Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe: Won't Take Aid if We Have to Accept Marriage Equality

Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose country has been devastated by drought, said Saturday that he won’t accept foreign aid if it comes with a provision that Zimbabwe accept marriage equality.

Mugabe, who has a long history of antigay statements, used the celebration of his 92nd birthday as an opportunity to take what Reuters calls “a characteristic gibe at Western countries.”

“If aid, as I understand, is to be given on the basis that we accept the principle of gay marriages, then let that aid stay were it is,” Mugabe said at the event, according to the news service. Zimbabwe has applied for $1.6 billion in food aid.

“We don’t want it” under those circumstances, he continued. “It is rotten aid, filthy aid, and we won’t have anything to do with it.”

Most rural parts of Zimbabwe have been declared disaster areas because of the drought, which has destroyed up to three-quarters of the staple corn crop in some regions, including the Masvingo province, where Mugabe’s party was held. It threatens the food supply of 3 million people.

It’s unclear if any nation or private organization would withhold aid because a country doesn’t have marriage equality, although some have tied assistance to more general questions of LGBT rights. Uganda saw cuts in foreign aid after it enacted its “jail the gays” law, which was eventually struck down in court. President Obama has said the U.S. should use foreign aid as a tool to promote LGBT rights, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has threatened to cut aid over LGBT rights violations.

Mugabe made several other antigay comments at his birthday celebration, which was organized by the youth wing of his political party, ZANU-PF. “Never accept that a society can condone marriages of man to man, of woman to woman,” he said, according to news site New Zimbabwe. “The so-called gays — no, they have no place in our society.”

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since it became independent from the U.K. in 1980, has previously said LGBT people are “worse than dogs and pigs” and that gay men should be decapitated, among many more homophobic statements.

He received criticism for holding the lavish birthday celebration (his actual birthday was February 21) at a time when his country is suffering. The party cost the equivalent of $800,000, Reuters reports.

“The money that is being budgeted for this ill-conceived birthday bash should actually be used to import maize to avert the impending starvation in Masvingo province and other parts of the country,” said a statement from Obert Gutu, a spokesman for the main opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change, the news service reports.