Former Liberian President Charles Taylor attends his trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone based in Leidschendam, outside The Hague, May 16, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/EVERT-JAN DANIELS
The sometime tyrant, thief, warmonger and dictator was tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague and jailed for what will be the term of his natural life.
In the first judgment against a former head of state by a world court since the World War II Nuremberg trials, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found Taylor guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Sadly, Taylor is small fry as far as international tyrants go.
Especially when compared to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe or even Syria's Bashar al-Assad, the latter still systemically murdering his own people as the hopelessly impotent UN looks on.
Taylor also has plenty of competitors when it comes to claiming the shabby mantle of most corrupt African leader of all time. I can say I personally met one man who would walk away with the crown - and no, it's not the late, unlamented Idi Amin of Uganda.
In the mid-1990s, I was based in London as a newspaper bureau chief and part of the job involved a bi-monthly trip to Lausanne, Switzerland.
I was covering International Olympic Committee (IOC) meetings in that rather posh lakeside resort ahead of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Each evening, the international press would meet at the stunning Hotel Beau Rivage Palace overlooking Lake Geneva.
It was a rare chance for an informal briefing with IOC delegates including the current chief Jacques Rogge.
One night, I entered the lobby running late and made for the elevator and the short trip to the main hotel bar. Its doors were shutting as I sprinted forward but just as they closed a carved, ebony walking stick was thrust forward.
The doors sprang back and I entered. I saw a slight, shriveled man with a leopard skin toque flanked by a pair of immense bodyguards.
"There, you just made it," the man in the hat said. "You are in a very big hurry for such a young man."
I stammered something about being late and then thanked him for holding the elevator. I pressed the button for the mezzanine floor and explained I was headed for a nightcap.
"Why don't you join me for a brandy," the man continued. "I have a fine personal stock in my apartment."
I looked at him. Then at the stern-faced minders and declined. The latter both looked like they'd gladly remove my spleen through my left nostril if I accepted.
"Don't be shy," he continued with a smile. "Don't you know who I am?"
I was about to reveal my spectacular ignorance of international affairs when I was saved by the bell.
Ding. That was my floor coming up. With a polite "good evening" I exited and headed for the bar.
Only later did one of the IOC delegates inform me that I'd just said `no' to one of the hotel's most (in)famous residents.
The man with the fetching hat was Zaire's president, General Mobutu; a mass murderer and probably one of the richest men on the planet.
In 1985, Fortune magazine estimated Mobutu's personal wealth at around $5 billion. All of it pilfered from his own people in what was once known as the Belgian Congo.
Such was the rate that Mobutu siphoned money from Zaire into his personal bank accounts that Fortune magazine invented a word to describe his reign: kleptocracy.
Perhaps only Indonesia's President Suharto (1967- 1998) and the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986) got away with more.
Mobutu Sese Seko, to give him his full name, ruled from 1965 to 1997 after gaining the presidency through a military coup. He never faced an election and developed a prodigious cult of personality while at the same time liquidating rivals.
He showed zero respect for human rights and instituted something called Mobutuism - a political and religious code that was designed around the dictator.
On later trips to Lausanne, I learned Mobutu was suffering from prostate cancer and was a regular in Lausanne for treatment and recovery. To that end, he took an entire floor of the Beau Rivage Palace for his entourage while the female members of his family flew on to Monte Carlo or Paris for shopping.
This was despite the fact that he had a magnificent 60,000 square-metre estate at nearby Savigny where he could have stayed.
Instead he just used it as a limo car park.
While Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi are just two recent tyrants to be dispatched to meet their maker, and Charles Taylor lived long enough to be locked away forever, the ultimate kleptocrat Mobutu died in a military hospital in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.
I wonder which of the above three possible endings will be met by Bashar al-Assad and his family.