He has ruled his nation for 35 years, albeit increasingly through the use of systematic violence and torture, run one of Africa’s most prosperous nations to a state of economic collapse and hyperinflation of 250 million percent, and lowered the life expectancy of his people by about one-third. Nevertheless, the China International Peace Research Center has decided that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe deserved to be named this year’s Confucius (孔子) Peace Prize recipient.
However, even for the committee that selected Russian President Vladimir Putin as a previous winner (2011) and former Cuban president Fidel Castro last year, Mugabe appeared to be a difficult choice to swallow. According to Liu Zhiqin (劉志勤) — the banker who in 2010 proposed the establishment of the prize as a riposte to the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) — only 36 of the award committee’s 76 members voted for Mugabe.
Liu said that Mugabe has been in power for such a long time that he “could easily be labeled a dictator, tyrant or despot.”
However, the committee’s press release was revoltingly effusive, saying that since becoming president Mugabe had “worked hard to bring political and economic order to the nation and to improve the welfare of the ... people by overcoming hardship.”
Qiao Damo (譙達摩), who heads the center and is the award committee’s chairman, said Mugabe had injected “fresh energy” into the global quest for harmony, adding that without Mugabe, Zimbabwe “would be facing great difficulty — even public security might be in danger,” but instead it is “a very stable nation.”
Qiao needs to get out of the center’s Hong Kong office more often. Perhaps only in China — or maybe the Central Asian republics — would the kind of economic and social dissolution seen in Zimbabwe over the past two decades count as stability.
Mugabe is the longest-serving leader of an African nation, but he did not get there by being nice or caring for more than those outside his close cadre of supporters. The only stability he has been able to maintain is his hold on power, and it has taken force, murder and blatant political machinations to do so.
According to the Guardian newspaper, documents released earlier this year appear to substantiate the long-held belief that Mugabe was the prime architect of the Gukurahundi massacres of the Ndebele people in the early 1980s that left more than 20,000 dead.
The UN’s World Food Programme said that Zimbabwe ranks 156 out of 187 developing nations on the Global Hunger Index, which measures progress and failure in the fight against hunger. That is not a recipe for stability — or the sign of good governance.
Mugabe, who spent 11 years as a political prisoner, deserves praise for his role in the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement that led to Zimbabwe’s independence, but he has long since squandered the goodwill and respect that achievement earned him.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and South Korean President Park Geun-hye were mentioned as shortlisted contenders for the prize. They should thank their lucky stars that their names are not being added to the list of dubious achievers that include former vice president Lien Chan (2010), former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Chinese rice researcher Yuan Longping (袁龍萍) (2012) and Yi Cheng (一誠), head of the Chinese Buddhist Association (2013).
Previous winners appear embarrassed to have their names linked to the prize; few have shown up to collect their 500,000 yuan (US$78,700) and gold trophy.
However, perhaps the one who would be most ashamed is Confucius, who laid out the three keys to good leadership: “be virtuous above all else,” “rule wisely and fairly,” and “think, then act decisively.” Mugable, like the other politicians who won the prize before him, fails abysmally on all three.
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