Ramos-Horta named UN envoy to Guinea-Bissau

Ramos-Horta named UN envoy to Guinea-Bissau

Ramos-Horta named UN envoy to Guinea-Bissau

Updated 2 January 2013, 15:08 AEDT

East Timor's former president has been appointed the UN's special envoy to the troubled west African state of Guinea-Bissau.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has appointed East Timor's former president Jose Ramos-Horta as his new representative to coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who helped bring independence to East Timor, will also lead the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the west African state.

Dr Ramos-Horta replaces Rwandan diplomat Joseph Mutaboba, whose term ends on January 31.

An exiled voice for East Timor during two decades of Indonesian occupation, Dr Ramos-Horta advocated clemency for Indonesians accused of atrocities as well as renegade troops who tried to assassinate him in 2008.

The 63-year-old has since been active on international peace initiatives.

"If in some ways I can help the UN in some region of the world, maybe in West Africa, why not? I am more than willing. I have the commitment and some modest experience in that regard," Dr Ramos-Horta said.

Guinea-Bissau and East Timor are both former Portuguese colonies.

Dr Ramos-Horta has told Corinne Podger at ABC Radio Australia he accepts his new role may involve some bridge-building between the UN and Guinea-Bissau's transitional government.

He says that he has been engaged in bridge-building for most of his life, for example between his country and Indonesia and Australia, and between local gangs and factions in the army and police.

Dr Horta says he knows he will have to use all these skills in Guinea-Bissau and the countries in the region so they all work on the same wavelength.

He was nominated to the UN post just as the UN ended its 13-year peacekeeping mission in East Timor on Monday and says he is optimistic about its future.

"The situation is very peaceful at the moment. Conditions are right for economic takeoff in the next five years," he said.

"So I have full confidence that as I depart the country is in good hands and when I return sometime in the future, I will find a vibrant economy and a country that is even more peaceful and stable fully integrated in the region as the 11th member of ASEAN."

ABC/AFP