Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Republic of the Fiji Islands occupies an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu.
The first inhabitants of Fiji arrived from South East Asia long before the islands were discovered by European explorers in the 17th century. It was not until the 19th century, however, that Europeans came to the islands to settle there permanently. The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874. It was granted independence in 1970. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indo-Fijian (Indian) community.
A 1990 constitution guaranteed ethnic Fijian control of Fiji, but led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. Amendments enacted in 1997 made the constitution more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian. A year later, this was deposed in a coup led by George Speight, a hardline Fijian nationalist. Democracy was restored towards the end of 2000, and Laisenia Qarase, who had led an interim government in the meantime, was elected Prime Minister.
For a country of its size, Fiji has exceptionally capable armed forces, and has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world.This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fiji".