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City of Banjul
Saturday, October 16, 2021

The forbidden friendship

There was hectic movement as policemen hurried to remove Abdou’s handcuff and help him out of the witness box. His mother, unable to control her emotions burst into tears of joy. His brothers and sisters hovered around him, touching him as if to ascertain whether he was really their Abdou.   

Abdou himself seemed to be millions of miles away from the court house. He reminisced about the good old days when he and Kebba Manneh would go to the beach and swim, run around, flirt with girls and do all sorts of things together. He remembered the good times they shared and the difficulties their ‘forbidden’ friendship had to pass through before they proved that they could not be separated. They were hard to imagine as friends, not only because of their different backgrounds but their build as well. While Kebba was thin and short, Abdou was sturdy and hovered over Kebba whenever they walked.

Kebba came from a well-to-do Nyancho family while Abdou came from the Jong Kunda of a remote village in Baddibu. Kebba’s parents swore to separate the two friends who had met during high school days and became best pals. Kebba was the carefree type who partied all through the term while Abdou, cognizant of his background had time only for his books.

‘You’ll disown that vagabond you move around with,” Kebba’s father told him when he enquired and found out about Abdou’s background.

‘But father, he is my best friend,’ Kebba said trying to reason with his father.

‘You’ll obey my words or else you’ll have to leave this house,’ his father said and left the house.

Kebba chose to leave the house but not Abdou. He packed his things and went straight to the small room Abdou rented. He knew that he would not find his friend there at that time of the day for he was a labourer who worked all day long to make a living. He went into the small room which was now to be his home. It was difficult in the beginning and there were times when he had wanted to go home to the luxury of his father’s house but always rose above the feeling. They lived like that for the next two years, Abdou continuing his work as a labourer and Kebba established a small business, having been completely cut off from the family fortune as punishment for his actions. His father and mother believed that financial pressure will bring him running to their door again.

Kebba proved them wrong as his business started growing due to sheer determination and hard work. He and Abdou put hands together and started saving for bigger business ventures in the future. When things got better, the business was able to cater for Abdou also and so, he left the labourer’s job and entered into a partnership with his friend. They bought vegetables from the women gardeners and supplied the hotels in their area. This proved to be a lucrative business and they made rapid progress. Business was good and they were doing well. The only problem they had was transportation. This sometimes cost them all their vegetables as they would not have a vehicle to transport their merchandise on time. As a result, vegetables being perishable, they sometimes lost every penny they invested in particular gardens.

The solution to this problem came from a completely unexpected avenue. Al-Hasan, a school time friend of both had just returned from England and had a second-hand car he wanted to sell. The friends discussed the issue and tried to buy it.

‘Do you think it is safe to invest all we have in this car?’ Abdou asked.

‘Oh yes, it is. Al-Hasan will not sell something bad to us,’ Kebba assured him.

‘But this is all we have, if anything goes wrong, we’re dead,’ 

‘Don’t worry my friend, nothing will go wrong,’ Kebba sounded upbeat.

They had gone ahead and bought the car. They decided to first drive to their favourite spot at the beach and enjoy old memories. Kebba was in the driving seat and was so happy that he had forgotten all caution. He drove so fast that his friend kept reminding him to slow down. The car being old and overused could not take all what Kebba pushed into it. Suddenly, the windscreen was filled with smoke and it stopped in the middle of the road. What was only smoke in the beginning erupted into a blaze and they watched as their money was devoured by the flames.

Enraged, Kebba had brought out a gun he always carried whenever they transported their vegetables or money. 

‘I am going to show Al-Hasan that no one messes with me,’ he announced and started a furious run.

‘No, take it easy,’ Abdou ran after him, ‘you don’t have to do that now.’

As he caught up with him, there was a struggle and bang, the gun went off. The first time Abdou realised something was wrong was when his friend said, ‘Boy, you’ve killed me!’

Abdou could not understand what was going on. He woke up at the hospital and kept asking, ‘Where is Kebba?’

Kebba’s parents went straight ahead to press a murder charge, claiming that they had known for a long time that Abdou was plotting to kill their son and take all the money they had saved together. Abdou had no way of hiring the services of a lawyer and was detained throughout the trial. Rupert Njie, a public defender appointed by the state, proved that the gun belonged to Kebba and not Abdou, disproving the claim that Abdou had long been planning the murder of his best and only friend. 

So, when Abdou stepped out of the court that Wednesday morning, his gait showed no sign of the elation that comes with the ‘not guilty’ pronouncement of a judge.

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