Kiribati

Introduction The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.
History

Early history

The area now called Kiribati has been inhabited by Micronesians speaking the same Oceanic language since sometime between 3000 BC[2] and 1300 AD. The area was not isolated; invaders from Tonga and Fiji later introduced Polynesian and Melanesian cultural aspects, respectively. Intermarriage tended to blur cultural differences and resulted in a significant degree of cultural homogenisation[3].

Colonial era

The islands were first sighted by British and American ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The main island chain was named the Gilbert Islands in 1820 by a Russian admiral, Adam von Krusenstern, and French captain Louis Duperrey, after a British captain named Thomas Gilbert, who crossed the archipelago in 1788.

From the early 19th century, Western whalers, merchant vessels and slave traders visited the islands, introducing diseases and firearms.

The first British settlers arrived in 1837. In 1892 the Gilbert Islands consented to become a British protectorate together with the nearby Ellice Islands. Together they became the crown colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1916. Kiritimati (Christmas Island) became part of the colony in 1919 and the Phoenix Islands were added in 1937.

Tarawa Atoll and others of the Gilbert group were occupied by Japan during World War II. Tarawa was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in US Marine Corps history. Marines landed in November 1943; the Battle of Tarawa was fought at Kiribati's former capital Betio on Tarawa Atoll.

Some of the islands of Kiribati, especially in the remote Line Islands, were formerly used by the United States and Great Britain for nuclear testing. According to "Kiribati: A People's History", the testing sites for many of the new hydrogen bombs in the 1960s were in what is now Kiribati.

Independence to present day

The Gilbert and Ellice Islands gained self-rule in 1971, and were separated in 1975 and granted internal self-government by Britain. In 1978 the Ellice Islands became the independent nation of Tuvalu. The Gilbert Islands became independent as Kiribati on July 12, 1979. Although the indigenous Gilbertese language name for the Gilbert Islands proper is "Tungaru", the new state chose the name "Kiribati", the Gilbertese rendition of "Gilberts", as an equivalent of the former colony to acknowledge the inclusion of Banaba, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands, which were never considered part of the Gilberts chain.[5] In the Treaty of Tarawa, signed shortly after independence and ratified in 1983, the United States relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix Islands and those of the Line Islands that are part of Kiribati territory.

Overcrowding has been a problem. In 1988 it was announced that 4,700 residents of the main island group would be resettled onto less-populated islands. Teburoro Tito was elected president in 1994. Kiribati's 1995 act of moving the international date line far to the east to encompass Kiribati's Line Islands group, so that it would no longer be divided by the date line, courted controversy. The move, which fulfilled one of President Tito's campaign promises, was intended to allow businesses all across the expansive nation to keep the same business week. This also enabled Kiribati to become the first country to see the dawn of the third millennium, an event of significance for tourism. Tito was reelected in 1998. Kiribati gained UN membership in 1999.

In 2002 Kiribati passed a controversial law enabling the government to shut down newspapers. The legislation followed the launching of Kiribati's first successful nongovernment-run newspaper. President Tito was reelected in 2003, but was removed from office in March 2003 by a no-confidence vote and replaced by a Council of State. Anote Tong of the opposition party Boutokaan Te Koaua was elected to succeed Tito in July 2003. He was re-elected in 2007.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the Equator; the capital Tarawa is about half way between Hawaii and Australia; note - on 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory lies in the same time zone as its Gilbert Islands group (UTC +12) even though the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands under its jurisdiction lie on the other side of the International Date Line
Geographic coordinates: 1 25 N, 173 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 811 sq km
land: 811 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes three island groups - Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands
Area - comparative: four times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,143 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds
Terrain: mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Banaba 81 m
Natural resources: phosphate (production discontinued in 1979)
Land use: arable land: 2.74%
permanent crops: 47.95%
other: 49.31% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes; low level of some of the islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level
Environment - current issues: heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: 21 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru
Politics

The Kiribati Constitution, promulgated July 12, 1979, provides for free and open elections. The executive branch consists of a president (te Beretitenti), a vice president and a cabinet (the president is also chief of the cabinet and has to be MP). Under the constitution, the president, nominated from among the elected legislators, is limited to three 4-year terms. The cabinet is composed of the president, vice president and 10 ministers (appointed by the president) who are members of the House of Assembly.

The legislative branch is the unicameral Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (House of Assembly). It has elected members, including by constitutional mandate a representative of the Banaban people in Fiji (Rabi Island, former Ocean Islanders), in addition to the attorney general, who serves as an ex-officio member. Legislators serve for a four-year term.

The constitutional provisions governing administration of justice are similar to those in other former British possessions in that the judiciary is free from governmental interference. The judicial branch is made up of the High Court (in Betio) and the Court of Appeal. The president appoints the presiding judges.

Local government is through island councils with elected members. Local affairs are handled in a manner similar to town meetings in colonial America. Island councils make their own estimates of revenue and expenditure and generally are free from central government controls.

Kiribati has formal political parties but their organization is quite informal. Ad hoc opposition groups tend to coalesce around specific issues. Today the only recognizable parties are the Maneaban te Mauri Party and the National Progressive Party. There is universal suffrage at age 18.

People Population: 110,356 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.9% (male 21,180/female 20,604)
15-64 years: 58.7% (male 31,993/female 32,797)
65 years and over: 3.4% (male 1,606/female 2,176) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 20.6 years
male: 20.1 years
female: 21.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.235% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 30.31 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.97 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 44.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 49.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 39.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 62.85 years
male: 59.79 years
female: 66.06 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.08 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: I-Kiribati (singular and plural)
adjective: I-Kiribati
Ethnic groups: Micronesian 98.8%, other 1.2% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 52%, Protestant (Congregational) 40%, other (includes Seventh-Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha'i, Latter-day Saints, Church of God) 8% (1999)
Languages: I-Kiribati, English (official)
Literacy: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Kiribati
conventional short form: Kiribati
local long form: Republic of Kiribati
local short form: Kiribati
note: pronounced keer-ree-bahss
former: Gilbert Islands
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Tarawa
geographic coordinates: 1 19 N, 172 58 E
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 3 units; Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands; note - in addition, there are 6 districts (Banaba, Central Gilberts, Line Islands, Northern Gilberts, Southern Gilberts, Tarawa) and 21 island councils - one for each of the inhabited islands (Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba, Beru, Butaritari, Kanton, Kiritimati, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tabuaeran, Tamana, Tarawa, Teraina)
Independence: 12 July 1979 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 July (1979)
Constitution: 12 July 1979
Legal system: NA
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Anote TONG (since 10 July 2003); Vice President Teima ONORIO; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Anote TONG (since 10 July 2003); Vice President Teima ONORIO
cabinet: 12-member cabinet appointed by the president from among the members of the House of Parliament
elections: the House of Parliament chooses the presidential candidates from among its members and then those candidates compete in a general election; president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for two more terms); election last held 17 October 2007 (next to be held in 2011); vice president appointed by the president
election results: Anote TONG 63.7%, Nabuti MWEMWENIKARAWA 32.9%
Legislative branch: unicameral House of Parliament or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (46 seats; 44 members elected by popular vote, 1 ex officio member - the attorney general, 1 nominated by the Rabi Council of Leaders (representing Banaba Island); to serve four-year terms)
elections: legislative elections were held in two rounds - the first round on 22 August 2007 and the second round on 30 August 2007 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA, other 2 (includes attorney general)
Judicial branch: Court of Appeal; High Court; 26 Magistrates' courts; judges at all levels are appointed by the president
Political parties and leaders: Boutokaan Te Koaua Party or BTK [Taberannang TIMEON]; Maneaban Te Mauri Party or MTM [Teburoro TITO]; Maurin Kiribati Pati or MKP; National Progressive Party or NPP [Dr. Harry TONG]
note: there is no tradition of formally organized political parties in Kiribati; they more closely resemble factions or interest groups because they have no party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACP, ADB, C, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IOC, ITU, ITUC, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US: Kiribati does not have an embassy in the US; there is an honorary consulate in Honolulu
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Kiribati; the ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Kiribati
Flag description: the upper half is red with a yellow frigate bird flying over a yellow rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean
Culture

Songs (te anene) and above all dances (te mwaie) are held in high regard.

Music

Kiribati folk music is generally based around chanting or other forms of vocalizing, accompanied by body percussion. Public performances in modern Kiribati are generally performed by a seated chorus, accompanied by a guitar. However, during formal performances of the standing dance (Te Kaimatoa) or the hip dance (Te Buki) a wooden box is used as a percussion instrument. This box is constructed so as to give a hollow and reverberating tone when struck simultaneously by a chorus of men sitting around it. Traditional songs are often love-themed, but there are also competitive, religious, children's, patriotic, war and wedding songs[citation needed]. There are also stick dances (which accompany legends and semi-historical stories[citation needed]. These stick dances or 'tirere' (pronounced seerere) are only performed during major festivals.
See also: Music of Kiribati

Dance

The uniqueness of Kiribati when compared with other forms of Pacific island dance is its emphasis on the outstretched arms of the dancer and the sudden birdlike movement of the head. The Frigate bird (Fregata minor) on the Kiribati flag refers to this bird-like style of Kiribati dancing. Most dances are in the standing or sitting position with movement limited and staggered. Smiling whilst dancing is generally considered vulgar within the context of Kiribati dancing. This is due to its origin of not being solely as a form of entertainment but as a form of storytelling and a display of the skill, beauty and endurance of the dancer.[13]
See also: Dance in Kiribati

Outside perspectives

Arthur Grimble wrote about his time working in the British colonial service in Kiribati (then the Gilbert Islands) in the early 20th century in two popular books A Pattern of Islands (1952) and Return to the Islands (1957). He also undertook academic studies of Gilbertese culture.

J. Maarten Troost's more recent autobiographical experiences on the Tarawa Atoll are documented in his book The Sex Lives of Cannibals (2004).

Economy Economy - overview: A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China equals more than 10% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $240 million (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $73 million (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 0.3% (2005)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $1,000 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 8.9%
industry: 24.2%
services: 66.8% (2004)
Labor force: 7,870 economically active, not including subsistence farmers (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 2.7%
industry: 32%
services: 65.3% (2000)
Unemployment rate: 2% official rate; underemployment 70% (1992 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.5% (2005 est.)
Budget: revenues: $55.52 million
expenditures: $59.71 million (FY05)
Agriculture - products: copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, vegetables; fish
Industries: fishing, handicrafts
Industrial production growth rate: 0.7% (1991 est.)
Electricity - production: 9 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 8.37 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 220 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 216.4 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $-19.87 million (2004)
Exports: $17 million f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities: copra 62%, coconuts, seaweed, fish
Exports - partners: US 22.8%, Belgium 21.5%, Japan 14.3%, Samoa 7.8%, Australia 7.5%, Malaysia 6.7%, Taiwan 5.6%, Denmark 4.6% (2006)
Imports: $62 million c.i.f. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel
Imports - partners: Australia 33%, Fiji 27.1%, Japan 18.1%, NZ 6.9% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $27.84 million largely from UK and Japan (2005)
Debt - external: $10 million (1999 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Australian dollar (AUD)
Currency code: AUD
Exchange rates: Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.2137 (2007), 1.3285 (2006), 1.3095 (2005), 1.3598 (2004), 1.5419 (2003)
Fiscal year: NA
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 4,500 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 600 (2004)
Telephone system: general assessment: generally good quality national and international service
domestic: wire line service available on Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas Island); connections to outer islands by HF/VHF radiotelephone; wireless service available in Tarawa since 1999
international: country code - 686; Kiribati is being linked to the Pacific Ocean Cooperative Telecommunications Network, which should improve telephone service; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (may be inactive) (2002)
Radios: 17,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (possibly inactive) (2002)
Televisions: 1,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .ki
Internet hosts: 41 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 2,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 19 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Roadways: total: 670 km (1999)
Waterways: 5 km (small network of canals in Line Islands) (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 7 ships (1000 GRT or over) 28,435 GRT/42,682 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 3, passenger/cargo 1, refrigerated cargo 2
foreign-owned: 3 (Malaysia 1, Singapore 1, Turkey 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Betio
Military Military branches: no regular military forces (constitutionally prohibited); Police Force (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 21,938 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 14,231 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 1,128 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: NA
Military - note: Kiribati does not have military forces; defense assistance is provided by Australia and NZ
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: none
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