Capital : Bairiki
Size: 280 sq m Popn: 74 000
This republic in the west central Pacific is made up of three groups of coral atolls: the 16 Gilbert Islands, 8 uninhabited Phoenix Islands, 8 of the 11 Line Islands and the volcanic island of Barnaba.
The Gilbert Islands, which are predominantly Micronesian, and the Ellice Islands which are predominately Melanesian became a British protectorate in 1892. In 1916, it became the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.
It was occupied by Japan during the Second World War and suffered severe fighting between Japanese and American forces.
In 1963, a legislative council was set up to help prepare for independence and in 1972, a governor replaced the British High Commissioner. The Ellice Islands separated and became Tuvalu in 1975. The Gilbert Islands were given internal self-government in 1977 and full independence as Kiribati in 1979 with Ieremia Tabai as president. He was re-elected in 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1991 but the constitution did not allow a fifth term. He backed Vice President Teatao Teannaki who became president in 1991 and appointed Tabai as one of his ten cabinet ministers.
The island of Barnaba wanted to be independent or to join with Fiji but overmining of phosphates has led environmental ruin and the inhabitants have resettled on Rabi Island, over 2600 miles away in the Fiji group.
Languages I-Kiribati (Gilbertese), English
Religions Roman Catholic, Protestant, Bahai, Mormon
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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