Washington: US President Barack Obama honored a group of women Monday who have confronted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and said they had defied a dictator.
"They often don`t get far before being confronted by President Mugabe`s riot police," Obama said at a ceremony for Magodonga Mahlangu and the organization she helps lead -- WOZA, which stands for Women of Zimbabwe Arise.
"By her example, Magodonga has shown the women of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressors` power with their own power -- that they can sap a dictator`s strength with their own," he said, presenting the annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The United States wants Mugabe to halt political arrests and media censorship and to honor a power-sharing agreement signed in September 2008 with his political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe is a pariah in the West, blamed by critics for plunging his southern African country into poverty through his authoritarian rule and economic mismanagement. He has led Zimbabwe since the country`s independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe has often blamed Western foes for ruining his country via sanctions, which he says are in retaliation for the seizing of white-owned farms on behalf of landless blacks. Critics say the policy is used as a tool to intimidate political opponents and to give land to Mugabe`s ZANU-PF party loyalists.
After long negotiations, ZANU-PF formed a unity government in February with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Tsvangirai, who is now Zimbabwe`s prime minister.