Sheikh Jaber al Ahmad al Sabah , the late Emir of Kuwait, was the emir of critical moments. In a region like the Persian Gulf, times have been critical for almost forty years. The region has not known tranquility but has witnessed greed, scorn and conspiracy. Unfortunately, the damage from all these stages, until the present day, has come from the inhabitants of the region, under different names and slogans.
Sheikh Jaber, God bless his soul, almost brought about his own destruction because he supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and almost died when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. These were Sheikh Jaber’s most difficult moments, after his state, not only his rule, had vanished. However, his firm stance and the support of his people led to the cohesiveness of Kuwait under the oppressive occupation and its acceptance of injustice from its neighbors in Baghdad and a few Arab countries. We all recall how United Nations member countries gave the late Emir a standing ovation in respect and appreciation for him and his country, affirming their support for his nation and its legitimacy.
The late Sheikh’s wisdom manifested itself in his refusal to postpone solving pressing problems under any pretext. The excuses were undoubtedly clear, especially after the return of Kuwait to its people and the continued reign of Saddam, a stone’s throw away form Kuwait. Sheikh Jaber did not want Kuwait to delay its projects because the enemy was lurking. Instead, he continued to take decisions that consolidated the democratic process in Kuwait and the respect of the constitution. He did not die until he had remedied the ill which the Kuwaiti democracy had suffered from, namely giving women their political rights. The Emir did not allow his poor health to dissuade him from realizing this wish.
The late Sheikh’s strength was evident in his calmness. Despite the multiple crises in Kuwait and elsewhere, he did not become gloomy or bad tempered in his decisions and interventions in Kuwaiti political life. I used to always joke with my Kuwaiti friends and say, “God help your rulers, you and the Lebanese complain so often, despite both countries being so small.” Laughing, they would reply, “Our sheikhs are one of us. If they did not put up with us, who will?”
About eighteen months ago, on an official visit to Kuwait, I received the agenda for the trip. One of the security guards escorting us warned us that we needed to sleep early because our convoy would depart early the next morning, no later than at 7:30 am ! I asked him why this early schedule? He replied that our meeting with Sheikh Jaber was scheduled for 8am. Indeed, we left with the official delegation and met the Emir at 8 am. That day, he spoke about Kuwaiti-Saudi relations and recalled the time he spent with the late King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz in Saudi Arabia.
Afterwards, I asked why the meeting was held so early. I was told that the Emir started his day at dawn and spent sometime in the garden surrounding his residence, cutting flowers and taking care of his plants. Afterwards, he started his official duties and would sleep very early. God Bless Jaber al Ahmad al Sabah.