Autocrat, tyrant, racist, misogynist, homophobe, and likely mass murderer Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has edged out stiff competition to be named the winner of this year’s Confucius Peace Prize.
At an award ceremony held at a hotel in Beijing last month, which Mugabe did not attend, members of the Confucius Peace Prize committee lauded the Zimbabwean dictator for “working tirelessly to build the political and economic stability of his country, bringing peace to the people of Zimbabwe, strongly supporting pan-Africanism and African independence, and making unparalleled contributions for the renaissance of African civilisation.”
“Since he became chairman of the African Union in February 2015, 91-year-old Mugabe has been travelling the world over, actively promoting peace on the African continent, breathing new life for the ideals of peace and mankind in the 21st century,” added the committee members in an official statement.
Other nominees for this year’s award include the Chinese Taoist Association, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, Kazakhstan strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, prominent Asian-American politician of the Republican Party Anna Chen Chennault, former Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Venerable Master Hsing Yun of the Foguangshan Buddhist movement in Taiwan.
It remains unclear if organisers of the award invited Mugabe to the ceremony, but what we do know is that the sprightly nonagenerian had something much more profoundly important to do.
On the very same day that the Confucius Peace Prize was being awarded, Mugabe was at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to remind other world leaders that “we are not gays”. Mugabe has previously described homosexuals as worse than “pigs, goats and birds”.
Recently released documents have pointed to Robert Mugabe as the orchestrator of the so-called Gukurahundi massacres in which more than 20,000 Ndebele civilians in Matabeleland were killed, ushering in the darkest era in Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.
Formerly a rebel leader against white minority rule, Mugabe was elected as prime minister in 1980 before taking over as president in 1987, and ruling with an iron fist since then. The self-styled promoter of pan-African ideals once famously said, “The only man you can trust is a dead white man.”
Word on the street in Zimbabwe today is that his wife, Grace Mugabe, popularly known at home as “Dis Grace” or “Gucci Grace” for her extravagant lifestyle, is being groomed to take over the reins of power when he finally passes on.
Mugabe is the latest addition in a long line of Confucius Peace Prize winners who have chosen to distance themselves from the award. Previous laureates Lien Chan (2010), Vladimir Putin (2011), Kofi Annan (2012) and Fidel Castro (2014) all opted not to be present at the ceremony.
In 2011, two female Russian students completely unrelated to Vladimir Putin were chosen to accept the award on his behalf.
Mired in controversy since its inception, the Confucius Peace Prize came about as a result of the sharp negative reaction to the announcement that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Tan Changliu, the founding chairman of the awards committee explained then that the goal of the Confucius Peace Prize was “to promote world peace from an Eastern perspective.”
Confusion set in the following year when the Ministry of Culture announced it was disbanding the awards, and a separate “Confucius Prize for World Peace” was announced by a rival group. The dust eventually (sort of) settled with the announcement of Vladimir Putin as the winner.