UAE leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed dies, aged 73

The United Arab Emirates’ long-ailing ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died Friday, the federal government introduced in a short assertion. He was 73.

Sheikh Khalifa oversaw a lot of the nation’s blistering financial progress and his identify was immortalized on the world’s tallest constructing, the Burj Khalifa, after bailing out debt-crippled Dubai throughout its monetary disaster over a decade in the past.

However, after struggling a stroke and present process emergency surgical procedure in 2014, a decade after turning into president, he ceased having any involvement within the day-to-day affairs of ruling the nation.

The final a number of years of his life noticed his half-brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed rise to turn out to be the de-facto ruler and decision-maker of main overseas coverage choices, akin to becoming a member of a Saudi-led battle in Yemen and spearheading an embargo on neighboring Qatar lately. The crown prince, additionally the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, shepherded the UAE’s budding ties with Israel after the 2 normalized relations in 2020.

The UAE introduced a 40-day interval of mourning and a three-day suspension of labor throughout the federal government and personal sector, together with flags to be flown at half-staff.

There was no instant announcement on a successor, though Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is anticipated to say the presidency at a time of excessive oil costs, which enhance the UAE’s spending energy.

“The UAE has lost a loyal son, and the leader of its blessed empowerment journey,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed wrote on Twitter after his brother’s demise was formally introduced on state media. “Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother, supporter and mentor, may Allah Almighty grant you eternal peace.”

Who was Sheikh Khalifa?

Sheikh Khalifa was the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, broadly revered by Emiratis because the nation’s founding father. The federation just lately marked its fiftieth anniversary.

Though he had been out of public sight since his stroke, Sheikh Khalifa’s picture was ubiquitous, gracing each resort foyer and main authorities workplace throughout the nation. On event, Emirati state media revealed uncommon pictures and movies of Sheikh Khalifa.

Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948 within the inland oasis of Al Ain, close to the border with the sultanate of Oman. He was educated at Sandhurst, the royal army academy in England.

In 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was named as Abu Dhabi prime minister and chairman of the emirate’s Department of Defense, which later grew to become the core of the UAE’s armed forces.

Khalifa helped enhance the UAE’s regional profile by bulking up its army with hefty purchases from U.S. weapons producers. He set warplanes to the NATO-led mission in opposition to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya in 2011. In 2014, the Emirates grew to become one of the outstanding Arab contributors in US-led airstrikes in opposition to the militant Islamic State group in Syria.

The president holds essentially the most highly effective place among the many seven semi-autonomous city-states of the UAE, which stretches alongside the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Historically, the president is from Abu Dhabi, the biggest and richest of the seven emirates. The vice chairman and prime minister is from Dubai, titles presently held by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Khalifa was believed to be among the many world’s richest rulers with a private fortune estimated by Forbes journal in 2008 at $19 billion. He constructed a palace within the Seychelles, an island-chain nation within the Indian Ocean, and confronted complaints there about inflicting water air pollution from the development web site.

His private life was not a lot within the public eye. Like many within the Gulf Arab states, he was passionate in regards to the conventional sport of falconry and was mentioned to get pleasure from fishing. He is thought to have had eight youngsters — two sons and 6 daughters — together with his first spouse, Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. He can also be survived by a number of grandchildren.

Absolute energy and restricted experiments with democracy

Although the UAE’s ruling sheikhs maintain close to absolute energy, Sheikh Khalifa started an experiment with elections by permitting restricted voting — by a hand-picked voters — for half the members of a 40-seat federal advisory physique in 2006. Subsequent rounds of elections in 2011 and 2015 failed to draw even two out of 5 of these given an opportunity to vote.

The UAE noticed not one of the Arab Spring road protests that shook different elements of the area, although within the wake of that unrest, Sheikh Khalifa oversaw crackdowns on Islamists and different activists within the nation, drawing criticism from worldwide rights teams. The UAE, which views Islamist actions as a risk to its ruling system, additionally supported efforts within the area to quash the Muslim Brotherhood, together with in Egypt.

Under his presidency, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia in sending forces to Bahrain to quell an rebellion there by the nation’s majority Shiite inhabitants demanding higher rights from the island-nation’s Sunni management.

Questions had been raised throughout Khalifa’s rule in regards to the UAE’s use of overseas army contractors, together with one linked to the founding father of the previous Blackwater safety agency, Erik Prince, who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009.

A US diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks in 2010 uncharitably described the president as “a distant and uncharismatic personage.”

Abu Dhabi within the shadow of Dubai

Despite its dimension and wealth, Abu Dhabi typically finds itself overshadowed by the glitzy emirate of Dubai, the industrial hub that showcases each the UAE’s daring visions and, at instances, debt-fueled pipe desires, together with a large palm-shaped man-made island that sits empty years after its building.

The UAE’s regional energy and affect, nevertheless, emanates from Abu Dhabi, which has many of the nation’s oil and fuel reserves. Dubai gives the UAE with a swirl of publicity and headline-grabbing way of life and leisure tales that rights teams say distract from controversial insurance policies determined in Abu Dhabi.

As Dubai’s fortunes started to falter together with the worldwide financial system in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa led efforts to guard the federation by pumping billions of {dollars} in emergency bailout funds to Dubai. The two emirates don’t at all times see eye-to-eye on overseas coverage choices and compete commercially with each other. In 2003, Sheikh Khalifa ordered the creation of a brand new airline, Etihad Airways, which competes with Dubai’s a lot bigger Emirates Air.

Sheikh Khalifa more and more used Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth to draw cultural and tutorial facilities, akin to a department of the Louvre Museum and satellite tv for pc campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He additionally presided over efforts to maneuver the OPEC nation past its reliance on petrodollars with investments in renewable vitality analysis. The UAE introduced final 12 months a net-zero emissions pledge by 2050, even because it expands investments in oil and fuel for export.

He has been credited with overseeing the creation and progress of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, now one of many world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with near $700 billion in belongings, based on estimates by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

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