Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão GCL (born José Alexandre Gusmão, on June 20, 1946) is a former militant who was the first President of East Timor, serving from May 2002 to May 2007. He later became the fourth and current Prime Minister of East Timor on August 8, 2007.
Gusmão was born to mestiço school teacher parents (of mixed Portuguese-Timorese ancestry) in Manatuto in what was then Portuguese Timor, and attended a Jesuit high school just outside of Dili. After leaving high-school for financial reasons at the age of sixteen, he held a variety of unskilled jobs, while continuing his education at night school. In 1965, at the age of 19, he met Emilia Batista, who was later to become his wife. His nickname, “Xanana”, was taken from the musical lyric, “Sha-na-na”.
In 1966, Gusmão obtained a position with the public service, which allowed him to continue his education. This was interrupted in 1968 when Gusmão was recruited by the Portuguese Army for national service. He served for three years, rising to the rank of corporal. During this time he married Emilia Batista, by whom he had two children, his son Eugenio, and daughter Zenilda. He has since divorced Emilia, and in 2000 he married Australian Kirsty Sword, having sons Alexandre, Kay Olok and Daniel.
1971 was a turning point for Gusmão. He completed his national service, his son was born, and he became involved with a nationalist organization headed by José Ramos-Horta. For the next three years he was actively involved in peaceful protests directed at the colonial system.
It was in 1974 that a democratic coup in Portugal resulted in the beginning of decolonization for Portuguese Timor, and shortly afterwards the Governor Mário Lemos Pires announced plans to grant the colony independence. Plans were drawn up to hold general elections with a view to independence in 1978.
During most of 1975 a bitter internal struggle occurred between two rival factions in Portuguese Timor. Gusmão became deeply involved with the FRETILIN faction, and as a result he was arrested and imprisoned by the rival faction the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) in mid-1975.
Taking advantage of the internal disorder, and with an eye to absorbing the colony, Indonesia immediately began a campaign of destabilization, and frequent raids into Portuguese Timor were staged from Indonesian West Timor.
By late 1975 the Fretilin faction had gained control of Portuguese Timor and Gusmão was released from prison. He was given the position of Press Secretary within the FRETILIN organization. On November 28, 1975, Fretilin declared the independence of Portuguese Timor as “The Democratic Republic of East Timor”, and Gusmão was responsible for filming the ceremony.
Nine days later Indonesia invaded East Timor. At the time Gusmão was visiting friends outside of Dili and he witnessed the invasion from the hills. For the next few days he searched for his family.