International justice supersedes status, suggests this opinion piece originally published on Thursday by The Hague Trials Kenya, a sister site to that of RNW's Africa Desk. It is a reaction by a Kenya-based journalist to the Special Court of Sierra Leone's decision to uphold its conviction of Charles Taylor. The Liberian ex-president now faces 50-year jail sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes.
26 September 2013 deserves an entry in a book of world records. Today marks one of the most significant events in the world of criminal justice and international law.
Today's verdict in the Charles Taylor case may mean the end of impunity in Africa. The Special Court of Sierra Leone decided to uphold its conviction of the former president of Liberia. He is now facing a half-century in jail for aiding and abetting war crimes.
And this will send an unequivocal message across the continent to people like Omar al-Bashir, Joseph Kony and Laurent Gbagbo: humanity must be respected, devoid of one's status. These cases' common denominator is the accusation of gross violation of human rights.
With the ICC trials of Kenya's current president due to begin in November and that of his current deputy already in progress, the Taylor case remains a relevant topic of discussion in Kenya.
Kenya has not fully recovered
Kenya has not fully recovered from the 2007-2008 post-election violence. Its shockwaves are still being felt.
Pollsters have clearly indicated a growth of faith in the International Criminal Court since it started dealing with the Kenyan situation. But a spate of developments in the trials (witnesses withdrawals and shifting timelines, for example) has caused a dip in confidence in the court.
The Kenyan media have also regularly highlighted the leaders' living conditions in the detention centres. Well-furnished cells described as practically palatial - the stress-free environments offered to Taylor and Gbabgo - have not resonated well with Kenyans.
The common man's understanding of a detention centre is a pathetic, dilapidated structure, full of metal bars. This reality makes everyday Kenyans question why there is VIP treatment in The Hague not just for the accused, but even those convicted.
Strong signals to Africans
Yet the fact that Taylor is now en route to serve his 50-year term somewhere in the UK, no matter how luxurious his prison cell may be, has sent strong signals to Africans.
It has instilled fear in our chest-thumping leaders who have continued branding international legal institutions as puppets of the Western world.
And, yes, Taylor's case is a win for some people. Seventeen years down line, the victims in Sierra Leone have seen the light of the day: those who still bear the scars, those who were recruited as child soldiers and those without limbs. They lost a lot, but they now have justice.
Will the verdict increase confidence in the ICC? African countries are preparing to hold an extraordinary African Union summit next month. One thing is clear: people store much faith in international institutes that levy legal standards, like the AU, because local systems have failed.
Today's landmark ruling will continue to elicit mixed reactions on the continent.
But we'll just have to wait and see about the Kenyan situation. Will we have our 26 September too?
Read more about the Kenyatta, Ruto and Sang cases at The Hague Trials Kenya.