Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah will likely become Kuwait’s next ruler.
The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah died Tuesday, September 29, at the age of 91.
Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan, Sheikh Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, announced the ruler’s passing on Kuwaiti state television after broadcasting Quranic prayers.
“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn to the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world, the death of the late His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait who moved next to his Lord,” the royal palace said in a statement.
The royal announcement did not specify when or where the emir died, but some international media outlets are reporting he passed in a US hospital.
Sheikh Sabah was sworn in as emir on January 29, 2006. He was the 15th ruler in Kuwait’s 268-year-old Al Sabah dynasty and the country’s fifth emir since Kuwait earned its independence from Britain in 1961.
From 1963 to 2003, he served as Kuwait’s foreign minister, including during Saddam Hussein’s August 1990 invasion.
Kuwaitis remember Sheikh Sabah for his commitment to resolving regional issues through diplomacy. He pushed for closer ties to Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War and advocated for peaceful solutions to other regional crises.
Under his leadership, Kuwait acted as a mediator in several conflicts. In 2016, Sheikh Sabah notably hosted meetings between leaders of the warring factions in the Yemen Civil War.
Sheikh Sabah also positioned Kuwait as the key mediator in the still-unresolved Qatar diplomatic crisis. US President Donald Trump welcomed his mediation efforts in September 2017, applauding Kuwait’s efforts to preserve regional stability. Regional and international actors such as the UK, France, and Germany also expressed appreciation for Sheikh Sabah’s efforts to mend the Gulf rift.
The late emir is also known for his humanitarianism, particularly amid the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis.
He provided $300 million in 2013 to support Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, the largest individual donation among all GCC members. In 2014, then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized Sheikh Sabah’s humanitarian leadership.
“Kuwait has shown exemplary humanitarian leadership in supporting these operations under the compassionate and passionate leadership of [Sheikh Sabah],” the secretary-general said. “Kuwait may be a small country in size but she has a big and broad and compassionate heart.”
When the UN Summit gathered in Kuwait in 2015, the emir pledged another $500 million to aid the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
However, his rule over the oil-rich country was also marked by international political disputes, accusations of human rights violations, the impacts of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, and disruptions to the global oil market.
The emir of Kuwait was in failing health until the end of his life.
Sheikh Sabah underwent surgery in July 2020 and traveled to the US for further treatment. His medical problems were not specified to the public.
After an unspecified health “setback” in August 2019, Sheikh Sabah canceled a visit with President Donald Trump the following month after being hospitalized.
The emir had a pacemaker fitted in 2000 and his appendix removed in 2002. He underwent successful urinary tract surgery in the US in 2007.
Amid his failing health this summer, the emir temporarily passed some of his responsibilities to his heir apparent and half brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
The crown prince, 83, will likely become Kuwait’s next ruler.