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Zimbabwe elections and mock voting booth on Exeter High Street

When the previous elections were held in Zimbabwe in 2008 a wave of politically motivated violence spread across the country after the first round of polling. More than 200 people were killed, 10,000 injured and 28,000 forced to flee their homes. Rural communities in the main had had radios taken away from them in the months leading up to the election, evidently in a bid to keep them starved of information and therefore malleable to local political activists.

To try and stop this happening again in 2013, Amnesty International organized a campaign to get Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to apply pressure for fair and non-violent elections.

 As part of this campaign, on Saturday July 27th the Exeter Local Group had a stall on the High Street, where passers by were asked to sign a card in a mock voting booth. The cards contained a message supporting the campaign's goals, and were subsequently sent to the SADC. The campaign also focussed on protecting human rights defenders in Zimbabwe as they are under increased threat of harassment, imprisonment and violence during times like these.

Although the wet weather discouraged some people from stopping, about 60 cards were completed. Lots of people came up because they have always supported or agreed with Amnesty's mission, and more came with personal experiences of this part of Africa. Some even commented how pleased they were to see us there, which was encouraging when others clearly wanted to keep their head down and 'stay out of it'. This number was later added to by members collecting more signatures from supporters, family and friends.

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