Nauru was ruled between July 2013 and August
2019 by President Baron Waqa and his government. Over
the years, it received increasingly harsh criticism from
the opposition and the outside world for how asylum
seekers in an Australian detention camp on the island
were forced to live, as well as for how criticism from
both politicians and the media was silenced by those in
power. In August 2019, Waqa was replaced by Lionel
Aingimea as Naurus president.
Waqa's first term in office began tumultuous. In July
2013, riots broke out among asylum seekers in the
detention camp (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).
Half of the around 500 asylum seekers armed themselves
and broke out of the camp. Buildings were set on fire
and some people were injured before the situation was
under control. A large number of Naurus moved out and
helped the police during the riot. The atmosphere was
then reported to be fierce towards the migrants.
Country facts and history of Nauru, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Under an agreement with Australia, Nauru may receive
$ 90 million over a five-year period (2012–2017) for
accommodating up to 1,500 asylum-seeking boat refugees
on their way to Australia. The two countries have
received sharp criticism from, among other things, human
rights organizations for the conditions in the camp
being miserable, among which there are many reports of
abuse against the refugees. Before the riots broke out,
asylum seekers, mainly from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,
had hunger strikes and protested for a long time against
long processing times and poor living conditions.
Media freedom is limited
In connection with the rally, the government stopped
local media from broadcasting interviews with opposition
MPs who criticized the government for the way it handled
the rally and for the agreement itself with Australia.
In January 2014, the government raised the entry fee
for foreign journalists from 200 to 7,000 US dollars.
Subsequently, the number of foreign media in the country
decreased dramatically. In May, the Minister of Justice
shut down three opposition politicians from Parliament
and in June another two members were suspended,
including President Sprent Dabwido. Behind the shutdowns
were political power struggles. In December, the
country's highest court approved the five suspensions.
During the year, the government had deported two
government-critical judges from the island and replaced
them with two new ones.
Facebook is blocked
In 2015, asylum seekers carried out a series of
protest actions against the camp conditions, despite the
fact that the government threatened with imprisonment if
groups of three or more people were not dispersed within
15 minutes. In May of that year, it became punishable to
use a threatening and aggressive language that could
lead to the spread of hatred because of ethnic
affiliation, religion and political opinion. The
country's only internet provider was ordered to block
Facebook, which critics saw as an attempt to prevent
asylum seekers from spreading information about how they
are being treated. Hundreds of hundreds of Nauru
protests in the middle of the year protested against
both the blocking of Facebook and the suspension of
opposition politicians, demanding the resignation of the
Waqa government. (Only in January 2018 did the
government unblock Facebook.)
The situation was at the forefront when an Iranian
man set fire to himself in April 2016 while UNHCR
representatives visited the camp. A few days later, a
Somali woman did the same. Sharp criticism of Australia
and Nauru came from both the UN and Amnesty
International, not least because the many allegations of
refugee abuse were not investigated.
The trips around the camp led to political turmoil.
At the government's request, Parliament shut down
another three members of the opposition. The suspects
were accused of hurting Naurus' reputation when they
criticized foreign policy in the foreign media. Three
other opposition members were arrested in connection
with a demonstration outside Parliament.
Waqa is accused of authoritarian rule
The situation led to the dissolution of the
Parliament and the announcement of new elections in July
2016. During the election campaign, the opposition
candidates complained that it was difficult for them to
gain space in state radio and television and that they
were prevented from holding elections. The government
defended itself by state ethereal media traditionally
not reporting on politics during election campaigns.
The parliamentary election resulted in 13 of the 19
members being re-elected while 6 members were replaced.
Among those left were Waqa and his immediate ministers.
Two days later, the new parliament elected Waqa for a
new three-year term as president. He thus had to form
the next government. Waqa took care of the Foreign
Minister post himself, while David Adeang became Finance
Minister and Charmaine Scotty was appointed Minister of
the Interior. Observers from the Commonwealth described
the election as free and fair.
In September 2016, some 20 citizens had their
passports canceled. Several of them were politicians who
took part in the government-critical protests in
mid-2015. It was oppositional to accuse the Waqa
government of authoritarian rule.
In November 2016, Australia and the United States
signed an agreement which meant that up to 1,500 asylum
seekers in the Australian camps in Nauru and Papua New
Guinea would be granted a residence permit in the United
States. By February 2019, 342 refugees in Nauru,
including 37 children, had moved to the United States.
Around 400 refugees remained on the island. None of them
Waqa loses power
In the August 2019 parliamentary elections, Baron
Waqa lost his seat in the Legislative Assembly and must
therefore resign as president. Lionel Aingimea was
elected new president. He appointed a new government
with himself as Foreign Minister.
In March 2020, Nauru severely cut air traffic to and
from the island in an attempt to prevent the new
coronavirus sars-cov-2 from spreading to the island. The
virus had caused a pandemic and Nauru was one of the few
countries in the world not reached by the spread of
infection. People who arrived from the island from
outside were quarantined for 14 days.
FACTS - POLITICS
Republic of Naoero / Republic of Nauru
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Lionel Aingimea (2019–)
Head of government
President Lionel Aingimea (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
only person selection takes place (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
only person selection takes place (2016)
96% in the 2019 parliamentary elections, 82.5% in the
2016 parliamentary elections
2022 parliamentary elections