Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Kuwait

The protests in Kuwait kicked off on March 8, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Kuwait is a country I don't remember hearing about after the 1990s. I'm looking forward to hearing something about it that has nothing to do with Bill Clinton (and that's only a vague connection I kind of remember).

Basic History
Kuwait's official name is the State of Kuwait. Geographically, is it located in western Asia and is considered part of the Middle East. Important bordering countries include: Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The capital is Kuwait City. The population is estimated at 3.6 million people. The language is Arabic.

Kuwait's most recent leader is Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. He's been in power since 2006, when as a 70 year old crown prince, he succeeded the sheik who had just died. Kuwait's government is a constitutional hereditary emirate. They have the Emir, who is the head of state and the Prime Minister who is the head of government. The Prime Minister was Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah until April 1, 2011, and the position is now vacant until elections are held. Previously, the Prime Minister was appointed by the Emir.

In terms of independence, Kuwait they gained independence from the British in 1961.Through the discovery of their oil fields and an influx of foreign investments, they were able to form an independent country. They settled border issues and gained complete recognition as an independent state by all other countries.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed, restrictions on civil rights, .

There were calls for protests on March 8, 2011. Well before this even started, Emir Al-Sabah announced that he would be giving each Kuwait citizen (about 1.12 million of their population) 1000 dinar. It was said in celebration of their 50th anniversary independence year. There have been speculations that the stipend was to curb any protest sentiments floating around before they get moving. But clearly, the money didn't work since there were still calls for protests.

Even in February, there were protests, but they weren't by Kuwait citizens, they were by non-citizens living in Kuwait called diboons. They protested February 19th (I think) about the fact that they have such reduced rights in the country.

On March 8th, Kuwait was bracing itself for protests planned for the day. The primary point of the protests were for the ouster of the Prime Minister. The wanted the person who filled that role to not come from the royal family.

Amid calls for political and economic reform, parliament called in members of the cabinet who were members of the ruling family for questioning. Think of Congress holding a hearing to explore any one of the offenses done by a government official. The three members in question chose to resign their cabinet positions rather than face the questioning. This happened on March 31st.

Politics in Kuwait seem to have been influenced more by what is happening in nearby Bahrain than what is happening in their own country. The resignation appeared to be an attempt by three Cabinet ministers, members of the ruling Al Sabah family, to avoid being questioned over why Kuwait did not contribute troops to the Saudi-led Gulf force that was sent to Bahrain.

It's a bit confusing, but from what I can tell because of the resignation of Prime Minister Nasser's cabinet, he is no longer the Prime Minister. Yet, it is reported that he has been asked to help form a new government. The opposition to the ruling family has protested this request, and time will tell what will happen.

The country is trying to respond to the calls for a different organization of government officials in hopes that there will be better economic options available to the citizens. I'm not sure what will happen with the protests by those who are not Kuwaitis. I don't know if their calls for equality and citizenship will be answered. It's especially sad for those who have no country. Being the descendant of a nomad apparently makes you a man with no country. That sucks, plain and simple.

More information can be found at Wall Street Journal Video, Press TV, MSNBC.

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