Zimbabwe’s (sort of) democratically elected strongman Robert Mugabe addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. Mugabe, who at 91 years old could very well qualify as the loose cannon grandfather to be ignored at family functions if he weren’t the leader of a sovereign nation, took time out of his speech to address what he called the “new” human rights agenda being pushed by the West—more specifically, the attempt to stop the criminalization and persecution of homosexuals globally.
Mugabe, who wasn’t exactly a standard bearer for the old human rights agenda, managed to construe human rights to make it look like his were being trampled. “[W]e reject the politicization of this important issue and the application of double standards to victimize those who dare think and act independently of the self-anointed prefects of our time,” Mugabe said. “We equally reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs.”
Mugabe then, apparently extemporaneously, veered off script and added for emphasis: “We are not gays!” What exactly Mugabe meant by that is open to debate. BuzzFeed’s Hayes Brown notes that the line got a smattering of laughs along with some polite applause. Mugabe then continued, without a whiff of irony, saying: “Cooperation and respect for each other will advance the cause of human rights worldwide. Confrontation, vilification, and double-standards will not.”