Former East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta on Sunday announced he would run for the top job again in the upcoming election, a decade after the end of his first term.

The 72-year-old was a critical figure in East Timor's independence struggle, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Carlos Filipe Ximines Belo.

The presidential election will be held on March 19, with the winner taking office on May 20, the day East Timor celebrates its 20th anniversary of independence from Indonesia.

Ramos-Horta's candidacy was announced at a meeting held by the National Congress of the Reconstruction of Timor-Leste (CNRT), a political party led by the charismatic former president Xanana Gusmao.

"I am carrying out what has been entrusted to me by CNRT party and the people of East Timor to run in the 2022-2027 presidential election," Horta said after the congress.

Gusmao added: "Let's together support Horta to the presidential palace."

Jose Ramos-Horta was a critical figure in East Timor's independence struggle
Jose Ramos-Horta was a critical figure in East Timor's independence struggle AFP / Valentino Dariell DE SOUSA

Ramos-Horta served as the president of Southeast Asia's youngest country from 2007 to 2012 and as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

He will go against several other candidates including the outgoing president Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres and former Catholic priest Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao.

Incumbent Guterres, from the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor Party (Fretilin), announced his candidacy on January 16 while Gusmao said he would run in the election after Pope Francis revoked the priesthood status of the diocesan priest last November, clearing his path to run in the election.

Catholic-majority East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, announced its independence in 2002 after a 24-year long occupation by the neighbouring country Indonesia.

The country's major political events have often been marred by chaos and violence.

In 2018 more than a dozen were injured and several cars were torched after a clash broke out between Fretilin and CNRT supporters.

Dozens were killed in 2006 as political rivalries turned into open conflict on the streets of the capital, Dili.