Burundi’s lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly last week in favour of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court. No country has done this before – though some, including neighbouring Rwanda, whose president called the Court a “fraudulent institution made for Africans and poor countries” – never signed up in the first place. The move follows a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi launched by the Court’s chief prosecutor in April 2016 on the first anniversary of the President’s controversial decision to stand for a third term in office. In the violence sparked by that decision, a quarter of a million have been displaced, hundreds killed and hundreds more arbitrarily arrested.


At the same time, another debate has been raging in the UK’s lower house of parliament, with Foreign Minister Boris Johnson leading the charge to do something about Syria. Too often, the urge to do “something” can become the urge to do “anything”. When something is broken, doing anything feels better than doing nothing, even if doing nothing is actually the right choice. So we try criminal proceedings or aerial bombardment or arming “rebels”, even though these options have never worked before. Either there is insufficient political will, or that will is undermined by lust for power, economic interest, fear, or even the news cycle.


So what can we do? In another corridor of power, the Burundi government granted land to 56 landless households this week. Access to land is one of the biggest barriers to peace and development in Burundi, the world’s poorest country. These are families from the minority Batwa community on whose behalf Cord and our partners have been advocating. This is something, and something extraordinary.