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Movement of Solidarity and Democracy (Mouvement pour la solidarité et la démocratie, MSD)

The Movement of Solidarity and Democracy (Mouvement pour la solidarité et la démocratie, MSD) is a political party founded in December 2007, aimed at fighting for the rights of ordinary people, both Hutu and Tutsi. However, the government refused to allow the MSD to register as an official political party until June 2009. According to a report on Burundi prepared by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the reasons for the refusal was that the party's first name, the Movement for Security and Democracy (Mouvement pour la sécurité et la démocratie), [UN English version] "usurped the function of ensuring security, which was the sole prerogative of the State".

Some Burundian observers of the political situation in Burundi stated that the MSD was a "splinter group" whose members are "few" and "not very visible" One independent consultant in Burundi, who has been working with NGOs and international organizations for more than 25 years and who writes about the political situation in the country, stated that the party in power considered the MSD "a threat," and that the party is "is the government's second target, after the FNL [National Liberation Forces]". The FNL participated in armed rebellions against various governments in Burundi and was registered as a political part in 2009.

Although members of the MSD were not "afraid" of the regime in place, the contrary was true for the leader of the MSD, Alexis Sinduhije, also the founder of the MSD. Alexis Sinduhije lived in exile.

The MSD was seen as a possible source for revolt against the government in place in Burundi. A report from a group of UN experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) published in December 2011 about the role of foreign groups in the DRC indicates that Alexis Sinduhije [UN English version] "is a particularly active supporter of FNL combatants and armed rebellion in Burundi," and that FNL combatants told the Group that Sinduhije had been tasked with convincing regional and international Governments that the Burundian Government's abuses and corruption justified an armed rebellion.

The MSD won 3.84 percent of the votes in the 2010 municipal elections, taking fifth place. However, the MSD and several other opposition parties withdrew from the electoral process following the elections. Those parties claimed the municipal elections were fraudulent. However, sources indicated that international observers noted no evidence of fraud. Those parties refused to participate in the legislative and presidential elections that took place later in 2010.

The MSD is a member of the Democratic Alliance for Change (Alliance démocratique pour le changement, ADC). The ADC is a coalition formed by the political opposition parties that withdrew from the electoral process in 2010. The ADC is also known as the Democratic Alliance for Change (Alliance des démocrates pour le changement) or the ADC-Ikibiri). The ADC is headed by the president of the Front for Democracy in Burundi (Front pour la démocratie au Burundi, Frodebu), the party that gave rise to the creation of the Alliance.

Information on the MSD's structure is scarce. The party held preliminary internal elections in March 2010 to determine its presidential candidate . Those elections were held at the national level. According to the president of the commission charged with organizing the elections for the MSD, 912,415 people participated in the national consultations, but that number corresponds to approximately one third of all eligible voters in Burundi.

It is difficult to identify the number of MSD members because there are sympathizers who support the party in secret out of fear of being mistreated by the government. The MSD office was located in the Kinanira district, near the Bujumbura international school in the southern part of the capital. There is a youth chapter of the MSD, which criticized the actions of police against members of the ADC. I in the internal primary elections held by the party, some party militants were in possession of membership cards, but those who were not had also been able to vote.

The spokesperson for the MSD, François Nyamoya, was arrested in September 2010 for having criticized the army, and he was imprisoned until October 2010. The arrest may have prompted Alexis Sinduhije to leave Burundi.

Alexis Sinduhije is the founder and director of Burundi's Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Samantha Power, who ran the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, helped him get funding from the Soros Foundation to start his own radio station in Burundi, Radio Publique Africaine (later, Power became the US ambassador to the United Nations).

Previously he worked at a radio station started by Search for Common Ground, a nonprofit organization that promotes peaceful coexistence. He which defied government bans and intimidation to become one of war-torn Burundi's most popular radio stations. In February 2003, armed men broke into Sinduhije's house and murdered his security guard, but the journalist believes that the attackers meant to kill him.

Despite the difficulties, RPA continued to delve into sensitive issues as it attempts to foster peace and reconciliation in a country racked by ethnic violence. Sinduhije, founder of VOA affiliate station African Public Radio in Bujumbura, had to leave Burundi in 2006 after his life was threatened by government forces. The United States welcomed the release from prison on 12 March 2009 of Burundian journalist Alexis Sinduhije, after he was found not guilty of the charge of insulting the President.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that he fled the country because of the violence that ensued after the 2010 elections were contested. After Alexis Sinduhije went into exile, the police searched his home and found military uniforms. Thee MSD offices were searched and the police had also found weapons. Those items may have been planted in order to suggest that a revolt was being planned.

In January 2012, Alexis Sinduhije was arrested by police while he was in Tanzania. Some sources reported he was arrested on the request of the government of Burundi. However, he was released and returned to Europe.

In March 2014 a court in Burundi sentenced 21 opposition supporters to life in prison for participating in an illegal demonstration that turned violent. Another 26 Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) supporters were given shorter jail terms. They denied participating in a march and say they were out jogging when a police crackdown began.

Peaceful pro-democracy protests have morphed into armed rebellion. The international system, which once feted him, turned its back.

On 18 December 2015 the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four individuals, Gervais Ndirakobuca, Leonard Ngendakumana, Joseph Mathias Niyonzima, and Alexis Sinduhije, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13712 for being responsible for or complicit in or for engaging in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi.

"Alexis Sinduhije is a particularly active supporter of armed rebellion in Burundi and has recruited and trained opposition forces. Sinduhije is considered a major military leader within the Burundian opposition as a result of his logistical network and the competent fighters under his command. Sinduhije has been linked to plans to assassinate senior Burundian officials and has continued to actively plan attacks on government targets."

Red Tabara is the MSD’s military wing.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2016 17:16:56 ZULU