By Najibu Mulema

Burundi’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, a move no other country has taken despite complaints from Africa that the court disproportionately targets the continent.

Only two lawmakers voted in favour of staying under the jurisdiction of the Dutch-based ICC, while 94 voted against and 14 abstained. Pro-government lawmaker Gabriel Ntisezerana said the court was “a political tool used by powers to remove whoever they want from power on the African continent”.

The Bill to remove Burundi from the court’s jurisdiction still must be approved by the Upper House of the legislature and then be signed by the President. That would trigger a withdrawal process lasting a year. The ICC declined to comment on the vote, saying it had not yet been formally notified of the action.

The US State Department, however, said it was “concerned” by the country’s human rights situation, including the government effort to withdraw from the court. “Such a move… would isolate Burundi from its neighbours and the international community at a time when accountability, transparency and engaged dialogue are most needed,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.