Lessons Learned in Timor-Leste

By Damien Kingsbury, on , Feature

A little more than 10 years after the people of what is now Timor-Leste voted for independence, this small, half-island country has compressed into a few short years what many other post-colonial states have taken decades to achieve. It has been largely destroyed, achieved independence, had a political crisis, transitioned to democracy, and now appears to be heading into a period of political calm and economic growth. After the near-catastrophic events of 2006, Timor-Leste's prospects are looking relatively positive, even if a number of important caveats apply.

After roughly 300 years of Portuguese colonial neglect came to an end in December 1975, what was then known as Portuguese Timor was invaded by neighboring Indonesia. The territory became a war zone: More than a quarter of the population was killed or died as a result of the subsequent occupation (which was never recognized under international law), and the rest was deeply traumatized. ...

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