Former President of Timor-Leste, freedom fighter and Nobel Peace Prize recipient
More courage is required to forgive than is required to take up arms – Jose Ramos-Horta
Before serving his country as President, Dr. José Ramos-Horta was known internationally as a peacemaker. In exile from his country for the better part of three decades, he had been the international voice of the Timorese people while they fought for survival against one of the most brutal military regimes of our time. He was their Foreign Minister in-exile. In his words, “The world’s longest serving one.”
From 1975 to 1999 Timor-Leste, (formerly known as East Timor), a small island and former Portuguese colony at the bottom of the Indonesian archipelago, was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. Over the course of the 24 year invasion, one third of the Timorese population perished. In exile for the entire occupation, José Ramos-Horta worked to build a human rights network to defend the rights of the Timorese — walking the halls of the UN, addressing the security council, and working tirelessly to ensure his people were not forgotten while they suffered.
In 1996, José Ramos-Horta and Timorese Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work toward a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.
José Ramos-Horta returned from exile on December 1, 1999, assuming the post of Senior Minister in a new, independent government. In 2006, José Ramos-Horta, at the time Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister and Senior Minister, was asked to step into the vacant Prime Minister post. At the time the LA Times called him the young democracy’s “last hope”. The hope was well placed. Steadily, once Ramos-Horta took office, peace began to return to Timor-Leste. He also assumed the Ministerial role of Defence at the same time.
In 2008 President Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt by members of the renegade military group. While the country prayed for his survival, the remaining members of the renegade group surrendered and turned in their arms.
On the President’s return to office, the country entered a new phase, a phase of putting conflict behind them, and building a new country.
In 2012 he accepted an appointment from the UN Secretary General as Special Representative of the Secretary General to the African nation of Guinea-Bissau, followed by his appointment to Chair the Secretary General’s initiated, High Level Independent Panel on all Peace Operations.
For more on José Ramos-Horta, visit his official website