Jailed 7 Years, E. Timor’s Gusmao Meets With ‘Inspiration’ Mandela
East Timor independence leader Jose Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmao had an emotional reunion Wednesday with Nelson Mandela--their first meeting since Gusmao was released from an Indonesian prison in September.
Gusmao said he was inspired to keep struggling through seven years of imprisonment by the example of Mandela, who spent 27 years in South African prisons under the apartheid regime.
“The example of the great man Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to me,” said Gusmao, who is widely expected to become East Timor’s first head of state.
Draped in a gold-and-black traditional East Timorese scarf given him by Gusmao, Mandela expressed delight that the man he had visited in prison in 1997 in Indonesia was free.
“I’m happy that he is now out and he is busy trying to rebuild his country,” Mandela said as he stood next to Gusmao at the former South African leader’s home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg.
Mandela won South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994 and retired as president last year.
Earlier Wednesday, Gusmao met with President Thabo Mbeki, who promised that South Africa would continue to support East Timor during and beyond its two- to three-year transition to independence.