Zimbabwe’s controversial president, Robert Mugabe, was awarded China’s Confucius Peace Prize, a counterpart of the Nobel Peace Prize award.
The leader, accused of human rights violations that include tortures, beat candidate in the likes of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japan’s former prime ministers, Tomiichi Murayama and Yasuo Fukuda.
China’s Confucius Peace Prize’s mission is to promote world peace from an eastern perspective particularly that of Confucius’s teaching on peace. As people know, Confucius golden rule is “do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.” Hence, many political analysts expressed criticism about China’s decision to give the award to Mr. Mugabe.
Dr. Gorden Mayo, of Zimbabwe’s People’s Democratic Party called the decision insane. Dr. Mayo said that the 1980’s which the Chinese panelists said are Mr. Mugabe’s most successful years were actually the peak of doom in the history of Zimbabwe. The period was marked with ethnic cleansing he said, with Mr. Mugabe ordering the killing of 20,000 people, including children, from the Ndebele ethnicity.
“It is an insult to the people of Zimbabwe for anyone to suggest that the 1980s were prosperous. In fact the rule of Mugabe is paved with blood, violence, arson and cruelty. Evidence of all this is aplenty to ignore,” Mayo wrote in a piece published by Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo.
According to Zimbabwe Daily News, Mr. Mugabe was awarded the Confucius peace prize for “serving as the Zimbabwe president from the 1980’s. Overcoming a number of difficulties. Contributing to building the government, economy, and order in the country while continuing to work at the age of 91 actively for African peace,” citing Mr. Mugabe’s citation for the award. Daily News however noted that Mr. Mugabe staged violent election campaign after it became clear that he is losing the election. Daily News reported that hundreds of people were killed by the ruling regime.
According to a TIME profile of Mr. Mugabe, the president rose to power first as the leader of a guerilla movement which campaigned against the white-minority in Zimbabwe. He served in prison for ten years but continue the anti-white minority campaign from 1975 until 1980 when he became Zimbabwe’s prime minister.
He was knighted in 1994 by Queen Elizabeth II as the knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He was re-elected in 1990, 1996 and 2002. But his reign eventually changed when he rewrote Zimbabwe’s constitution to allow confiscation of white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers – without compensation.
Zimbabwe then fell from being Africa’s “bread basket” to a country depending on international food programs. His people accused him of grave corruption and manipulation to stay in power.
In a statement to The Guardian, Qiao Damo, China’s Confucius Prize award chairman, defended the committee’s decision. “If Zimbabwe did not have Mugabe as its president, the country would be facing great difficulty – even public security might be in danger. Every country’s economy has its highs and lows. Though its economy is lagging behind, [Zimbabwe is] a very stable country [and] stability is precious in the African continent,” Damo explained, further arguing that Zimbabwe had a much better standard of living than Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Liu Zhiqin, member of the committee who voted for Mr. Mugabe as recipient of the award, admitted that there had been internal conflicts in making the decision. “I myself have reservations. Mugabe has been in power for such a long time that he could be easily be labeled a dictator, tyrant or despot,” Zhiquin said.