East Timor announces new prime minister to replace Xanana Gusmao | News | DW | 11.02.2015
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East Timor announces new prime minister to replace Xanana Gusmao

East Timor has announced Rui Maria de Araujo will replace independence hero Xanana Gusmao as prime minister. Gusmao will take up a new post as minister for planning and strategic investment.

Araujo, a member of the country's Fretilin opposition party, will become the country's fifth-post independence prime minister, replacing former guerilla leader Gusmao.

The former health minister said he was "proud and honored" to be part of the government. The 50-year-old is a trained doctor and member of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor party, or Fretilin. De Araujo has also served as vice prime minister.

The announcement on Tuesday local time comes ahead of an overhaul of the administration, which will see the number of ministerial posts reduced from more than 50 to around 35. More opposition members will be made ministers, in an attempt to streamline the East Timorese government and make it more inclusive.

Next generation

The half-island nation and former Portuguese colony was occupied by Indonesia for almost three decades, in a bloody conflict that saw more than 170,000 people lose their lives. Despite becoming a sovereign state the country continues to struggle, with around half of its population living in poverty.

Gusmao is credited with spearheading the independence campaign, and was imprisoned in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for several years. He received a hero's welcome on his return to the tiny nation, following a 1999 United Nations-backed referendum which saw the Timorese vote in favor of independence.

He has held a position as either president or prime minister since the southeast Asian nation gained independence in 2002.

Gusmao has long signaled his desire to hand over power to a new generation of leaders. Despite handing in his resignation last week, he will remain part of the current government as minister for the newly-created portfolio of planning and strategic investment.

The presidential office said de Araujo was nominated for the job by Gusmao's National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor party, and was agreed upon chosen after talks between East Timor's President Taur Matan Ruak and other parties.

De Araujo is expected to be sworn in by Monday.