Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
The UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has passed away on Friday, the government’s state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73.
Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948, came to power in 2004 in Abu Dhabi and became the head of state.
Sheikh Khalifa’s timeline:
• Became the representative of the ruler of Abu Dhabi in the Eastern Province and the president of its legal system in August 1966
• Became Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on 1 February 1969
• Became the Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defence and Finance on 1 July 1971
• Became Deputy Prime Minister in the second UAE Federal Cabinet on 20 January 1974
• Became Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in 1976
• Became President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi 3 November 2004
Sheikh Khalifa was born in Al Muwaiji Fort in Al Ain in 1948.
His full name is Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Zayed Bin Khalifa Bin Shakhbout Bin Theyab Bin Issa Bin Nahyan Bin Falah Bin Yas. He is the eldest son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His mother is Sheikha Hessa Bint Mohammed Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Al Muwaiji village was a centre of influence for the Al bu Falah subsection of the Bani Yas tribal confederation and the Al Nahyan ruling family.
Sheikh Khalifa belongs to the tribe of Bani Yas. Bani Yas is considered the mother tribe for most of the Arab tribes that settled in what is known today as the United Arab Emirates, which is historically known as ‘Bani Yas Alliance’.
Sheikh Khalifa lived with his family Al Muwaiji Fort in Al Ain city. He received his school education in Al Ain at the city’s first school built by his father.
Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid with Sheikh Nasir Bin Hamad Al Khalifa (C), son of Bahrain’s King. File / AFP
Sheikh Khalifa spent most of his childhood in the oases of Al Ain and Al Buraimi with the company of his father who governed the Al Ain region at that time.
Figures who influenced Sheikh Khalifa
Sheikh Zayed was keen to take his eldest son on most of his daily activities and visits in the areas of Al Ain and Al Buraimi. The oases of Al Ain and Al Buraimi were places of strategic and vital economic significance for Abu Dhabi as the main agricultural producer and as the major strategic centre for the security of the region.
Accompanying his father in his difficult task to improve the lives of the tribes of the area and establish state authority, Sheikh Khalifa learned the essential values of responsibility, trust, justice and rights.
He was also fortunate to have the benefit of the education of public majlis, which was regarded as the finest school for teaching the skills of political leadership at that time. The public majlis of his father brought him close to the tribes, giving him the opportunity to learn their culture and understand their aspirations and acquire management and communication skills.
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed walks with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz during the 31st GCC Summit in Abu Dhabi. File / AP
During the visits and at the majlis, Sheikh Khalifa saw his father’s dedication to bring prosperity and well-being to the tribes, to maintain their security and unity, to care for the environment and preserve the heritage of his people. He learned that a real leader is one who is wholly concerned with the welfare of his people.
The other thing that complemented his leadership skills was the majlis of his grandfather from his mother’s side. His grandfather Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, was the senior figure of the Al Nahyan family at that time and was known for his wisdom.
Along with his mother’s attention, Sheikh Khalifa also enjoyed special care and attention from his grandmother Sheikha Salama, who was respected for her sophistication, wisdom and perception.
The beginning of governance journey
When late Sheikh Zayed moved to Abu Dhabi city to become the Ruler of the emirate in August 1966, he appointed Sheikh Khalifa – who was 18 at that time – as his representative in the Eastern Province and the President of its legal system. This delegation of authority was seen as a mark of the high confidence Sheikh Zayed had in his son.
Sheikh Khalifa followed in the footsteps of his father and continued the implementation of major development projects in the Eastern Province, especially those designed to improve agriculture. His notable success in Al Ain was the beginning of a long career in public service that saw Sheikh Khalifa assume his leadership role with ease and skill, marking major accomplishments and achievements.
During the following years, Sheikh Khalifa held a number of major posts. He became the main executive leader of his late father’s Government, overseeing, both on the local and federal levels, the implementation of all major projects.
On 1 February 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was nominated as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. And, on the next day he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Defence in Abu Dhabi.
He oversaw the setting up of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force (ADDF), which later became the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.
On 1 July 1971, as part of the restructuring of the government of the emirate, he was appointed as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and Minister of Defence and Finance.
On 23 December 1973, Sheikh Khalifa assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the second Cabinet.
Shortly afterwards, on 20 January 1974, he was appointed as the first Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which replaced the emirate’s local cabinet.
Under the direction of Sheikh Khalifa, the Executive Council oversaw the realisation of extensive development programmes in Abu Dhabi, including the construction of housing, water supply system, roads and general infrastructure that led to the emergence of the city of Abu Dhabi into the modern city that it is today.
Sheikh Khalifa was also in charge of establishing Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 1976. This authority manages the financial investments of the emirate to ensure a stable source of income for generations to come.
He was elected for presidency on 3 November 2004 after the death of his father, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who passed away on 2 November 2004.
Other areas of authority and development
Sheikh Khalifa has also been involved extensively in other areas of the country’s development. In May 1976, following the unification of the armed forces of the emirates, he was nominated as Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
In this capacity, he devoted much attention to the building up of the country’s defensive capability; thus, he established military training institutions and procured the latest military equipment and facilities.
In addition, Sheikh Khalifa established the Abu Dhabi Department of Social Services and Commercial Buildings (known as Khalifa Committee) in 1981. The department provides loans to citizens for construction.
Sheikh Khalifa has held several other senior posts in Abu Dhabi Government. One of the posts was that of the Chairman of the erstwhile Supreme Petroleum Council, whose regulatory powers got merged with the Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs in 2020. He was responsible for overseeing Abu Dhabi’s upstream and downstream oil and gas industries. He also encouraged diversification of the country’s economy away from dependence on its reserves of hydrocarbons.
In 1991, he created the Private Loans Authority to ensure that citizens were able to build the properties they needed, both for residential and for investment purposes.
He was until 2006 the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), which oversees the country’s international development assistance program.
Sheikh Khalifa was the honorary Chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Sheikh Khalifa as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE
Sheikh Khalifa assumed his posts as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and as the President of the United Arab Emirates on 3 November 2004. He succeeded his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who served as the UAE’s President from 1971 to 2004.
After being elected as the President, Sheikh Khalifa launched his first strategic plan for the government of the UAE to achieve balanced and sustainable development in order to ensure the prosperity of UAE nationals.
His key objectives as President of the UAE was to continue on the path laid down by his father, whose legacy, he says, “will continue to be the beacon guiding us into the future, a prosperous future where security and stability will reign.”
Sheikh Khalifa steered the development of the oil and gas sector and the downstream industries that have contributed so successfully to the country’s economic diversification.
He undertook extensive tours throughout the UAE to study the needs of the Northern Emirates, during which he gave instructions for building of a number of projects related to housing, education and social services.
In addition, he launched an initiative for developing a legislative authority to modify the technique of selecting members of the Federal National Council where the selection would be done by a combination of election and appointment. This was aimed at providing an opportunity to select members of the Council through direct elections.
He has been keenly interested in sports activities in the UAE, especially football. He supports and honours the local sports teams that achieve local, regional and international recognitions and championships.
Re-election of Sheikh Khalifa as the President
Re-elected as President in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa pledged to continue with implementing the ambitious strategies for political, administrative, economic, social and cultural development that he had started in his first term. His stewardship and focus on good governance and the integrity of the Federation have proved a blessing in times of financial and regional turmoil.
The UAE’s foreign policy under Sheikh Khalifa
While emphasising on the need for a restructure home, not just in terms of governance but also in terms of society and nationalism, Sheikh Khalifa continued to ensure that the country pursues an active foreign policy.
Sheikh Khalifa is a strong supporter of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). He believes that the success and achievements of this body reflect the depth of understanding reached amongst its leaders.
Sheikh Khalifa has demonstrated his commitment to build relations with other countries by receiving leaders from countries in Asia, Europe and from other Arab countries as well. He also paid visits to Central Asian states, with whom he has shared the idea of developing closer ties ever since they emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
He has shown a strong commitment to providing assistance to those in need internationally. In addition to government aid, the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the third most significant donor of UAE foreign aid, makes an enormous difference to people’s lives in over 70 countries around the world. He has proved to be a generous donor of emergency assistance in times of natural disasters, responding immediately by sending help after events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 earthquake that devastated much of northern Pakistan and neighbouring parts of India.