Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has held power in the country for 35 years through an oppressive dictatorship, was just awarded a peace prize by a committee in China.
The Confucius Prize Committee Chair, Qiao Damo, told the Guardian Mugabe deserved the prize because, “If Zimbabwe did not have Mugabe as its president, the country would be facing great difficulty—even public security might be in danger."
British historian Simon Schama put it well:
Human rights groups have condemned Mugabe's government for widespread abuses. "Police violate basic rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly, using old laws that are inconsistent with the new constitution. Activists and human rights defenders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, face police harassment," Human Rights Watch writes on their website. "There has been no progress toward securing justice for human rights abuses and past political violence, including violence after the 2008 election."
Zimbabweans are opposed to Mugabe's rule were stunned at the award. "Mugabe as we know him and as the people of Zimbabwe have experienced his reign is a war—monger, a bellicosist and a sadist who delights in the misery of the people," wrote Dr. Gorden Moyo, Zimbabwean human rights activist and politician. "The 1980s that they are parading as Mugabe's most successful years were actually the worst years in the history of Zimbabwe." Moyo pointed specifically to Mugabe presiding over what he referred to as an ethnic cleansing in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe during the '80s.
The 91-year-old Zimbabwean president most recently made international news with a homophobic rant at the U.N. General Assembly last month in which he said "We are not gays."
Shanghaiist explains that the Confucius peace award was created by an institute called the China International Peace Studies Centre five years ago as China's version of the Nobel Peace Prize (Agence France Presse says the government doesn't seem to be involved):
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."
Previous winners of the Confucius Peace Prize include Vladimir Putin, Kofi Annan, and Fidel Castro, none of whom went to collect their prizes at the annual ceremony in China.