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Kuwait marks 57th Anniversary of Independence
June 18, 2018, 3:06 pm
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Tuesday marks the 57th anniversary of Kuwait becoming an independent sovereign state. On 19 June 1961, Kuwait annulled the treaty that had granted it a British Protectorate status since 1899 and became an independent nation.

It was on a bright Monday morning in June 1961 that the then Amir and 11th ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah met with the British Political Resident for the Arabian Gulf, Sir George Middleton, to exchange letters that abrogated the protectorate treaty and set the seal on Kuwait’s independence as a sovereign nation.

The Independence document sought the end of the treaty that was signed on 23 January 1899 by the then Amir and 7th ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah and the British Empire. The treaty had allowed Great Britain to assume control of Kuwait's foreign relations and ensure the security of its borders, in exchange for Kuwait agreeing not to receive representatives of other foreign powers, and to not cede any of its territory without prior agreement with the British Government.

Speaking during celebrations marking Kuwait’s first Independence Day, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah stated that Kuwait was moving from one phase in its history to another phase, “closing a page of the past to open a new page” to its future as represented in the agreement that granted Kuwait full independence and sovereignty.

Two months later, on 26 August, an Amiri Decree was enacted calling for general elections to choose members of the Constituent Council, who would then go on to draft the country’s constitution. It is a matter of pride that in a record time of less than nine months, the council members finalized the draft constitution consisting of 183 Articles and submitted it to Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who ratified and passed it on the same day, 11 November 1962.

Under the terms of the new constitution, which emphasized a democratic government and direct people’s representation, the first elections to the National Assembly were held on 23 January1963. A total of 205 candidates contested for the 50 seats, with voter turnout estimated at 85 percent.

In recognition of the significant role played by the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah in gaining Kuwait its independence and in laying the foundations of a modern state, it was decided in 1963 that the National Day, which fell on 19 June, would henceforth be celebrated on February 25, the day that Sheikh Abdullah ascended to the throne and became the 11th Amir of Kuwait in 1950.

At the time of independence, Kuwait had an estimated population of 200,000 and new-found wealth from oil sales was in excess of £100 million annually. Knowing the dangers posed to a new nation with a small population and immense wealth from avaricious neighbors, one of the first departments to be set up by Kuwait was the Foreign Department in July 1961. The department, which would later become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was tasked with building and strengthening Kuwait’s relations with the international community.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development was also set up in December 1961 with a capital of KD50 million, as a ‘soft-power’ arm of the government. The Fund provided loans and other assistance for development projects in Arab and developing nations around the world. In January 1963, the current Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was appointed as the country’s second foreign minister, and he would continue in this post for the next 40 years.

Immediately after its independence, Kuwait applied and was accepted as a member of the Arab League in July 1961. Kuwait was also accepted as the 111th member of the United Nations on 4 May 1963. Over the years, Kuwait went on to become a respected and highly valued member of various international organizations and bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank (WB), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Kuwait’s long-standing foreign policy of forming strong alliances with the global community and its liberal assistance to developing nations resulted in gaining Kuwait wide support and friendship of nations around the world. This robust rapport with international community was brought to the fore during the seven-month invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein. During this period, Kuwait received overwhelming support in the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as in capitals around the world, for its legitimate rights and its calls for the unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from its lands.

Each year Kuwait celebrates with great joy and fervor its National Day on 25 February and Liberation Day on 26 February, but it is worth remembering that Kuwait first began its journey as a modern independent nation on the bright morning of 19 June 1961.

 

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