A statue of world-famous Indian independence activist and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi has been removed from the University of Ghana campus after protests from students and faculty over racist remarks he made against Africans.
The Gandhi statue was unveiled in Accra two years ago but was removed in the middle of the night Tuesday by order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
Statue of 'racist' Gandhi removed from University of Ghana
La statue du raciste #Gandhi déboulonnée au #Ghana
Le monument installé il y a 2 ans a été enlevé au milieu de la nuit au milieu d'une controverse sur l'opinion raciste de Gandhi sur les Africainshttps://t.co/M7WOpoHlEO pic.twitter.com/uX9YIQO0zT
— Solo Niaré (@SoloNiare) December 14, 2018
Ghana’s former government had vowed to relocate the statue but no such action was taken, prompting students and faculty members to take matters into their own hands. Now only an empty plinth remains on the campus in the capital Accra.
Prior to his work as a civil rights activist and independence advocate who promoted non-violent resistance to British colonial rule in India, Gandhi lived and worked in South Africa.
— #chalewote2020 #chalewote@10 (@Accradotalt) December 13, 2018
In his early writings Gandhi frequently referred to black South Africans using the extremely pejorative and offensive slur “kaffir.” During Gandhi’s time in South Africa, Indians were forced to use the same entrances as native Africans, a move which Gandhi worried would impact the “civilised habits” of Indian immigrants, adding that he feared they “would be degraded to the habits of aboriginal natives.”
“About the mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly,” he wrote in a letter in 1904.
He also stated unequivocally that Indians were “infinitely superior” to black people.
Defenders argue that his views were a product of the time but he still inspired civil rights leaders in Africa and beyond, including Martin Luther King Jr. However, modern-day Ghanaians aren’t buying the excuse.
“It’s a massive win for all Ghanaians because it was constantly reminding us of how inferior we are,” Benjamin Mensah told the AFP.
If we show that we have no respect for ourselves and look down on our own heroes and praise others who had no respect for us, then there is an issue.
“If we indeed don’t show any self-respect for our heroes, how can the world respect us? This is victory for black dignity and self-respect. The campaign has paid off,” head of language, literature and drama at the Institute of African Studies, Obadele Kambon said.
A petition to remove the statue began shortly after it was erected in 2016 by India’s former President Pranab Mukherjee. The petition failed to garner its stated goal of 2,500 signatures in over two years, however.