On October 7,1990, tragedy befell the Maktoum family, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates when Sheikh Rashid passed away following a long illness. For Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers there was hardly time to draw breath and remember the achievements of one of the Middle East's greatest leaders, before they were consumed by the urgent need to shape the UAE's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Within days of the end of the war, Sheikh Mohammed had ordered the dispatch of 250 tonnes of aid supplies, while the army rushed medical teams to Kuwait City to revive the devastated health service. On March 4 1991, he issued a statement marking the Emirates' first involvement in an active war zone:
"The UAE's armed forces were at the forefront of coalition efforts to liberate Kuwait. We have been made extremely proud by their bravery and commitment to the cause of justice. I believe we could have not asked our men to show greater professionalism. My counterparts from a number of countries have contacted me to remark upon the role played by the UAE armed forces.
The United Arab Emirates will continue to stand for peace ... steadfast in her support for her friends. The Emirates remain a cosmopolitan meeting place, where differing cultures and religions reside in peace. It is this model of tolerance that we hope to export to the rest of the world ..."
During the Serbian aggression in Bosnia, which dragged on throughout much of the early 1990s, Sheikh Mohammed pressed for an international force to be dispatched to Bosnia, and made clear the UAE's willingness to participate in such an operation. When the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina was eventually created, it fell under NATO's mandate and the UAE did not participate directly.
Under orders from Sheikh Zayed, however, Sheikh Mohammed directed the Ministry of Defence to provide numerous airlifts of wounded Bosnian Muslims to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where they received medical treatment and their families were provided with accommodation and financial support.
Like many UAE leaders, Sheikh Mohammed also donated personal funds in order to help the people of the region during the conflict and to help rebuild Bosnia when peace was restored.
After the frustration of being forced to watch the situation in Bosnia from the sidelines, Sheikh Mohammed was able to play a more decisive role in another crisis, in Africa, during the early 1990s. A famine in Somalia had been compounded by internal strife. A joint and multinational operation, Restore Hope, was to be policed by UNOSOM II. The UAE Government was one of the first to commit to UNOSOM II.
The UAE Armed Forces were also deployed in Kosovo in 1999, in an attempt to end Serbian genocide there. In addition, Sheikh Mohammed ordered the military to construct 1,000 houses for homeless Kosovars. The focus of this project was the town of Vucitm, where the UAE force is based. It also runs a 60-bed hospital there, which treats more than 350 people each day.
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