Emir of Kuwait, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah undergoes surgery after sudden hospitalisation

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 91, the ruler of Kuwait underwent a successful surgery according to a report published on the state-run KUNA news agency on Sunday.

The nation is yet to revealed why Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah had to seek an unannounced medical surgery on Saturday.

Sheikh Sabah’s sudden surgery could inspire a renewed power struggle within Kuwait’s ruling family.

KUNA news agency had described Sheikh Sabah’s hospitalisation on Saturday as “medical checks”, citing a statement from the country’s royal court.

Several hours later, KUNA published a second report saying 83-year-old Crown Prince Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah had assumed some of Sheikh Sabah’s powers temporarily, without explaining why.

A ministerial decree posted by Kuwait’s official gazette said the crown prince would be empowered for “the duration of a surgical procedure until the health event is over”.

The emir’s hospital visit comes as the nation continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen more than 58,000 cases and 400 related deaths.

The Ministry of Health says more than 49,000 people have recovered from the COVID-19 disease it causes.

In August last year, Kuwait acknowledged the emir suffered an unspecified medical “setback” that required him to be hospitalised.

Sheikh Sabah has ruled Kuwait since January 2006. He has pushed for diplomacy to solve regional issues, such as the continuing boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations, and hosted major donor conferences for war-torn nations in the region, including Iraq and Syria.

He had a pacemaker implanted in 2000 and underwent successful urinary tract surgery in the United States in August 2007.

Kuwait, a nation – home to 4.1 million people – that is slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.

It has been a staunch US ally since the 1991 Gulf War expelled the occupying Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein. Today, Kuwait hosts some 13,500 American troops, many at Camp Arifjan south of Kuwait City.