One of the biggest demonstrations ever held by Zimbabwean exiles is to take place in London outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, Strand (opposite Charing Cross) tomorrow, from 2 6 pm. Priests and religious, parish justice and peace groups and Zimbabweans will gather to mark the fifth anniversary of the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been held outside the Embassy every Saturday since October 2002 to protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and to campaign for free and fair elections. The Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has called on all its members in the UK to attend. The demonstration will be attended by Kate Hoey MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, who (at about 3 pm) will be presented with a petition to hand to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (see attached letter). The petition reads: "A Petition to European Union Governments: We record our dismay at the failure of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help the desperate people of Zimbabwe at their time of trial. We urge the UK government, and the European Union in general, to suspend government to government aid to all 14 SADC countries until they abide by their joint commitment to uphold human rights in the region. The petition has been signed by thousands of people passing by the Vigil. "To mark our Fifth Anniversary we are submitting this petition to all EU and SADC governments. The Vigil wants to make it clear that we are not asking for a halt to humanitarian aid, but we would like to see government to government assistance to the SADC countries halted until they honour their human rights obligations to Zimbabwe. We suggest that the money should go instead to the suffering people of Zimbabwe." The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 2 to 16pm to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe. For more information see: www.zimvigil.co.uk
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