Gusmão, Xanana (Timor-Leste)

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Independent Timor-Leste’s first president, Xanana Gusmão, having led the independence movement for over two decades, came to power in a landslide victory at elections in April 2002. He stood down in May 2007 but was subsequently appointed prime minister in Aug. that year.

Early Life

Xanana Gusmão was born José Alexandre Gusmão on 20 June 1946 in Laleia, Manatuto. After studying at a Jesuit seminary in Soibada and then at Dare, he became a civil servant.

He joined FRETILIN in 1974, becoming its leader in 1978. In 1981 he was elected commander-in-chief of its military wing and worked to integrate the various groups fighting for independence.

In Nov. 1992 he was captured by the Indonesian army and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of subversion but remained the figurehead of the independence movement. Following an appeal from then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Gusmão was released after the referendum of Sept. 1999 in which an overwhelming majority of Timorese voted...

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