The statue, which was unveiled by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during his visit to Ghana in June, was meant to symbolize friendship between the two countries, according to Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But professors and students at the University of Ghana called the statue “a slap in the face” because of Gandhi’s “racist identity.” They started an online petition calling for the statue’s removal.
The petition, which had more than 1,700 supporters on Thursday, cited letters Gandhi wrote during his time in South Africa as evidence that he advocated for the superiority of Indians over black Africans. It also took issue with his use of the derogatory term kaffir to refer to native Africans and criticized the lack of statues of African heroes and heroines on campus.
In light of the petition and protests on social media, Ghana’s government wants to relocate the statue “to ensure its safety and to avoid the controversy,” the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
Gandhi is known for peacefully leading India’s independence movement, but a biography published last year also explored the darker side of his time in Africa.