Gambia: OPINION: Almamy Fanding Taal And The UDP Musical Chair. Whose Side Is He On? We Go Back To His School Days

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Of recent, he’s been making the headlines for the wrong reasons: Issuing statements and quickly walking them back on account that the statement incorrectly mischaracterized what he meant in the local wollof dialect. So far, his statements do not seem to be mending fences  in the internal wrangling within the UDP party. Instead, it pushes each man to pick a side sooner or later. Being the front man in this increasingly bitter squabble between President Barrow and Lawyer Darboe, it is imperative to wonder what side would Taal eventually pick.

If history is anything to go by, I would bet that Almamy Fanding Taal would end up in the Barrow’s camp. I draw this conclusion from the lessons I learnt about Taal 27 years ago. It was at Gambia High School in 1991. Taal was a student Prefect or Counselor or whatever they were called, and in the 6th Form. Schools in the Greater Banjul Area were gearing up for a massive protest; – I couldn’t tell you what the protest was about. All I remember was a classmate telling me, “there will be a strike tomorrow Tuesday”. I was excited because I don’t know how these things work.

The next day Tuesday, we waited for the bell to go off at around 1pm. It would be a long-sustained ring to differentiate it from the normal end of period ring. Once the ring was heard, everyone would storm out into the street and do what students always do. The same scenario would be replicated at Saint Augustine and Muslim, then the other Schools would follow. In our classrooms, we were becoming restless. It was already past 1pm, no bell was heard.

Then comes Almamy Fanding Taal, who used to be on the side of his fellow student, looking dejected, trying to explain to students why no one rang the bell. According to him, he and a few other senior students from GHS and Saints, decided among themselves to go seek the blessings of the acting IGP Momodou Sissoho for the strike.  Of cause, Sissoho would never grant such a Permit. Everyone in Gambia knew that Sissoho was only IGP temporarily. He was warming the seat for Press Jagne, who was out of the country on a study leave. Sissoho probably thinking to himself, if I do a good enough job, PPP power brokers might have me keep the job permanently when Press Jagne returns. Hence, Sissoho refused to grant the permit saying, “There were too many jobless and hopeless people in Banjul, who would quickly hijack the protest and cause mayhem”, Taal told the students. He probably did the right thing. But, I can tell you, he lost a great deal of respect from students since that day.

At Muslim High, (the grand fathers of strikes) tension soon boil over into the open when no bell was heard at 1pm. According to reports, some students took it upon themselves to go wrestle the bell from its custodian and forcefully ring it. The reports claimed that there was a fight for the bell and some school windows smashed.

I have always viewed Almamy Taal with ambivalence because on the one hand, he was on the forefront of organizing the strike. The next minute, he was also on the forefront in abrogating the strike. The lesson is Almamy is a man who always want to play it safe. And when all the dust settle, he would end up on the safe side. In the UDP today, which camp is the safest side? You decide.
Written By Pierre Gomez
Editors note: The views expressed by the author are entirely that of his own views. His views do not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper. Thanks for your attention.
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