The President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has passed away on Friday - May 13 at the age of 73. Being the second president of the UAE, he had decorated the throne since 2004. He was one of the most powerful leaders in the Arab world and had trailblazed efforts to put his country on the world stage. He was credited for pioneering a major restructuring of both the economy and government in Abu Dhabi and across the country.
The news of his demise was announced by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs on Friday. In a statement, the ministry said, "The Ministry of Presidential Affairs mourns to the UAE people, Arab and Islamic nations and the world the death of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on Friday." Several leaders across and beyond the borders have been paying tribute to the departed soul.
Under the constitution, Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is the ruler of Dubai, would act as the President until the federal council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within thirty days to elect a new President. According to Reuters, the UAE would be observing a 40-day mourning period with flags flown at half-mast as of Friday and suspend work at all public and private sector entities for three days.
Zayed al Nahyan became the second President of the UAE and the Ruler of Abu Dhabi on November 3, 2004. He was elected as the successor to his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who served as the UAE's first president since the union in 1971 until he passed away on November 2, 2004. The now-deceased president was the eldest son of the first ruler.
Since becoming the president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa has presided over a major restructuring of both the Federal Government and the government of Abu Dhabi. Under his leadership, the UAE had embraced a surge in development that was in the fashion of ensuring a good lifestyle for the people. After being elected as the President, Sheikh Khalifa had launched his first strategic plan for the UAE government to achieve balanced and sustainable development, placing the prosperity of UAE citizens and residents at the core.
Born in 1948, Sheikh Khalifa was the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi and he had played a pivotal role in the development of the oil and gas sector and the downstream industries that have contributed successfully to the country's economic diversification. After suffering a stroke in 2014, Sheikh Khalifa was rarely seen in public and his half-brother Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has been the de facto ruler of the UAE.
While Rashid al-Maktoum would be the acting President, Mohammed bin Zayed will become the ruler of Abu Dhabi. After learning about Sheikh Khalifa's demise, condolences have been pouring in from various quarters. The leaders from across the world, including the King of Bahrain, the President of Egypt, and the Prime Minister of Iraq, had paid tribute to the deceased ruler.
Taking to Twitter, Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi wrote, "The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the empowerment phase and guardian of its blessed journey." Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote, "I am deeply saddened to know about the passing away of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. He was a great statesman and visionary leader under whom India-UAE relations prospered. The heartfelt condolences of the people of India are with the people of UAE. May his soul rest in peace."