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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Mugabe unconcerned by degree loss
Robert Mugabe
The president has been accused of human rights abuses
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will not lose sleep over being stripped of an honorary degree, a leading government official has said.

Edinburgh University announced on Wednesday it would withdraw the degree it awarded to Mr Mugabe in 1984.

The university cited human rights violations by the Zimbabwe government for its decision.

But Zimbabwe's deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, said the move was meant to embarrass Mr Mugabe.

The president was awarded the degree for his services to education in Africa, but has since been criticised by Western countries for a crackdown on political opponents and creating economic problems in the African country.

If they are basing this decision on humanitarian grounds, they should look at their history during slavery
Bright Matonga
Deputy Information Minister

The decision to strip him of his honorary degree was welcomed by university staff, students, politicians and human rights campaigners.

Mr Matonga said the move was "politically motivated" and accused the Scottish university of hypocrisy.

He added: "The president will not lose any sleep over this. He has acquired no less than seven degrees on his own. He's a well-read president, better than their (Tony) Blair and (George W.) Bush.

"They can keep their degrees and we'll keep our Zimbabwe. Even the so-called knighthood he does not need."

Mr Mugabe led the former British colony to independence in 1980 and has remained in office ever since.

He was made an honorary Knight Commander of Britain's Order of the Bath in 1994.

Contacted in writing

Mr Matonga added: "If they are basing this decision on humanitarian grounds, they should look at their history during slavery.

"They should also look at their prime minister - 600,000 people have died in Iraq as a consequence of his actions in aiding and abetting Bush's war."

Mr Mugabe will be contacted in writing by the university and will be given the opportunity to respond to the decision.

The controversy surrounding the degree reached Westminster, with Edinburgh South Labour MP Nigel Griffiths tabling a motion in the Commons to have it withdrawn.

It is believed Michigan State University and The University of Massachusetts in the US are also considering stripping degrees from Mr Mugabe.




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