Kiribati

Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati
Ribaberiki Kiribati
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Te Mauri, Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa"
"Health, Peace and Prosperity"
Anthem: Teirake Kaini Kiribati
Stand up, Kiribati
Capital
and largest city
South Tarawa[1]
Official languages
Ethnic groups (2000) 98.8% Micronesian
1.2% others[2]
Demonym I-Kiribati
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Anote Tong
 -  Vice-President Teima Onorio
Legislature House of Assembly
Independence
 -  from the United Kingdom 12 July 1979 
Area
 -  Total 811 km2 (186th)
313 sq mi
Population
 -  2010 estimate 103,500 (197th)
 -  2010 census 103,500
 -  Density 135/km2 (73rd)
350/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $599 million[3]
 -  Per capita $5,721[3]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $167 million[3]
 -  Per capita $1,592[3]
HDI (2013) Steady 0.607[4]
medium · 133rd
Currency Kiribati dollar
Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone (UTC+12, +13, +14)
Drives on the Right- and left-hand traffic
Calling code +686
ISO 3166 code KI
Internet TLD .ki

Kiribati ([kɪribas] [5] or [ˌkɪrəˈbɑti];[6] Gilbertese), officially the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati,[7] is an island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is just over 100,000 (2011) on .[8] The nation is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, Banaba, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point amidst the Line Islands.

The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of Gilberts, which derives from the main island chain, named the Gilbert Islands after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert, who sailed through the islands in 1788.[9] The capital, South Tarawa, consists of a number of islets connected through a series of causeways, located in the Tarawa archipelago. Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.

Contents

  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Colonial era 2.2
    • Independence to present day 2.3
  • Politics 3
  • Law Enforcement & Military 4
  • Island groups 5
  • Foreign relations 6
    • Regional relations 6.1
    • International relations of climate change 6.2
  • Geography 7
  • Climate 8
  • Flora and fauna 9
  • Economy 10
  • Demographics 11
  • Human development 12
    • Health 12.1
  • Education 13
  • Transport 14
  • Culture 15
    • Music 15.1
    • Dance 15.2
    • Sport 15.3
    • Outside perspectives 15.4
  • See also 16
  • References 17
  • Bibliography 18
  • External links 19

Etymology

Kiribati was named in French by captains Krusenstern and Louis Isidore Duperrey "îles Gilbert",[10] Gilbert Islands, after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert, who sighted the islands in 1788. The current name, Kiribati, is an adaptation of "Gilberts", from the former European name the "Gilbert Islands". Although the indigenous name for the Gilbert Islands proper is Tungaru in Gilbertese language, the new state chose the name Kiribati, the Gilbertese rendition of Gilberts, as an equivalent of the former colony to acknowledge the inclusion of islands never considered part of the Gilberts chain.[11][12]

History

American marines assault a Japanese bunker during the Battle of Tarawa, November 1943.

Early history

The area now called Kiribati has been inhabited by Micronesians speaking the same Oceanic language since sometime between 3000 BC[13] and AD 1300.[14] The area was not isolated; invaders from Tonga and Samoa, and from Fiji, later introduced Polynesian and Melanesian cultural aspects, respectively. Intermarriage tended to blur cultural differences and resulted in a significant degree of cultural homogenisation.[15][16]

Colonial era

Contact with Europeans began in the 16th century when Magellan, Saavedra and Quirós discovered and conquered the islands of Pope Clement VIII in 1520, the islands of Queen Catalina in 1528 and the Island (La) Carolina in 1606. Spanish rule lasted from 1528-1885 during which time the islands of Santa Catalina were named in honor of Queen Catherine of Aragon. Whalers, slave traders and merchant ships arrived in large numbers during the 19th century leading to conflicts between the islanders and the introduction European diseases.

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 when sailing from Australia to China.[17]

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. They were administered by the Western Pacific High Commission based in Fiji.[17] Together they became the crown colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1916.[15] Christmas Island (or Kiritimati) became part of the colony in 1919 and the Phoenix Islands were added in 1937. Sir Arthur Grimble was a cadet administrative officer based at Tarawa (1913–1919) and became Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1926.[18]

In 1902, the Pacific Cable Board laid the first trans-Pacific telegraph cable from Victoria, British Columbia to Fanning Island (Tabuaeran) in the Line Islands and from Fiji to Fanning Island, thus completing the All Red Line, a series of telegraph lines circumnavigating the globe completely within the British Empire. The location of Fanning Island, one of the closest formations to Hawaii, led to its annexation by the British Empire in 1888. Nearby candidates including Palmyra Island were disfavored due to the lack of adequate landing sites. The US eventually incorporated the Northern Line and other islands which lie between Kiriribati and the Line Islands, including Howland, Jarvis, and Baker islands.

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 United Kingdom for nuclear weapons testing including hydrogen bombs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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 12 July 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.[19] 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 the 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 re-elected in 1998. Kiribati gained UN membership in 1999.[20]

In 2002 Kiribati passed a controversial law enabling the government to shut down newspapers. The legislation followed the launching of Kiribati's first successful non-government-run newspaper. President Tito was re-elected 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.[21]

In June 2008, Kiribati officials asked Australia and New Zealand to accept Kiribati citizens as permanent refugees. Kiribati is expected to be the first country to lose all its land territory to global climate change. In June 2008, the Kiribati president Anote Tong said that the country has reached "...the point of no return." He added, "To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that."[22][23][24][25]

In early 2012, the government of Kiribati purchased the 2,200-hectare Natoavatu Estate on the second largest island of Fiji, Vanua Levu. At the time it was widely,[26][27] but incorrectly,[28] reported that the Government planned to evacuate the entire population of Kiribati to Fiji. However, in April 2013, President Tong began urging citizens to evacuate the islands and migrate elsewhere.[29]

Politics

Kiribati Parliament House.
The Presidential residence.

The Kiribati Constitution, promulgated 12 July 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 must be an MP). The constitution requires that the president be nominated from among elected legislators, and limits the office to three four-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 (Banaba Island, former Ocean Island), 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. There are a total of 21 inhabited islands in Kiribati. Each inhabited island has its own council. Since independence, Kiribati is no longer divided into districts, see Subdivisions of Kiribati

Kiribati has formal political parties but their organisation is quite informal. Ad hoc opposition groups tend to coalesce around specific issues. Today the only recognisable parties are the Boutokaan te Koaua Party, Maneaban te Mauri Party, Maurin Kiribati Party and Tabomoa Party. There is universal suffrage at age 18.

Law Enforcement & Military

Law enforcement in Kiribati is carried out by the Kiribati Police Service which is responsible for all law enforcement and paramilitary duties for the island nation. There are police posts located on all of the islands. The police have one patrol boat. However Kiribati has no military and relies on both Australia and New Zealand for its defense.[30]

Island groups

Line Islands: Caroline Atoll channel between west side of Long Island and Nake Island.

There are a total of 21 inhabited islands in Kiribati. Kiribati was formally divided into districts until independence. The country is now divided into three island groups, including a group that unites the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands (ministry at London, Kiritimati) Island. The groups have no administrative function. Each inhabited island has its own council: three councils on Tarawa: Betio, South-Tarawa, North-Tarawa—and two councils on Tabiteuea). The original districts were:

The island groups include:

Four of the former districts (including Tarawa) lie in the Gilbert Islands, where most of the country's population lives. Five of the Line Islands are uninhabited (Malden Island, Starbuck Island, Caroline Island, Vostok Island and Flint Island). The Phoenix Islands are uninhabited except for Kanton, and have no representation. Banaba itself is sparsely inhabited now. There is also a non-elected representative of the Banabans on Rabi Island in Fiji. Each of the 21 inhabited islands[2] has a local council that takes care of the daily affairs. Tarawa Atoll has three councils: Betio Town Council, Te Inainano Urban Council (for the rest of South Tarawa) and Eutan Tarawa Council (for North Tarawa).

Foreign relations

Kiribati was admitted as the 186th member of the United Nations in September 1999.

Regional relations

Kiribati maintains relations with its Pacific neighbours, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, which provide the majority of the country's foreign aid. Taiwan and Japan also have specified-period licences to fish in Kiribati's waters.

In November 1999 it was announced that Japan's National Space Development Agency planned to lease land on Kiritimati (Christmas Island) for 20 years, on which to build a spaceport. The agreement stipulated that Japan was to pay US$840,000 per year and would also pay for any damage to roads and the environment. A Japanese-built downrange tracking station operates on Kiritimati[33] and an abandoned airfield on the island was designated as the landing strip for a proposed reusable unmanned space shuttle called HOPE-X. HOPE-X, however, was eventually cancelled by Japan in 2003.

International relations of climate change

As one of the world's most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change, Kiribati has been an active participant in international diplomatic efforts relating to climate change, most importantly the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to address global warming. AOSIS has been very active from its inception, putting forward the first draft text in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations as early as 1994.

In 2009, President Tong attended the Climate Vulnerable Forum (V11) in the Maldives, with 10 other countries that are vulnerable to climate change, and signed the Bandos Island declaration on 10 November 2009, pledging to show moral leadership and commence greening their economies by voluntarily committing to achieving carbon neutrality.

In November 2010, Kiribati hosted the Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) to support the president of Kiribati's initiative to hold a consultative forum between vulnerable states and their partners. The conference strove to create an enabling environment for multi-party negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC. The conference was a successor event to the Climate Vulnerable Forum.[34] The ultimate objective of TCCC was to reduce the number and intensity of fault lines between parties to the COP process, explore elements of agreement between the parties and thereby to support Kiribati's and other parties' contribution to COP16 held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010.

In 2013, President Tong has spoken of climate-change induced sea level rise as "inevitable". "For our people to survive, then they will have to migrate. Either we can wait for the time when we have to move people en masse or we can prepare them—beginning from now ..."[35] In New York in 2014, per The New Yorker, President Tong told The New York Times that "according to the projections, within this century, the water will be higher than the highest point in our lands".[36]

Geography

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Map of Kiribati.
Coconut palms in Abaiang

Kiribati consists of about 32 atolls and one solitary island (Banaba), extending into the eastern and western hemispheres, as well as the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the only country that is situated within all four hemispheres.[2] The groups of islands are:

  • Banaba: an isolated island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
  • Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) north of Fiji
  • Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,800 kilometres (1,118 mi) southeast of the Gilberts
  • Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 3,300 kilometres (2,051 mi) east of the Gilberts

Banaba (or Ocean Island) is a raised-coral island. It was once a rich source of phosphates, but was mostly mined out before independence. The rest of the land in Kiribati consists of the sand and reef rock islets of atolls or coral islands, which rise only one or two metres above sea level.

The soil is thin and