Kiribati, formally known as the Gilbert Islands, was granted self-rule
by the British in 1971. Eight years later, the islands became
independent. The US signed a treaty of friendship in 1979 and
relinquished all claims to the Phoenix and Line Island groups.
Kiribati is made up of 33 atolls that stretch nearly 4,000 km from east
to west and more than 2,000 km from north to south. The islands are
spread around the Equator, and many are inhabited. Kiribati was
located on both sides of the International Date Line, but in 1995, the
government decided to move the line to the east, thus ensuring that the
whole country was in the same day. On January 1, 2000, Kiribati became
the first inhabited place on Earth to greet the new millennium. To
mark the historic event, media from across the world landed at Caroline
Island, which was renamed Millennium Island.
Anote Tong is the president of Kiribati. He narrowly defeated his
older brother, Harry, in July 2003 elections and then was re-elected
for another term in October 2007. Kiribati hosted a Chinese satellite
tracking base, which became a major election issue. When Kiribati
established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, China withdrew the base
as a measure of protest.
Kiribati’s economy is impacted by the dynamic global demand for
coconut. Other sources of revenue are fishing licenses, foreign aid,
money repatriated by resident living abroad, and a trust fund set up
with revenues from phosphate mining on the island of Banaba.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
The Republic of Kiribati
Form of Government:
Year of Independence:
1979 (from Britain)
Roman Catholic 52%, Protestant (Congregational) 40%, other (includes Seventh-Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha'i, Latter-day Saints, Church of God) 8% (1999)
810 sq km (313 sq miles)
English (official), I-Kiribati (Gilbertese)
60 years (men), 66 years (women) (UN)
1 Australian dollar = 100 cents
Copra (62%), fish, seaweed, coconuts
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$3,200 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: