Born on June 20, 1946 in Manatuto, Timor-Leste.
One of six children, his father was a schoolteacher. He completed primary and started secondary school at the Catholic mission of "Nossa Senhora de Fátima" in Dare. He started to work very early in life, mornings as a chartered surveyor and afternoons teaching at the Chinese school. In April 1974 he joined the staff of "A Voz de Timor" (the Voice of Timor).
After the Carnation Revolution in Portugal on April 25, 1974, and faced with the opportunity for self-determination and independence, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão decided to join the newly formed Associação Social Democrata – ASDT (Social Democrat Association) which later that year became the Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor-Leste (FRETILIN).
Having worked as a journalist and photographer, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão took on the party’s job of Deputy-Director of the Department of Information.
December 7, 1975: After a series of border-armed incursions into the territory of Timor-Leste, Indonesia invaded Díli. This resulted in the death of the then President of FRETILIN, Nicolau Lobato. Coupled with the loss of a majority of the Central Committee Members of FRETILIN, this left Gusmão with the task of reorganising the struggle.
March 1981: Gusmão organised the first National Conference of the FRETILIN, during which he was elected leader of the Resistance and Commander-in-Chief of the FALINTIL (National Liberation Armed Forces of Timor-Leste).
He conceived and implemented the Policy of National Unity that encouraged cooperation with members of the Catholic Church and with the transitional authorities of Timor-Leste.
March 1983: Xanana Gusmão demonstrated his pragmatism by initiating formal negotiations with the Indonesian Armed Forces leading to a cease-fire, which lasted until August that year. Taking advantage of this five-month cease-fire, he developed the first organised national clandestine network, known in Portuguese as ‘Frente Clandestina’.
1988: The success of the initiative for National Unity prompted Xanana Gusmão to create the CNRM – National Council of Maubere Resistance, as an expression of a non-partisan national command of the struggle. This later became CNRT, National Council of Timorese Resistance.
November 20, 1992: One year after the Santa Cruz massacre, and following 17 years of guerrilla warfare, Gusmão was captured in Díli. He faced a kangaroo-court trial and was imprisoned. Amid pressure from the international community, the Indonesian authorities were forced to transfer him to Cipinang, a prison reserved for political prisoners. There Gusmão devoted his time to developing Resistance strategies, studying Bahasa Indonesian, English language, and Law.
April 1998: Gusmão was reaffirmed as leader of the East Timorese Resistance and President of CNRT.
February 10, 1999: Following increasing international pressure to release him Xanana Gusmão was transferred from Cipinang Prison to house arrest in Salemba, Central Jakarta.
The rapid development of the East Timorese political process and broad international recognition of Gusmão's statesmanship and leadership brought numerous foreign government representatives to his prison-house, including US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, former US President, Jimmy Carter, Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and Japanese Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura.
August 30, 1999: A UN-sponsored referendum overwhelmingly rejected the autonomy proposal put forth by Indonesia and signalled the end of the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste and so the beginning of the transitional process led by the UN in Timor-Leste.
September 7, 1999: Xanana Gusmão was released from house arrest.
August 2000: The First National Congress of CNRT elected Gusmão President of the CNRT/National Congress.
June 9, 2001: The CNRT/NC was dissolved and Gusmão focused his efforts on the Association of Resistance Veterans – an organisation comprising former members of the clandestine network aiming to create opportunities for their skilled participation in the country’s development.
April 14, 2002: Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão was elected President of Timor-Leste and sworn-in as the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on 20 May 2002. He served in this role until May 2007.
August 8, 2007: At the Lahane Presidential Palace, the IV Constitutional Government was sworn-in with Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão as Prime Minister. He served in this role until 2012.
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão is currently the Minister of Planning and Investment Strategy, responsible for the promotion of economic and social development of the country.
Minister Gusmão supervises the National Procurement Commission, the National Development Agency, the Secretariat of Major Projects, and the Mission Unit for Integrated Regional Development.
1995: Honorary Citizen of Brasília, Brazil
1998: Order of Freedom, Portugal
1998: Honorary Citizen of São Paulo, Brazil
1999: Honorary Doctorate, Lusíada University, Lisbon, Portugal
2000: Order of Merit, New Zealand
2000: Honorary Citizen of Lisbon, Portugal (awarded the Gold Key of Lisbon City)
2000: Medal of the Vice-Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil
2000: Order of Merit José Bonifácio, Grau de Gran-Oficial, University of the State of Rio Janeiro
2000: Honorary Doctorate, University of Oporto, Portugal
2002: Grande Colar da Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul, Brazil
2003: Honorary Degree of Doctorate of Laws, Victoria University
2003: Honorary Knighthood of the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael & St. George
2004: Honorary Law Doctorate Degree, Suncheon National University, Korea
2006: Grande Colar da Ordem de Dom Infante, Portugal
2006: Honorary Philosophy Doctorate Degree, University of Takushoku, Japan
2011: First Class Medal for Contribution to Humanity, Presidency of the Republic of Vanuatu
2011: Honorary Doctorate, Coimbra University, Portugal
2012: Honorary Doctorate, Charles Darwin University, Australia
2014: Honorary Doctorate, ISCSP, Portugal
2014: Honorary Doctorate, University Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia