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Ghana professors campaign for removal of 'racist' Gandhi statue

Activists are calling attention to controversial opinions about South Africans in Gandhi's writings,

ACCRA, Ghana — Professors at a university in Ghana's capital are campaigning for the removal of a new statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.

The petition, delivered Thursday to the University of Ghana's governing council, takes issue with what the professors call Gandhi's "racist identity" and controversial references to Africans in his writings. Launched online on Sept. 12, the petition has garnered more than 1,250 signatures.

India's President Pranab Mukherjee unveiled the statue at the centre of campus during a visit to Ghana in June.

Gandhi, a lawyer, travelled to South Africa in 1893 and stayed for two decades, fighting to expand rights for Indians there.

The petition quotes writings from that period in which Gandhi refers to black South Africans as savages.

"The fact that we erected the statue means we're not clear on Indian history and how it relates to African people," said Obadele Kambon, one of the petition's organizers. "How are students supposed to look up to Gandhi, a man who said we are only one degree removed from animals?"

Kambon said the university should instead feature statues of Ghanaian heroes like Yaa Asantewaa, who led a rebellion against British colonialism in 1900, or Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president.

University officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Student Eric Asomaning said he supported the professors' campaign.

"We have our own views and people pioneering our own freedoms," he said, "so why not erect statues of people like that?"