In the civil war before and after independence in 1999, a
large part of schools in East Timor were destroyed. After
independence, the government has given priority to the
reconstruction of the education system in the country. The
University of Dili reopened in 2001. Illiteracy is estimated
at approx. 52% (2005).
In January 2004, Portugal sent East Timor humanitarian aid
worth $ 63 million. US $. In February, offshore gas
production started from the Bayu-Undan field in the Timor
Sea, 500 km from Darwin in Australia and 250 km south of
East Timor. Gas production will bring in the country 100
million annually. US $. In July 2006, the two countries
signed an agreement that will provide East Timor with 50% of
the gas production revenue in the field between the two
countries. It could total 20 billion US $ throughout the
life of the project.
In May, the UN reduced the number of peacekeeping troops
in the country from 3000 to 700.
In November, a two-year trial ended in an Indonesian
human rights court against 18 people accused of assaulting
the people of East Timor after the 1999 vote. Rebel leader
Eurico Guterres was the only one to maintain his charges but
released until an appeals court has handled the case.
In January 2005, East Timor and Indonesia agreed to set
up a Truth and Friendship Commission to investigate the
1,500 murders and human rights abuses that took place during
and after the 1999 independence referendum. The Commission
issued its final report in December 2008 and blamed it the
massacres and burning of the country's cities in 1999 in
Indonesia. At the same time, the Commission found that there
was a great deal of outstandingness to uncover the truth
about human rights violations committed during Indonesia's
occupation of the country in 1975-99. About 18,600 people
were killed or disappeared during this period. The
Commission recommended that a new Joint Commission be set up
to investigate the incidents during this period.
In April 2006, a major uprising broke out in the capital
Dili. By then 600 soldiers had been dismissed for leaving
their posts. A support demonstration for the soldiers in
Dili developed into looting with 5 killed and 20,000 driven
on the run. In May, fighting broke out between various
factions within the military, and at the end of the month
Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal sent troops to
Dili in an attempt to stabilize the situation. On June 21,
President Xanana Gusmão ordered Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri
to resign, and this happened on July 26. On July 8, the post
was taken over by Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta.
Former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, who had been
sentenced to 7 years in prison for the violent crackdown on
the 2006 uprising, tried in August 2007 to flee the country
in a charter plane. He tried to use a special permit to have
a heart operation in Malaysia, but the charter flight from
Lobato was detained before take-off and the former minister
sent back to jail.
In March 2007, Xanana Gusmão broke with Fretilin and
formed her own party, CNRT, which took its name from the
coalition that fought the Indonesian occupation in 1998-99.
Prime Minister Ramos Horta was elected to the country's
president in May 2007 in the second round of elections, and
inaugurated a few weeks later. Fretilin won the
parliamentary elections in June, with CNRT in second place,
but CNRT brought together a coalition of parties that
together obtained a majority. For weeks, quarrels continued
over which of the two blocs should form government, but in
August President Horta seized and appointed his predecessor
Xanana Gusmão as new prime minister. Gusmão was the CNRT's
top candidate and had a seat in parliament.
In February 2008, the president was subjected to an
assassination that nearly cost him his life. He was treated
at a hospital in Australia and first returned to the country
in April, calling on the remaining mountain rebels to
surrender. He also urged the UN peacekeeping force to stay
in the country for another 5 years to guarantee security.
In July, the Indonesian-Timorese Joint Truth Commission
released its final report placing the responsibility for
domestic violence up to and after the 1999 independence vote
on Indonesia. At the same time, the Commission called on
Indonesia to officially apologize to East Timor. It rejected
Indonesian President Yudhoyono, who merely expressed his
"deep regret" over the 1999 events.