|Biographical detail : ||Emir of Kuwait who led the country in riches and ruin.
The soft-spoken emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the 13th ruler in a family dynasty dating back to 1756, ruled the oil-rich Kuwait, for 28 years through the tumult of the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of his country by Iraq. Kuwait, a country with a population of under 1 million where oil deposits was discovered in 1914, gained independence from Britain in 1961.
Sheikh Jaber on becoming emir, in 1977, was credited with the wrestling control of Kuwait’s oil resources from the foreign oil companies and widely praised for establishing a Fund for Future Generations, in which a portion of Kuwait’s huge oil revenues – it site on 10 per cent of the known world oil reserves – were set aside annually for investment abroad, a kind of rainy-day fund.
Sheikh Jaber supported Iraq in Iran-Iraq war, in 1980-88. But in 1990 when Iraq – whom he had backed in the conflict with Iran – invaded Kuwait the emir and members of his family were forced to flee, bundled into armour-plated Mercedes cars, ingloriously to the safety of Saudi Arabia. There, the emir formed a government in exile until an American-led coalition evicted the Iraqi troops. He returned in March 1991 to a devastated land looking frail and frightened.
He led a wide-ranging modernisation of Kuwait that focused on education, health and social services, housing and construction of an urban state with some of the highest per-capita incomes in the world. Sheikh Jaber’s life spanned his country’s development from traditional backwater to global player on the world’s oil market.
A quite, unpretentious emir, who had no appetite for pomp or display, had been ailing from a serious brain haemorrhage, in 2001, and had fallen out of public sight – a virtual invalid in his final days. Sheikh Jaber survived an assassination attempt on his life in May 1985, an incident from which he never wholly recovered.