President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
José Ramos-Horta, president of East Timor since 2007 and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Peace, is among the world's most courageous and enduring voices for peace and reconciliation.
Along with Bishop Carlos F.X. Belo, President Ramos-Horta received the Nobel Prize for his tireless efforts to bring peace and independence to East Timor, a former Portuguese possession that was under Indonesian control from 1975 to 1999.
After studying law in the United States, President Ramos-Horta returned to East Timor to participate in the independence movement. His activities brought the ire of the Portuguese rulers, and he was forced to flee to Mozambique in 1970.
Returning in 1972, Ramos-Horta sided with the pro-independence Fretilin faction in the East Timor civil war. The Fretilin gained control of the government on Nov. 28, 1975, and declared East Timor's independence and Ramos-Horta was named foreign minister. However, nine days later Indonesia invaded East Timor, and Ramos-Horta was again forced into exile.
Eventually settling in Sydney, Australia, Ramos-Horta joined the faculty of the University of New South Wales. From that position he became one of the primary voices for East Timor in the international arena, becoming East Timor's de facto ambassador to the United Nations.
After receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1996, he gave the award and prize money to a program called Microcredit for the Poor.
Ramos-Horta continued to urge forgiveness and reconciliation and was appointed East Timor's foreign minister in 2000. He continued in that office after East Timor achieved full sovereignty in 2002, and in May 2007 was elected president, garnering nearly 70 percent of the vote. The following year he was seriously injured after being shot by rebels outside his home in Dili, East Timor.