Televised reports said before he handed over power to his vice-president Moses Blah in a ceremony in the capital Monrovia Monday, Taylor urged the world not to neglect his people.
Taylor, 55, said: "I must stop fighting now. I do not stop out of fear, I do not stop out of fright. I stop out of love for you, my people. What is most important is that you live, and that ... there is peace."
A U.N.-backed court in Sierra Leone has charged Taylor with war crimes for allegedly aiding and training rebels in that neighboring country in exchange for diamonds.
Nigeria has agreed to grant him exile, but Taylor's plans are unknown.
"I leave you with these parting words," he said. "God willing, I will be back."