ACCRA, Ghana, Government officials in Ghana say they will move a statue of Mahatma Gandhi from a university campus after professors there launched a petition.
Professors at the University of Ghana successfully petitioned for the statue’s removal, claiming it should be replaced with one of a local hero because of seemingly racist early writings by Gandhi about black South Africans.
The statue was unveiled by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee in June as a symbol of the relationship between India and Ghana. In September, professors at the university launched the petition to have it removed, garnering more than 1,000 signatures and drawing the government’s response.
“It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian super power,” the professors wrote in the petition, which also quoted writings by Gandhi including him referring to black South Africans with racial slurs and saying Indians were “infinitely superior.”
Although Gandhi is internationally recognized for his role in India’s battle for independence from Britain and his nonviolent protests for civil rights in Africa, as well as India, he is somewhat controversial in both places.
“Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness,” Gandhi wrote, using a racist comparison of Indians and black South Africans in one early passage included with the petition.
Government officials said they would relocate the statue from its current location to “ensure its safety and to avoid the controversy,” but added that the good that Gandhi contributed to the world should be considered along with his “flaws.”
“While acknowledging that human as he was, Mahatma Gandhi may have had his flaws, we must remember that people evolve,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the official statement. “He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.”
Obadele Kambon, one of the organizers of the petition, said moving the statue was not enough, however, and that it should be sent back to India based on Gandhi’s own estimation of the people walking past it every day.
“We don’t think the statue would be well received anywhere in Ghana,” Kambon said.