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Zimbabwe Rights Activist Receives Courage Award From U.S. Sec'y of State Clinton

Clinton recognized Mukoko, who was abducted from her home outside Harare by state security agents in December 2008 and later accused of plotting to overthrow the government, for her courage and inspiration to other women

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko on Wednesday with one of 10 International Women of Courage awards for 2010 in recognition of her bravery and leadership in the struggle for social justice, human rights and the advancement of women.

Clinton recognized Mukoko, who was abducted from her home outside Harare by state security agents in December 2008, for her courage and the inspiration she provides other women, especially young girls.

Clinton noted Mukoko’s determined activism in defense of human rights, particularly in calling attention to violence against women in Zimbabwe and in securing a Supreme Court victory against the state based on her illegal seizure and detention by state agents. After she was handed over to police in early 2009 Mukoko was charged with plotting a coup against the former government of President Robert Mugabe.

First Lady Michelle Obama commended Mukoko for her tireless human rights work and urged girls to learn from the experiences of the honorees, borrowing from an earlier statement by Clinton when she was first lady to say that “women’s rights are human rights.”

Speaking on behalf of all the award recipients, Mukoko said the work of women rights activists is filled with trials and tribulations, referring to her harrowing experience during the month she was held incommunicado by state agents.

She said her darkest thought in that period was that she might never see her young son again.

Mukoko said the award gave the honorees a chance to share experiences and make their struggle universal.

Elsewhere, the U.S. government said human rights abuses remain widespread across Africa – though with improvements in a few areas. The State Department's annual report on human rights said government security forces commit arbitrary and unlawful killings in some of the continent's most populous countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

The report said President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF employs arbitrary arrest, torture, killings, and repressive laws to block the right of citizens to change the government.