UMass Strips Mugabe of Honorary Degree

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The University of Massachusetts has had a change of heart about murderous dictator Robert Mugabe: UMass trustees strip Mugabe of honorary degree after lobbying by students, Rep. Kevin Murphy.

LOWELL — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, widely condemned for abuses in a country reeling from a growing humanitarian crisis, has been stripped of the honorary degree he received from UMass Amherst in 1986.

The UMass board of trustees, acting on the recommendation of UMass President Jack Wilson and after lobbying from UMass students and Lowell state Rep. Kevin Murphy, yesterday voted unanimously to take that “extraordinary” step in light of mounting international criticism of Mugabe’s human-rights record and allegations that his regime has been responsible for massive voter intimidation, fraud and violence associated with presidential elections in his country.

“We don’t do this lightly,” Wilson said prior to the vote. “We’ve never done this before. We don’t view honorary degrees as something that can be given and then taken back. It would be only in the most egregious of cases that one would consider doing that.”

This is how you know when dictators have crossed the final line—when not even academics will support them.

But it’s instructive to look back at the role of another thug-hugger in this story, the man who was instrumental in bringing Mugabe to power: Jimmy Carter.

In April of 1979, the first fully democratic election in Zimbabwe history’s occurred. Of the eligible black voters, 64% participated, braving the threat of terrorist attacks by Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, which managed to kill 10 people. Prior to the election, Mr. Mugabe had issued a death list with 50 individuals he named as “traitors, fellow-travelers, and puppets of the Ian Smith regime, opportunistic running-dogs and other capitalist vultures.” Nevertheless, Bishop Abel Muzorewa of the United Methodist Church emerged victorious and became prime minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as the new country was called.

Yet the Carter administration, led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, would have none of it. Mr. Young referred to Mr. Muzorewa, one of the very few democratically elected leaders on the African continent, as the head of a “neo-fascist” government. Mr. Carter refused to meet Mr. Muzorewa when the newly elected leader visited Washington to seek support from our country, nor did he lift sanctions that America had placed on Rhodesia as punishment for the colony’s unilateral declaration of independence from the British Empire in 1965.

Messrs. Carter and Young would only countenance a settlement in which Mr. Mugabe, a Marxist who had repeatedly made clear his intention to turn Zimbabwe into a one-party state, played a leading role. Mr. Young, displaying the willful naivet� that came to characterize Mr. Carter’s mindset, told the London Times that Mr. Mugabe was a “very gentle man” whom he “can’t imagine … ever pulling the trigger on a gun to kill anyone.”

(Hat tip: Steve.)

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