By Tareq Yousef Al Shumaimry
Following the demise of the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on 16 December, and, in accordance with Kuwaiti constitutional provisions and the country’s succession laws, an extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers was held on the same day to affirm Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as the 17th Amir of Kuwait and endorse a smooth transition in Kuwait’s leadership.
In line with Article 60 of the Constitution, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, in his constitutional-oath before the National Assembly on 20 December, pledged: “I swear by Almighty Allah to respect the Constitution and the laws of the State, to defend the liberties, interests and properties of the people and to safeguard the independence and territorial integrity of the country.”
In his address to lawmakers in parliament following the oath-taking ceremony, the 17th Amir of Kuwait stated: “Today I have become head of the state and I pledge, through you, to the Kuwaiti people that I will be a loyal citizen for this nation and its people; keen on the interest of the nation, keen on national unity, as well as in the development, progress and prosperity of the country.”
He also made clear his keenness on compliance with the constitution, application of law equally to all, and fighting corruption on all fronts, as well as his commitment to fulfilling Kuwait’s regional and international obligations. In addition, His Highness underlined the importance of the executive and legislative arms of parliament cooperating in order to serve the best interests of the nation and its people. “The task ahead of us is heavy and the constitutional oath places a great responsibility on us,” said His Highness the Amir.
In what could be deemed as a reproval of recent political events, His Highness the Amir stressed that besides working in harmony for the wellbeing of the nation and citizens, the executive and legislative members also had an obligation not to take decisions that could be harmful to the nation. He pointed out that such harmful practices included unfair appointments, naturalizations that “change Kuwait’s identity”, the amnesty file “and its consequences”, and the rehabilitation file.
All of these actions were “harmful to our nation”, and evidence of harming the interests of the country, said His Highness, adding: “What is more sad is the silence of the executive and legislative authorities over these systematic harms, thereby legitimizing these files. This acquiescence on the part of the two entities gives the impression that these practices were the result of a deal between the two authorities for their mutual interests and benefits at the expense of the nation.”
Elaborating further, His Highness said, “Therefore we issued a decision to stop the appointments and transfer of people between jobs, and the rest of the files will be addressed to serve the best interests of the nation. “We have warned in the past of threats against our nation, and the need to stick to our national unity and security, and work hard on improving the economy and living conditions of people,” said the H h the Amir.
Reiterating his earlier call for the executive and legislative arms to work together in a spirit of positivism, His Highness urged the two entities to exert all efforts with the aim of preserving national identity for the sake of the nation and its citizens. Adding that the political leadership would remain close to all parties and follow domestic developments closely, he exhorted legislators to confine their interpellations to objective questions, and work within the framework of the constitution and law.
Concluding his first parliamentary address as Amir of the Nation, His Highness paid rich tributes to his immediate predecessor the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. He described the late Amir as ”an example of humility and forgiveness, who contributed immensely to the development and prosperity of Kuwait.” He affirmed that the memory of the late Amir will remain vivid forever, and added that in his grief he could say nothing more other than to quote the Holy Quran which states, ’Truly, to Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return’.”
His Highness the Amir also thanked all citizens, expatriates, leaders of friendly countries, and those who could not come in person, and those who sent cables of condolences and expressed condolences through the media on the demise of the late Amir.”To all those I say: thank you for your sentiments, and for sharing in our grief.”
In a related development, the Speaker of the National Assembly Ahmad Al-Saadoun in his cable of congratulations to His Highness the Amir on taking the constitutional oath as the 17th Amir of Kuwait, pledged his loyalty and sincerity to His Highness the Amir, and committed to cooperate with the executive authority to shape a new era for Kuwait.
As Kuwait moves forward to a new dawn under the reign of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Sabah, it is only expected that people, both citizens and residents, would speculate on what the future holds for them and the nation under a new leadership. A look back over the past three years provides an inkling to the social , economic and political path likely to be pursued by His Highness the Amir as he leads the country forward.
Since being appointed as Crown Prince of Kuwait in October 2020, His Highness Sheikh Mishal Al-Sabah had served as a loyal supporter to the late Amir, contributing to the decision-making process, and assuming responsibilities on behalf of the Amir when circumstances warranted. Shouldering the weight of significant responsibilities and trust, he guided the country skilfully through the difficult pandemic period and the ensuing economic downturn.
Following the success of a country-wide free anti-COVID vaccination program and overall improvement in the epidemiological situation, His Highness turned his attention to reviving the economy, reinvigorating stalled development projects, and bolstering security, safety, and prosperity of the nation. In November 2021, His Highness Sheikh Mishal was handed the temporary constitutional duties of the Amir due to the ailing health of the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad.
As representative of the late Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince undertook several significant regional and international visits that bolstered the country’s role in the region, and contributed to its economic development and security. Through the visits he paid to Saudi Arabia, China, and Britain during 2023, His HIghness the Amir cemented Kuwait’s regional and international relationships.
Among the noteworthy visits by His Highness over the past 12 months were two back-to-back events he attended in Saudi Arabia in mid-July — the 18th meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders, and the inaugural Gulf-Central Asia Summit. In his address at these forums, His Highness expressed Kuwait’s eagerness for increased cooperation in all domains within the regional GCC bloc and the wider Central Asian countries.
In a historic visit to China in September, His Highness held discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping that centered around mutual interests, as well as regional and international developments. His HIghness also attended the signing of several memoranda of understanding between the two countries covering a wide-range of vital projects aimed at bringing about positive impacts on development in Kuwait.
In another significant visit, His Highness traveled to the United Kingdom in October at the invitation of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to attend the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Kuwait Investment Office in London. Earlier in May, His Highness had also attended the coronation ceremony of King Charles III. These visits underscored the deep rooted and distinguished ties between Kuwait and the UK, and strengthened existing strategic cooperation between the two countries.
In November, His Highness also attended the extraordinary joint Arab-Islamic summit held in Riyadh to discuss the continuing Israeli aggression on Gaza. In his address at the Summit, His Highness maintained Kuwait’s firm position in support of the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. His Highness condemned the ongoing Israeli aggression and called on the international community to end the violence and provide protection to the population of Gaza.
Furthermore, during his recent telephonic conversation with US Vice-President Kamala Harris, His Highness reiterated the strength of established relations between Kuwait and the United States. For her part, the US Vice President hailed the historical ties between the two countries, and affirmed the commitment of the United States to supporting Kuwait’s security and stability,
The several regional and international visits and interactions with world leaders ny His Highness the Amir reiterated his firm commitment to continuing the foreign policies pursued successfully by his predecessors. In line with this thinking, the new Amir is likely to continue the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, respect the sovereignty of nations, promote mediation and provide humanitarian assistance, while protecting and pursuing the interests of Kuwait.
As state media noted, the new Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Mishal Al-Sabah embodies the wisdom, distilled through his royal lineage over the centuries that was instilled in him by venerable elders; the learning acquired from sagacious mentors; the governance ingenuity garnered from veteran politicians; and, the experience and expertise gained from over six decades of dedicated public service.
Armed with these attributes, His Highness the Amir is expected to embark on writing a new chapter in the annals of Kuwait’s history — a history embellished by the distinguished contributions of previous leaders who steered the nation. On the regional and international front, His Highness the Amir is expected to continue Kuwait’s tradition of consolidating relations with neighboring countries, and international allies.
Increasing cooperation and coordination among the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc is likely to be a priority for the new Amir, as would promoting joint cooperation with international allies in addressing regional and global challenges, and working towards mutual security and prosperity. His Highness is also expected to further Kuwait’s enduring commitment to Arab unity and conflict resolution, and to continue its humanitarian support worldwide.
While status quo is likely to be maintained in Kuwait’s external dealings, political pundits predict that the domestic front could witness several significant changes, especially in the administrative, social and political milieu.