Bahrain’s long-serving Prime Minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa dies at 84

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Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the long-served prime minister of Bahrain, has passed away. He was eighty-four. The Bahrain news agency said on Wednesday without detail: “The Royal Court mourns his Royal Highness …. who passed away in Mayo Clinic Hospital in the U.S. This morning.”

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa the newly appointed Prime Minister. The decree is automatically effective.

The king officially said the flags would be flying half-mast for a week, the organization said. the king was mourning.

After his body is repatriated, the funeral ceremony will take place and his burial will be confined to a certain number of relatives, he added.

Sheik Khalifa was one of the oldest Prime Ministers in the world and headed the Arabian Spring 2011 government for decades, seeking his dismissal of charges of corruption.

His robust reaction to the pro-democracy demonstrations and critique of similar agitation in the Arab world underscored the central aspect of much of his work: the staunch preservation of dynastic rule. Bahrain has been ruled by the Al Khalifa family since 1783.

Sheik Khalifa departed the Kingdom in August for what was then referred to as a “private tour outside” by official media. He spent time in Germany earlier this year, returning to Bahrain in March for undisclosed medical therapy.

The US Navy’s fifth fleet is also home to Bahrain, a staunch ally of nearby Saudi Arabia and the US.

Controversial figure

The influence and riches of Sheik Khalifa could be seen in Bahrain. For decades his official image hung opposite the monarch of the world on walls.

He had his own private island where he entertained foreign dignitaries, a marina, and a park with gazelle and peacocks.

Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, his brother, came to power in 1961 and ruled as a ruler in 1971 when Bahrain became independent from Britain. Sheik Isa managed the diplomacy and ceremonial tasks of the island in an informal arrangement while Sheik Khalifa ran the government and economics.

Bahrain was quickly developing in the years that followed as it struggled to step beyond its dependency on declining oil supplies. Manama acted then as a regional commercial, service, and tourism center for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

In 1986, the King Fahd Causeway opened its first land connection with its wealthy, strong neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which offered Westerners to flee to the kingdom and to enjoy the drunken night clubs and the beaches of Bahrain.

Sheik Khalifa, however, found his name increasingly intertwined in accusations of wrongdoing, such as one of aluminum manufacturer’s biggest global corruption cases over the use of a London broker to make Bahraini officials bribes. In the 2014 settlement, Alcoa agreed to pay the US government $384 million in penalties.

Similarly, the US embassy in Manama has accused Sheik Khalifa of “off-the-book access for the prince to incomes from state-owned companies” such as the Bahrain Petroleum Co and Aluminum Bahrain, the country’s aluminum maker.

Those allegations of corruption fueled frustration, particularly among the Shia majority in Bahrain. In February 2011, Arab-inspired demonstrators in the Middle East took to the streets in demand of democratic changes and a better say in the future in Manama capital’s Pearl roundabout.

Few people called for a new monarchy, but several others called for the abolition, including King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, of the long-standing Prime Minister and of other members of the Sunni royal party.

At one point during the height of March 2011 protests, thousands of demonstrators attacked the office of Prime Minister and officers met inside demanding the resignation of sheik Khalifa.

Demonstrators also took one Bahraini dinar notice over claims that the prime minister had purchased the land for a single dinar in Bahrain’s financial harbor growth.

With the assistance of troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Bahraini officials soon crushed the demonstration. In the ensuing years, low-level protests continued as Shia protestors regularly clashed with riot police.

Sheik Khalifa’s influence has declined in recent years, confronting mysterious health concerns.

 

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