Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has died at 86.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we – the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world – mourn the late His Highness the emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who passed away to his Lord today,” Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Sabah, the minister of his emiri court, said in a statement aired on state television on Saturday.

Authorities gave no cause of death, but announced the start of a 40-day official mourning period and a three-day closure of government departments.

Kuwait’s crown prince and his half-brother, Sheikh Meshaal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, 83, was subsequently named new emir, a statement from Issa Al-Kandari, the deputy prime minister and minister of state for cabinet affairs said.

Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in in September 2020 after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, in the United States at the age of 91.

“This is a very sad day for Kuwait. The sheikh has only done good for the country. His legacy will be remembered fondly,” Bader al-Saif, a history professor at Kuwait University, told Al Jazeera. “His era is notable even though it is the third shortest in Kuwaiti history.”

Sheikh Nawaf held high office for decades before he took power. Named heir apparent in 2006, he was serving as defence minister when Iraqi troops invaded the oil-rich emirate in 1990. He also worked as interior minister in the face of challenges from armed groups.

Popular within the ruling al-Sabah family, he had a reputation for modesty and largely maintained a low profile.

“He’s known as the emir of pardons,” al-Saif said.

“He has led the largest reconciliation in modern Kuwaiti history with a series of amnesties, release of prisoners and citizenships. He has also opened up to the opposition and opened the parliament again to all voices, and opened up to taking away from the government’s role voting for the speaker of the house, which was really crucial to the positionality of the people and the popular opinion.”


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