Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jose Ramos Horta wounded by rebel soldier

East Timor's president and friend of Western Sahara Jose Ramos Horta was wounded today in a shoot-out between rebel soldiers and his guards. According to the BBC, Horta will probably survive.

Horta did great work freeing East Timor from Indonesian domination, and he has been a friend of Western Sahara as it suffers under Morocco's similar occupation. He's so significant in Western Saharan activism that he wrote the prologue to Toby Shelley's book Endgame in Western Sahara. Hopefully, his convalescence will be short and he can get back to his presidency soon.

Update: The more I read about the attack on Horta, the stranger it sounds. I'm not that familiar with the post-independence rebellion in East Timor, so maybe someone will be able to explain it. It seems like the rebel leader was killed in the gunfight, but why would the rebel leader be leading the attack rather than hanging back at a base?

Update 2: This explains a lot. "Half-baked" is how I would describe a coup attempt in East Timor, too. Like Australia's going to allow that.


  1. Will,

    When I first read this, I was stunned. The Timorese people and in particular, their president are foremost in my heart and prayers now.

    Where did you get that picture of Ramos-Horta?


  2. HereIt came on the second page of Google image search, and it was too good a picture of him to pass up.

    I found out when my roommate was looking at US primary results, and it said on top "Breaking news: East Timor's president wounded." The breaking news when we refreshed the page? Amy Winehouse winning a Grammy. What to do.

  3. Anonymous10:24 PM

    The chaos in which East Timore has been living since its separation from Indonesia is a very bad example when defending an independent Western Sahara.

  4. The transition to an independent democracy has been difficult, but East Timor was hardly a model of stability under Indonesian occupation.

  5. I wrote a bit about Horta here, inspired by Will's first post.

    About the coup attempt, I think there's very little the rebels can do as long as there's an Australian troop presence there backing the government, and perhaps the loss of Reinado as a leader will be enough to put out their movement. But I don't know. I have a feeling that people over at AWSA could tell us a lot more about this...

  6. Anonymous7:38 AM

    I heard on TV that the Australian Army is landing in East Timor soon. Is that what they meant by independence from Indonesia ?

    Where is that successful East Timor model that Polisario is trying to build on ?

    If it may happen that W.S becomes independent, I can see from now a huge long-term tribal unrest. Especially, between tribes and leaders that are loyal to Morocco and those who aren't.

  7. I can see that risk too. But first of all, you may have noticed that the last 33 years weren't exactly peaceful and harmonious. Second, if you add 100,000 angry, cheated anti-Moroccan refugees with military training to an autonomy solution it doesn't look very promising either.

    Whatever the outcome, a solution where a majority vote and/or some similar consensus-based process settles things has the by far best chance of stopping unrest. And whether Morocco or independence wins, Western Europe would be smart to chip in a little bit of aid money to keep things together. If they agree to send peacekeepers for five or ten years (or just keep Minurso in place, same thing, same cost), so much the better.

    That's exactly the lesson from Timor Leste -- that it's going to be difficult either way, so one should try to find the most promising long-term route, based on getting past the self-determination hurdle and letting the people decide. I think everyone who has the slightest knowledge of Timorese history would agree that the referendum was the way forward there, and that the human rights situation is a lot better today than it was under the occupation; it probably would have been under legitimate Indonesian rule as well, had the Timorese chosen that.

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