Bahrain's Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, one of the world's longest-serving prime ministers who led the island nation's government for decades and survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that demanded his ouster over corruption allegations, died on Wednesday.
Dubai: Bahrain’s long-serving Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa has died, the state media reported. He was 84.
“The Royal Court mourns His Royal Highness … who passed away this morning at Mayo Clinic Hospital in the United States of America,” the Bahrain News Agency said on Wednesday, without elaborating.
Prince Khalifa passed away at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in the United States, the official Bahrain News Agency said.
The burial ceremony will take place after his remains are transported home, and in line with coronavirus restrictions the ceremony will be limited to a "specific number" of relatives, it said.
The country will hold a week of official mourning, during which flags will be flown at half-mast. Government ministries and departments will be closed for three days.
Prince Khalifa was a controversial figure during his long time in office -- and deeply unpopular with the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shiite population.
When Shiite-led protesters occupied Manama's Pearl Square for a month in 2011, before being driven out by Saudi-backed security forces, their main demand was for Khalifa to step down.
He played a key role in Bahrain's political and economic affairs for more than three decades after setting the stage for a referendum that put paid to the Shah of Iran's claims to the tiny Gulf archipelago.
In August, Sheikh Khalifa left the kingdom for what official media called at the time “a private visit abroad”. Earlier this year, he spent time in Germany for unspecified medical treatment, returning to Bahrain in March.
Prince Khalifa's power and wealth could be seen everywhere in this small nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. His official portrait hung for decades on walls alongside the country's ruler. He had his own private island where he met foreign dignitaries, complete with a marina and a park that had peacocks and gazelle roam its grounds.
The prince represented an older style of Gulf leadership, one that granted patronage and favors for support of the Sunni Al Khalifa family. That style would be challenged in the 2011 protests by the island's Shiite majority and others, who demonstrated against him over long-running corruption allegations surrounding his rule.
Though less powerful and frailer in recent years, his machinations still drew attention in the kingdom as a new generation now jostles for power.
"Khalifa bin Salman represented the old guard in more ways than just age and seniority," said Kristin Smith Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute. "He represented an old social understanding rooted in royal privilege and expressed through personal patronage."
(With inputs from agencies)
Last Updated 11, Nov 2020, 3:52 PM