Academics at the University of Ghana are demanding a statue of "racist" Gandhi be pulled down.
The statue glorified a man who was “uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race,” and allowing it to remain made the university appear to hold double-standards, wrote three academics from the University of Ghana.
Professor of African and Gender Studies at the University of Ghana, Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Dr. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua a senior lecturer at University of Ghana, and Dr. Ọbádélé Kambon, a research fellow and Editor-in-Chief of the Ghana Journal of Linguistics wrote the petiton.
The online petition is addressed to the members of the University of Ghana Council and the chairman Mr. Kwamena Ahwoi. So far it has collected 270 of 500 signatures needed.
The statue was erected on June 14 this year at the recreational quadrangle, it was donated by India's president Pranab Mukherjee when he visited the campus.
Since then there has been agitation from many students, alumni and Ghanaians over the statue being on campus.
Mahatma Gandhi, born in 1869, was the primary leader of India’s independence movement and is also touted as the architect of a form of non-violent civil disobedience that would influence the world. However, through the world detractors have also pointed to his history of racism towards Africans.
With the slogans ‘Gandhi Must Fall’ and ‘Gandhi For Come Down’ (pidgin for Gandhi must come down), there are calls in Ghana for the immediate withdrawal of the statue.
The three University of Ghana academics are now publicly lending their voices through their petition on change.org.
They call for statues of Africa's own heroes and heroines on campus to be erected instead.
"We are of the view that if there should be statues on our campus, then, first and foremost, they should be of African heroes and heroines, who can serve as examples of who we are and what we have achieved as a people."
"Why should we uplift other people's 'heroes' at an African university when we haven’t lifted up our own? We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect."
The petition writers say this is the only statue of an historical personality on the University of Ghana's Legon campus.
It would be more appropriate to erect a statue of the former member of the University Council, Mr. Sam Aboah, who financed the construction of the quadrangle, and also financed the planting of the teak trees on the top of the Legon Hill near the Registry, they wrote.
Having the statue on campus conflicted with the university teaching students on human rights, especially on South Africa's history of apartheid, they wrote.
They wanted The University of Ghana to align itself with other universities that are removing statues and symbols of controversial people and history. This includes Yale University which is in the process of removing stained glass windows that depict enslaved Africans.
It is also planning to name a residential college, set to open in 2017, after Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, a black Yale Law School alumna and civil rights activist.
"We can do the honourable thing by pulling down the statue. It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian super-power. Some harm has already been done by erecting the statue. We have failed the generation that look up to us, namely our students,” the petition urged.
The petition highlights examples of Gandhi's own writings to illustrate their point.
The quote him as writing in 1894 that "A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.”
He also wrote "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.”
The term kaffir is considered a racial slur used in reference to indigenous Black South Africans.
The petition also notes Gandhi campaigned against the efforts of the Dalits, The Black “Untouchables” of India, and for the maintenance of the caste system right up to his death.
According to the University of Ghana website, when President Mukherjee visited the campus on June 14 he spoke about the partnership between Ghana and India.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey welcomed the President noting that University’s ties with India have always been strong.
He expressed gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and the Indian government for presenting the gift statue of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he described as an international icon.
The Minister for Education, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman also spoke at the event and recounted ways in which Ghana’s first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and India’s Mahatma Gandhi had left 'gold stepping stones for young people to follow'.
Pulse Ghana has reached out to the University of Ghana for comment on this issue and is awaiting a response.