Kiribati became independent from the UK in
1979 and Ieremia Tabai became the country's first
president. He was re-elected several times and sat on
the post until 1991, when former Vice President Teatao
Teannaki took over. Teannaki was replaced in 1994 by
Teburoro Tito. Before the turn of the millennium,
Kiribati moved the date limit so that the country's
eastern parts became the first in the world to enter the
new millennium. In 2003, Anote Tong was elected
president. He was replaced in 2016 by Taneti Maamau.
In the 1960s independence began to be prepared for
the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.
However, the inhabitants of the Ellice Islands wanted
their own state and in 1975 they broke out of the colony
and formed the nation of Tuvalu. The other islands
became independent on July 12, 1979 under the name
Kiribati (which is pronounced "kiribas" and is the
locals' version of the British "Gilberts"). The
country's first president was Ieremia Tabai.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Kiribati. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The valuable phosphate at Banaba (see Ancient
History) had finally run out of Kiribati independence.
The phosphate quarry had largely destroyed the island
and already during the Second World War they had
evacuated about 1,000 runways to the island of Rabi in
Fiji, where they still live. Prior to Kiribati's
independence, Britain rejected the Bananas' request to
form an independent state, funded with British damages
for the destruction. In 1981, the railways accepted a
British offer of ten million Australian dollars plus
interest as compensation.
Ieremia Tabai was re-elected as President of Kiribati
in 1982, 1983 (re-election) and 1987. When Tabai's term
expired in 1991, according to the constitution, he could
not be re-elected. Instead, former Vice President Teatao
Teannaki was elected new president.
The date line is moved
In 1994, the government fell into a distrust vote
after several ministers were accused of abusing travel
allowances. New elections were held and in the
subsequent presidential election, opposition candidate
Teburoro Tito won. His political grouping then merged
with the grouping of the two representatives, and
Maneaban Te Mauri (MTM)
Prior to the turn of the millennium, Kiribati decided
on its own accord to move the date line east, so that
the whole country ended up west of it. The easternmost
island was renamed Millennie Island and the government
tried to attract tourists to the place on earth that
would thus first enter the new millennium. The
opposition was later critical that despite great
efforts, there was no large influx, but international
media were in place and pictures of dancing Kiribati
went out around the world when the New Year was
MTM won the parliamentary elections in 1998 and 2002,
and Tito won the subsequent presidential elections (see
Political system). However, Tito's third term, which
began in February 2003, was short-lived. The government
was convicted in a suspicion vote in March of that year,
after Tito refused to reveal the details of an agreement
that had allowed China to build a disputed satellite
monitoring facility on the main Tarawa tariff.
New elections were held in May 2003 and MTM again
became the largest group, but in the presidential
elections in July, Anote Tong, a candidate for the
opposition group Boutokaan Te Koaua (BTK),
won. Tong, an economist with a degree from the
prestigious London School of Economics, won just over
1,000 votes, or 47 percent to 43 percent, over his
brother Harry Tong, who was MTM's candidate.
Diplomatic ties with China are broken
In accordance with a election promise to close a
Chinese satellite station, the president in November
acknowledged Taiwan, which led to China breaking the
diplomatic ties and closing the station (see also
Foreign Policy and Defense).
In 2006, the Bananas representative in Parliament
demanded that Banaba should leave Kiribati and join
Fiji. The background was frustration that the
compensation for the destruction of Banaba is being
managed by the Kiribati government.
In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the ruling BTK
prevailed and Tong was re-elected as president. His
three counter-candidates also belonged to BTK or were
allies with the party.
A visit to Tarawa by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
in 2011 provided support for the recurring alarms on
climate change, which the Kiribatians have long
recognized as a threat to the country's survival (see
Natural Resources and Energy). The UN chief participated
in planting mangrove trees to hold back the sea that
erodes the shoreline, and promised to try to extract
funds from industrialized countries to counteract the
The climate threat is in focus
Prior to the 2011 parliamentary elections, President
Tong was criticized by political opponents who thought
he was spending too much time and energy on climate
policy issues. Rising living costs and corruption were
issues that engaged people more, critics felt. However,
Tong continued to push the climate issue and urged other
countries, among other countries, to open their borders
to Kiribati, who are forced to flee rising sea levels
and lack of fresh water.
In the elections, BTK lost mandate but remained the
largest grouping in parliament, while the newly formed
KTK (Karikirakean Tei-Kiribati,
see Political system) became second largest. A little
over one third of the elected members voted for
independence. According to analysts, the new parliament
weighed fairly evenly between supporters and opponents
of the incumbent government.
The main issues facing the subsequent presidential
election were the attitude towards Chinese versus
Taiwanese aid (see Foreign Policy and Defense), whether
or not the price of copra (dried coconut) would increase
(a rise was considered to adversely affect the economy
of the poorer islands), increased.
Anote Tong won the election held in January 2012,
albeit with a much smaller margin than in the previous
election. The turnout was unusually high following a
campaign in which the electoral commission traveled
around the islands to get people to vote. About 40,000
of 60,000 potential voters chose to register and 68
percent of them voted.
In the government that Tong presented after the
election victory, about half of the twelve ministers
were new to their posts.
Fight against domestic violence
Tong attracted international attention in early 2013
when he announced that Kiribati would buy 6,000 acres of
land on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. Many thought
it was about acquiring new territory for climate
refugees, but Tong claimed that the purchase was made to
guarantee the availability of food, not to move people.
Through a constitutional amendment in April 2013, a
special ministry was established for women and young
people, whose main task is to deal with the widespread
violence against women and children. A report
commissioned by the government in 2009 had shown that
nearly 70 percent of the country's women had been abused
by their spouses, close relatives or other men. In April
2014, the Parliament passed a law (Family Peace Act)
with measures to reduce violence against women and
children in the home. When it emerged in June of the
same year that six women had been murdered by their
husbands since the turn of the year, a national working
group was appointed to strengthen respect for human
rights and take stronger measures against domestic