in January 2005 and was named crown prince in 2006 by Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, his half-brother, and took over as emir when he died in September 2020 at the age of 91.

Economic crisis 

He had to steer the economy through a crisis caused by a fall in oil prices in 2020.

Given his age, his health has commonly been a concern during his term.

In November, Sheikh Nawaf was admitted to hospital “due to an emergency health problem”, according to the KUNA news agency, which did not elaborate on his illness. He was later declared in stable condition.

The current crown prince, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, another half-brother, is 83 and much attention will now be focused on whether a younger-generation ruler is brought in by the family.

Kuwait – a conservative country where sovereign powers remain concentrated in the hands of the ruling Al Sabah family – is home to the most active and powerful parliament in the Gulf.

But standoffs between elected lawmakers and cabinet ministers installed by the ruling family have stymied development efforts and scared off investors.

Following a succession of resigning governments and dissolved parliaments, Kuwait’s current cabinet is its fifth in a year.

The political deadlock has delayed reforms and blocked development projects, leaving infrastructure and education in disrepair and much of the population disgruntled.