United Arab Emirates (UAE) President, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has died, Emirati state news agency WAM reported. He was 73.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced that there will be 40 days of official mourning with flags at half mast and three days closure of ministries and official entities at the federal and local levels and the private sector,” the agency wrote on Twitter on Friday.
The Embassy of UAE in Abuja also issued a statement on Friday, May 13, announcing the death to the Nigerian Government, the ECOWAS, all diplomatic and consular missions, representatives of the United Nations specialized agencies and other international organizations accredited to Nigeria.
The UAE mission therefore opened a condolence Register at the Embassy premises at No17 Kainji Street, Maitama, Abuja from Saturday 14 May to Friday 20th May, 2022 from 10am to 3pm.
“The Embassy of the UAE in Abuja avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, ECOWAS, all diplomatic and consular missions, representatives of the UN specialized agencies and international organizations accredited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the assurances of its highest consideration”, the statement said.
Sheikh Khalifa had rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2014, with his brother, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (known as MBZ) seen as the de facto ruler and the decision-maker of major foreign policy decisions, such as joining a Saudi-led war in Yemen and spearheading an embargo on neighbouring Qatar in recent years.
“The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and guardian of its blessed journey,” MBZ said on Twitter, praising Khalifa’s wisdom and generosity.
Under the constitution, Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, would act as president until the federal council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a new president.
Condolences started pouring in from Arab leaders, including Bahrain’s king, Egypt’s president and Iraq’s prime minister.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed his condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa, whom he described as “a true friend of the United States”.
“We deeply valued his support in building the extraordinary partnership our countries enjoy today. We mourn his passing, honour his legacy, and remain committed to our steadfast friendship and cooperation with the United Arab Emirates,” he said.
Sheikh Khalifa came to power in 2004 in the richest emirate Abu Dhabi and became the head of state. He is expected to be succeeded as ruler of Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed.
Abu Dhabi, which holds most of the Gulf state’s oil wealth, has held the presidency since the founding of the UAE federation by Sheikh Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in 1971.
Sheikh Khalifa’s rule
Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948 in the inland oasis of al-Ain, near the border with the Sultanate of Oman, and named after his great grandfather, Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbout.
In 1969, while the area was still a British protectorate, Khalifa was named Abu Dhabi’s prime minister and chairman of the emirate’s Department of Defence, which later became the core of the UAE’s armed forces. After independence in 1971, he became defence minister along with other roles and became president in 2004.
Although the UAE’s ruling sheikhs hold near-absolute power, Sheikh Khalifa began an experiment with elections by allowing limited voting – by a hand-picked electorate – for half the members of a 40-seat federal advisory body in 2006. Subsequent rounds of elections in 2011 and 2015 failed to attract even two out of five of those given a chance to vote.
The UAE saw none of the Arab Spring street protests that shook other parts of the region, though, in the wake of that unrest, Khalifa oversaw tightening crackdowns on opposition activists, drawing criticism from international rights groups. The UAE also supported efforts in the region to quash the Muslim Brotherhood, including in Egypt.
Sheikh Khalifa increasingly used Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth to attract cultural and academic centres, such as branches of the Louvre Museum and satellite campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He also presided over efforts to move the OPEC country beyond its reliance on petrodollars with investments in renewable energy research, including plans for a futuristic low-carbon desert city known as Masdar.