Kwaku Ampratwum Sarpong, Vice Chairman of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, is ruling out a possible diplomatic altercation between Ghana and India following the demolition of Mahatma Ghandi's statue at the University of Ghana.
The Ghandi statue at the country’s premier University was pulled down after petitions and agitations from sections of the University Community.
In an interview with the Citi News, the former Deputy High Commissioner to India indicated that the arrangement that led to the erection of the statue was conducted at the lower levels of diplomacy, and thus would not disrupt Ghana-India relations.
“In erecting the statue originally, I do not think it was something that went through government, and went through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before it got to the University of Ghana for them to erect it. My understanding was that it was something that was done at a very different level, and I would want to consider it as a low level between the then Vice Chancellor and the President of India at the time. Under normal circumstances, I would have expected that something of this nature which actually cuts across borders would have been initiated.”
“Maybe if originally it came from the University, it should have gone through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then the seat of government, then it is handed over, then when it comes down government will give its full backing. But my little investigation does not show that. Meaning it was done at a very low-key level . I am therefore not surprised that some lecturers or some members of the Legon community rose up against it. Again, I do not think it had the blessing of the University Council,” the Asante Mampong MP said.
‘Remove Ghandi statue’
Some students and lecturers of the University had called for the removal of the statue because of Gandhi’s “racist identity”.
An online petition was launched in 2016, and it garnered over 2,000 signatures after some students had earlier defaced it in protest.
The defaced Mahatma Gandhi statue during the protest in 2016 by some students.
The hashtag #GandhiMustFall trended on social media in Ghana and in South Africa simultaneously, after the unveiling of the Statue by then Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Ernest Aryeetey and the Indian President.
However, some Gandhi defenders argued that his actions and work for humanity should outweigh his words and some comments he made against blacks in the past.
On 5th October 2016, the Government of Ghana under President Mahama announced through the Foreign Affairs Ministry that the statue would be relocated.
Petition for removal of statue pays off
Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, one of the petitioners for the removal of the statue.
A former Director of the Institute of African Studies, Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo, started the campaign for the removal of the statue.
Prof. Adomako Ampofo together with another academic at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, Dr. Obadéle Kambon, urged members of the University of Ghana Council to heed to the petition arguing among other things that, Gandhi was racist against black people and honoring him sets the wrong example for students.
'Pulling down Gandhi's statue unnecessary'
At the time, Ghana's former High Commissioner to India, Professor Mike Ocquaye, described as unnecessary demands for the demolition of the statue.
According to the professor of political science and lawyer, a decision to demolish the statue might have implications on diplomatic ties between Ghana and India.
“It will be most unnecessary, most uncalled for and not in the supreme interest of Ghanaians and we must know what serves our interest best. Some people in India wanted diplomatic relations to be broken in Ghana over the way we sometime back spited them, but caution prevailed and they kept their cool to show that they understand diplomacy and the ups and downs of international relations and today the relationship is a bit better and we look forward to it being better still” Prof. Ocquaye said at the time.
The man who’s now the Speaker of Ghana’s parliament, further called on those who petitioned for the removal of the statue to be tolerant of divergent views, saying that is the hallmark of academia.
The Gandhi statue before it was pulled down.
UG must honour African heroes, not Gandhi – Prof. Opoku
The Chairman of the Kwabena Nketia Center for Africana Studies, Prof. Kofi Asare Opoku, also backed calls for the pulling down of the statue, saying institutions like the University of Ghana should honour African heroes instead of iconic figures from elsewhere.
“However great Gandhi is; he may be great for the Indians, but for us we have our own heroes, men and women in African history that we don't know about them. So we need our own heroes because they are the ones who can inspire us.”
He explained that “if you take foreign heroes you would always think that greatness is reserved for foreigners; but we have our own great people here whom we must revere and honour to become a source of inspiration for our young people.”
On 14th June 2016, a statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was erected at the Sam Aboah quadrangle of the University of Ghana.
It was the only statue of a 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 commenced within the University community and beyond.