It looks like Barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi doesn’t have too many fans in the continent of Africa. In a surprise move, students from the University of Ghana brought down the statue of Gandhi, citing his inappropriate views about the local inhabitants and the independence movement they launched against the European imperialists.
Students and lecturers issued joint petitions demanding the removal of Gandhi’s statues, citing his ‘racist statements against the Black Africans’. To quote Obadele Kambon, the head of language, literature, and drama at the Institute of African Studies, “[It’s an issue] of self-respect. 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.”
For those unaware, in 2016, the then President, Pranab Mukherjee had made a strategic visit to Ghana, in order to ‘cement ties between the two nations.’ As a part of this bilateral exchange, Pranab Mukherjee had inaugurated the statue of ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi, as a ‘symbol of the ties between the two nations.’ The statue of Gandhi was installed in the Legon campus of the University of Ghana, which is situated in the capital of Ghana, Accra.
However, not all were impressed by the move. Shortly after, professors organized a petition, citing racist passages that Gandhi had written in which he called Indians “infinitely superior” to black Africans. In a long but firm petition, students, as well as teachers of the University of Ghana wrote to the higher authorities to get the statue removed, citing the need to put ‘African heroes first’ over the ‘racist Gandhi’. Following a lukewarm response to the petition, the students took it upon themselves to remove the statue of Gandhi from their premises. As per the reports confirmed by BBC Africa, the statue has been officially pulled down between Tuesday and Wednesday, as told by the students to AFP.
As of now, the university authorities are tight-lipped about this development, refusing to speak about this issue. On the other hand, when asked about this, an official from the foreign ministry of Ghana said, ‘It’s an internal decision by the university.’
Ghana’s former government had earlier said that the statue would be relocated “to avoid the controversy becoming a distraction from our strong ties of friendship with India.” Mr. Kambon was not alone in his enthusiasm over the removal of Gandhi’s statue. Several students posted tweets in the favor of the removal of Gandhi’s statue, as shown below:-
Gandhi’s statue should be replaced with the statue of Kofi Annan in the University of Ghana pic.twitter.com/pFR5ovHHbz
— Kobby Jewel (@jewel_appiah) December 13, 2018
The students of Ghana who removed Gandhi’s statue deserve a nobel peace prize. I shall submit their names.
— Jalamba (@simphiw_) December 13, 2018
Thanks to @adomakoampofo et al. for doing the work needed to take this racist statue down.
University of Ghana pulls down Mahatma Gandhi's statue on campus https://t.co/ojeoQk0Pjz
— Griotte (@wunpini_fm) December 12, 2018
The University of Ghana has pulled down the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, a well known racist against black people who is today imposed on Africans as some activist. pic.twitter.com/DXFBkJPLix
— Amandala! ✊ (@covsbs) December 13, 2018
— Akosua AdomakoAmpofo (@adomakoampofo) December 12, 2018
This is, however, not the first time that an African country has had a problem with Mohandas Gandhi’s image or statues. In Malawi, an online movement, titled #GandhiMustFall emerged after a statue of Gandhi was being constructed in the commercial capital of Malawi, Blantyre.
These protests emerge from the stance of Gandhi towards the Africans. For all his movements that attracted masses in India, Gandhi had relatively racist views about the Africans. He didn’t consider them as equals, and considered the Indians more ‘infinitely superior than the Black Africans.’
Moreover, his support for the British forces against the Dutch-influenced Boers and the local Africans in the Boer War, which included his decision to send a force of medical volunteers for the Britishers, has also invoked the ire of the Africans. We wonder if our Indian brothers and sisters could learn a thing or two from them, with respect to giving respect to the real heroes of our nation.