1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
"If people have no access to education, we leave the religious and political demagogues to feed them propaganda.”
~ Jose Ramos-Horta
Ramos-Horta was born in 1949 in Dili, East Timor to a Timorese mother and Portuguese father. East Timor was a colony of Portugal. When he was 18 years old, Ramos-Horta was exiled to Mozambique for criticizing the Portuguese colonial government. In 1974, Portugal decolonized and gave up its colony of East Timor, which immediately declared independence. However, neighboring Indonesia soon invaded and occupied East Timor. Of his eleven brothers and sisters, four were killed by theIndonesian military. Ramos-Horta left East Timor three days before the Indonesians invaded to plead the Timorese case before the UN.
Ramos-Horta spent the next 24 years in exile, meeting with governments around the world trying to secure support for East Timor. In 1992, Ramos-Horta presented a three-stage peace plan to the European Parliament that called for withdrawal of Indonesian troops, release of political prisoners, respect for human rights, and a United Nations-supervised vote for independence. In 2000, the East Timorese people voted for independence and democracy. In reaction to the vote, the Indonesian army burned and destroyed much of the country as it pulled out.
East Timor's first president, Xanana Gusmao, appointed Ramos-Horta as the country's first Foreign Minister. Ramos-Horta was then elected President of East Timor in 2007. He survived critical injuries from an assassination attempt in 2008, but continued his presidential duties and commitment to ending poverty. His presidential term ended in 2012 and Ramos-Horta is currently East Timor's special envoy to the UN. He has been a member of PeaceJam since 1998.