A Campaign was started at the University of Ghana asking for the removal of a Mahatma Ghandi statue on the university’s premises.
A professor by the name Akusua Adomako Ampofo has led the campaign by putting across an argument that the Indian icon was racist towards black people and should not be honored because a wrong example would be set towards the university’s students.
President Pranab Mukherjee of India donated the statue to the university when he visited the campus in June. Since this time, the university has received a lot of criticism from many of the students and alumni, as well as the public over the erection of the statue.
Ampofo, as well as her fellows, Dr. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua a senior lecturer at University of Ghana, and Dr. Obadele Kambon a research fellow and Editor-in-Chief of the Ghana Journal of Linguistics have started an online petition for the statue to be taken down, in favour of Africa’s own heroes.
“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,” they wrote.
“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,” they added.
“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 online petition quotes Ghandi as writing: “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,” he went on to write.
‘Kaffir’ is a derogatory term for a black African.
Read the petition below:
Dear Honourable members of the University of Ghana Council:
Re: Petition for the removal of the Statute of Gandhi
We the undersigned bring this petition for the removal of the statute of Gandhi to the esteemed Council of the University of Ghana Council for your consideration.
On 14 June 2016 a statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi  was erected at the Sam Aboah quadrangle[DOK1] . This is the only statue of an historical personality on Legon campus, and soon after it came to the notice of members of the University community and the general public, calls for its removal began within the University community and beyond. We, the undersigned associate ourselves with that call for the reasons outlined below.
Rationale for Removal:
1.Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s racist identity:
Below we provide just a few citations from his own writings to illustrate this.
Before Dec. 19, 1894
“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.” ~ Vol. I, p. 193
Before May 5, 1895
“In the face, too, of financial operations, the success of which many of their detractors would envy, one fails to understand the agitation which would place the operators in the same category as the half-heathen Native and confine him to Locations, and subject him to the harsher laws by which the Transvaal Kaffir is governed.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 224-225
Before May 5, 1895
“So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.” ~ Vol. I, p. 229
Sept. 26, 1896
“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.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 409-410
Before May 27, 1899
“Your Petitioner has seen the Location intended to be used by the Indians. It would place them, who are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs, in close proximity to the latter.” ~ Vol. II, p. 270
June 1, 1906
“The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs.” ~ Vol. V, p. 59
Source: Gandhi and South African Blacks ( http://www.gandhiserve.org/e/cwmg/cwmg.htm)
*(NOTE-The term kaffir is considered a racial slur used in reference to Black South African natives.)
Gandhi also 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.
2. There are currently no statues of our own heroes and heroines on our campus:
We are of the view that if there should be statutes on our campus then they should first be African heroes and heroines, who can serve as examples of who we are and what we have achieved as a people. In a context where our youth know so little about our own history, such statutes can serve as an opportunity for such learning to occur. 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. Indeed, what would have been more fitting than to erect a statute of the former member of the University Council, Mr Sam Aboah, who financed the building of the quadrangle, and also financed the planting of the teak trees on the top of the Legon Hill near the Registry.
3. Removal of racist symbols from “world-class” universities:
The University of Ghana seeks to be a world class university. At world class universities, even former bastions of slavery, apartheid and white supremacy, statutes and other symbols associated with controversial persons have been pulled down or removed. Below are just a few examples:
– August 2016: Yale University is in the process of removing stained glass windows that depict slaves. It is also reconsidering keeping the name of Calhoun College, named for John C Calhoun, a 19th-century vice-president, South Carolina senator and Yale alumnus who established himself as a vocal advocate for slavery. In April 2016 President of Yale, Peter Salovey had said the name would remain. He has also appointed a new committee to develop guidelines for proposals to remove historical names from university buildings, including Calhoun’s.
– May 2016: Yale announced it would name a residential college, set to open in 2017, for Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, a black Yale Law School alumna and civil rights activist.
– March 2016: A committee tasked with re-considering Harvard Law School’s seal in light of its ties to slavery recommended that the Harvard Corporation revoke the emblem’s status as the school’s official symbol. The seal bears the crest of the former slave-owning Royall family, whose donation helped establish Harvard’s first law professorship in the late 18th century.
– November 2015: Georgetown University renamed two buildings on campus, Mulledy and McSherry Hall, that honour former presidents who organized the sale of slaves to a Louisiana plantation to help pay off the school’s debt. (The school has not yet chosen permanent names, but for now Mulledy Hall will be called Freedom Hall, and McSherry Hall will be named Remembrance Hall, according to the Washington Post).
– October 2015: Rhodes University established a renaming team to remove the name of Cecil Rhodes, former prime minister of the Cape colony, and one of the founders of apartheid.
– March to April 2015: First the senate and then the Council of the University of Cape Town voted to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes.
4.There was no consultation about the placing of the statute:
The University of Ghana has a tradition for the naming of buildings—a committee works on this and seeks the views of members of the university community, important stakeholders as the case may be. While we speak here about a statue and not the naming of a building, we are of the view that similar principles of transparency and consultation should apply. In the case of the Gandhi statute it would appear from responses the former Vice-chancellor gave to emails on the University email list, that he took the decision alone. He explained that the statute was a gift from the embassy of the Republic of India. To questions about what we received or were promised in return no answer was forthcoming.
We urge Council and the management of the University of Ghana, that in the future when buildings are named or statutes erected, that colleagues from requisite Departments be consulted so it does not appear as if our academics do not have the relevant information.
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 Third World super-power. Some harm has been done by erecting the statue. We have failed the generation that look up to us, namely our students. How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus? The same goes for the human rights lecturer, the International Law lecturer, the Political Science lecturer teaching on apartheid in South Africa, etc. However, to allow the statue to remain on our campus will do even more harm and make us appear to hold double standards.
We should not bury our head in the sand and expect that the storm will die down.
We thank you for your attention!
Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo