Kiribati - Country Spotlight

The seashore in Kirbati.

The Republic of Kiribati officially adopted the name Kiribati after it gained independence. The name Kiribati was derived from the main archipelago which is part of the country. It is one of the few countries that do not have a military as it instead depends on New Zealand and Australian forces; the police service handles every aspect of law enforcement.

5. Location

Kiribati is an island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. Its capital city is Tarawa Atoll, and half the population resides in the city. It consists of thirty-three atolls and reef islands, and Banaba; a raised coral island. Its total land area is 310 sqm spread out in 1,351,000 square miles. Kirimati is the largest atoll with an area of 150 square miles and accounts for nearly half the country. The atoll was used as a nuclear testing site by the US and the British in the 1960s. In 1979 Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom and is a member of the Commonwealth, World Bank, the United Nations, and the IMF.

4. Landmarks

One of the major landmarks in the country is the Koinava Cathedral that was built in 1907 in Abaiang Atoll. The Bangabangas of Banaba Island are sacred limestone caves and have significant cultural values only women can access the caves. The Tabiteuea in Gilbert Islands is a manmade structure that acts a traditional meeting house built without nails or bolts. The Butaritari navigational stones is a set of coral slabs that seafarers use to navigate. The stone ruins of Malden Island are remnants of structures built by Polynesians who inhabited the island.

3. Major Challenges Faced

Global warming is affecting the island adversely; the rising sea level is threatening to submerge some of the low-lying islands. The country has set strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of the rising oceans including purchasing an eight square mile island in Fiji in case the island is submerged; in the meantime, it is used to produce agricultural produce. Apart from the rising sea level, the county’s main island is facing overpopulation with a population density similar to that of Hong Kong or Tokyo.

2. Languages Spoken

The languages spoken by the people of Kiribati are Micronesian, Gilbertese, and English. English is the country’s official language and is widely spoken in the capital city. The country’s population has been relatively static due to the migration to the growing urban environments of South Tarawa where two-fifths of the population reside. The rural population resides in villages closely compacted and dominated by large open sided meetinghouses. Half the population is Roman Catholics while a large percentage of the rest are Kiribati Protestants.

1. Famous Residents

One of the most famous residents of the country is Karotu Bakaane; a professional footballer who represented the country in international games. David Katoatau is also famous for being the first person from Kiribati to win a gold medal after winning the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold in 105kg weightlifting group. Anote Tong was the president of Kiribati for three terms from July 2003 to March 2016. The former president has a Chinese heritage and has been awarded a leadership and environmental awards for the role he plays in conserving the environment.In 2015 he was awarded the Sunhak Peace Prize, in 2012 he was awarded a leadership award from the Hillary Institute of International Leadership.


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