In a slap in the face to Zimbabwe’s LGBT community, China has awarded President Robert Mugabe its equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The 91-year-old proudly homophobic leader was announced as the recipient of the 2015 Confucius Peace Prize this week.
The award was created in response to the Norwegian Nobel Committee selecting Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo as the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
On Thursday, the Confucius Prize Committee praised Mugabe for remaining “committed to constructing his nation’s political and economic order, while strongly supporting pan-Africanism and African independence.”
Under Mugabe’s astonishing 35-year-long rule, he has been accused of human rights abuses, election rigging and of destroying the country’s economy through disastrous politically motivated economic policies; leading millions of Zimbabweans to seek work in neighbouring South Africa.
Largely seen as a pariah and despot in the West, Mugabe continues to be held in high esteem by many African governments and has been welcomed as an economic partner by China.
The LGBT community is one of Mugabe’s favourite targets. Among a long list of verbal attacks over the decades, he’s stated that LGBT people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and that they “don’t have any human rights at all.”
Under his government, LGBT people have been the victims of arrest, abuse and persecution and have been painted as being unAfrican. Describing opponents as gay has now become a common strategy among politicians in Zimbabwe as they vie to succeed the ageing president.
Most recently, Mugabe lashed out LGBT people at the UN General Assembly. He stated that LGBT rights are “contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs,” defiantly telling world leaders, “We are not gays!”
Gay sex and public affection are illegal in Zimbabwe, with penalties of up to three years in jail. Same-sex marriage is also illegal, as entrenched in the country’s Constitution.