Today is Sunday, March 22, 2020, and I am not in service, as usual. As a Clerk (general secretary) in my Church, the New Georgia Baptist, I play a major and influential role in managing correspondences and other documentation of the Church. As a result (except when ill), I can’t tell when last I missed church service, once in Monrovia or in country.
I couldn’t wait to be there. In fact, I wasn’t alone with this euphoria. With an undisputed eye of imagination, almost all of us, from many nations who were gathered in Kampala, had visited the place even before we started the journey there.
Nearly everybody had some kind of imagination about the place or a thought of doing something memorable when they get there. If my photographer mate, Tshepiso Gabotlhomolwe of Botswana was not foreseeing how she would pose to take the best photo shots and dance with the cultural troupe, my award-winning Zimbabwean colleague Prosper Ndolve would be imagining how it feels riding a boat on the river and taking photographs of reptiles. On the other hand, fellow journalist Rochete Libombo of Mozambique (a singer and dancer as well) would be locked into the local cultural performances. Several other people just wanted to have a sight of the place while others wanted to buy things to take home to their kids or love ones as a souvenir. The reasons abounded.
On Saturday, Feb 29, 2020, I joined thousands of journalists, friends, families and kinsmen to send you to an eternal home, where we all will join you later, someday. Zenu, the Church was damn packed. The pew could not hold the crowd. What??! And people just kept coming.
After he was punctured several times with scissors and knife to death last Friday night (Jan 24), Vincent Blamah is being buried today, Feb 1, 2020.
He was killed before hundreds of marketers and bike riders, some of whom chanted “we want see blood,” I have learnt. They didn’t help him. (Read my previous post, Sad Saturday In Bardnersville).
Last night, Jan 31, some of his friends and relatives paraded parts of Bardnersville Estate with burning candles in their hands, chanting to his memory. Some of those who watched him killed are believed to have been in the crowd.
They said the lighted candles signified that Blama was a “Light in darkness”, man of peace, and died as a “hero” after he saved someone’s phone from being stolen by alleged criminals who got angry and later stabbed him brutally.
At the close of the parade, they all moved onto the scene where he was stabbed to death and set down the remaining candles, at least 30, like performing a ritual, where they burnt to finish.
They blocked vehicular and other movements at the scene for at least 30 minutes, I was told, before I arrived there.
I saw tears in at least four persons’ eyes as they passed the memorial scene.
Several bike riders, passersby and late evening sellers and buyers sat or stood to watch the candles burn away. It was a somber scene. The smoke spiralled into the late evening calm air into the heavens.
“They killed this boy for nothing; he was a hero; see what’s happening here,” an aged woman remarked, as she tried to dry the oozing tears on her cheeks.
“God, may the smokes from these burning candles reach you to let you know that Blamah was kill for doing good, and not wrong. Receive him,” added and walked away.
The funeral will be emotional. Tributes will pour in, and many will know what they never knew about Blamah, my father’s name sake.
Yes, Blamah, the quiet ice seller, father of four, a Christian, and a man of humility was brutally killed by those who are yet to face justice. That Justice may never come. Go rest, my friend.
Much of Bardnersville Estate isn’t ok this Saturday, Jan 25, 2020, after a quiet and respectful Vincent Blama was reportedly maliciously murdered last evening. A revengeful tension is boiling, creating instability.
The women and marketers are running away from the scene. The entire market of at least 500 sellers is empty and quiet like one ghost town.
Nearby shops and other smaller businesses are closed. People are carrying their wares and other stuffs in bundles on their heads and in their hands, with some tied to their backs just like their babies – running home for safety.
The scene is just like what we saw here during the brutal Lib
erian civil war – when armed personnel, mostly thoughtless youth and children, roamed the streets and did anything that jumped in their drugged head.
Blama was an Ice cube seller. I bought Ice from him several times in the past. He’s been committed to his business for years. Blama reportedly graduated from the University of Liberia just last year, after years of struggle. Before his death, he had been on a 21-day fast and prayer as a member of the Abundant Life Ministry in Bardnersville. I am told that he was planning to break his fast for the day, but death would “break” his life between 6 and 7PM Friday.
His friends and acquaintances are very angry. This morning, they moved in troops on the scene he was punctured several times, right in front of the Bardnersville Estate Market Building (the bike parking). He was stabbed right there several times reportedly in the glare of hundreds of sellers and buyers who took no action to rescue him from his killers.
They temporarily blocked the street to traffic and threatened to burn down the market and damage everything, since the marketers failed to rescue a helpless dying soul right before them last evening.
The threat from the angry youth set everyone on their feet, creating serious tension on Bardnersville Estate. At least seven persons warned me not to venture around the area of the main tension, while on my way to work this afternoon. Being a journalist by profession, I couldn’t let the news pass me by. I went there.
I didn’t really want to go. Just flying from Liberia way to South Africa for a three-day workshop, to me, wasn’t impactful. I was reminded of the hurdles associated with such long travels. I’ve been on the road many times. I know it all: the long waits, flight delays, abrupt changes in schedules, poor weather conditions, and those heavy flight engine sounds. Frightening. It’s tiring!
“You are the Communication Manager. You suppose to go and come back and share the knowledge with your staff,” my boss stated. “The LRA, too, must benefit,” maintained the former Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority Elfrieda Stewart Tamba. I had no choice.
The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) has alarmed over the very limited progress of Africa in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, but believes that building the necessary skills and capacity within tax administrations will have a more sustainable impact in sourcing funding to achieve the 17 Goals. Liberia is among the 38 countries making up ATAF, and has served on its leadership over the years.
ATAF is the continent’s main tax body, driven by the belief that strengthening tax systems in Africa could help generate the much needed revenues and put the continent back on track to achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Since the historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in 2015 and in spite of the wide buy-in by governments worldwide, achieving the SDGs by 2030 continue to present serious challenges for Africa.
According to a report by the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa (SDG/A), after nearly a decade of implementation, the continent has made minimal progress in most of the 17 goals, if any at all.
ATAF quotes the report as noting that the only notable signs of progress were on SGD 5, 13 and 15 which deal with gender issues and climate change and whose assessment focuses more on the adoption of key policies and not so much on empirical results. The main culprit for this state of affairs is the insufficiency of funds to finance the implementation of the goals.
Indeed, the 2019 Financing for sustainable development report warns that “mobilizing sufficient financing remains a major challenge in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. According to the report, existing multilateral funding mechanisms are under huge strain, which leaves much of the goals underfunded with a growing risk of not being achieved by 2030.
The developing world, and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, where most countries’ tax to GDP ratios falls below the 15% minimum required to be able to fund basic public services, are amongst the most exposed economies.
In clearer terms, it is estimated that Africa needs an additional $500 billion to $1.2 trillion annual financing to meet its SDG targets. With the declining official development assistance (ODA) and other decreasing external sources of funding, experts agree that these amounts must be generated internally.
Towards achieving this, ATAF has developed a multi-dimensional approach to boosting tax revenues in Africa including tailored technical assistance programs, training and capacity building workshops, knowledge generation and dissemination and multilateral diplomacy.
“We are 11 and a half years away from the SDGs deadline. Sadly, a good number of African countries still do not raise sufficient revenues to meet basic state functions. But this is not a death sentence. Large amounts of revenues can be unlocked by capacitating our tax administrations with the right skills, knowledge and expertise, and our Ministries of finance with the necessary data, sound policies and adequate regulatory and legislative frameworks”, says Logan Wort, the Executive Secretary of ATAF, speaking at the World Bank Group’s General Meetings last week.
ATAF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank on the side line of the Meetings precisely in order to strengthen the two organizations cooperation in building strong revenue administrations in Africa.
In its 10 years of existence, the organization has been the continent’s champion on tax matters. To date, it has 20 on-going country programs focusing on cross-border taxation, exchange of information, transfer pricing and VAT, amongst others. Such programs have proven instrumental in generating over $300 million in additional tax revenues for ATAF members. New transfer pricing rules have been introduced in 12 countries, allowing them to increase their revenues from large taxpayers.
The organization has therefore trained more over 15,422 tax officials and policymakers on tax audit, tax treaties analysis, compliance risk management and fraud detection, transfer pricing, revenue forecasting and analysis and many others.
As a home-grown initiative, ATAF presents the characteristics of a winning formula for overcoming the development financing challenges currently faced by the continent. If Africa is indeed to mobilize sufficient revenues to meet the SDGs by 2030, improving its tax systems represents one of the key areas to focus on. Having an already established body such as ATAF to provide the expertise required for this, is a definite plus.