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Gandhi (Ghana’s Unwelcome Guest): Towards the Resurrection of Ghana’s #GandhiMustFall Movement

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Gandhi (Ghana’s Unwelcome Guest): Towards the Resurrection of Ghana’s #GandhiMustFall Movement

Dr. Ọbádélé Kambon is a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Language, Literature, and Drama Section at the Institute of African Studies. He was one of the individuals who spoke vociferously against the statue of Gandhi and who helped to kick off the #GandhiMustFall campaign on the University of Ghana campus.

The statue of Gandhi came to the University of Ghana unannounced on 13 June 2016 as a unilateral decision by those who were not informed by research. However, it wasn’t until 4 July of that same year that I even knew that there was any statue. For my part, I just happened to drive by the statue and when I saw it was Gandhi, I said to myself, “Wow, people must have absolutely no idea who Gandhi was.” So, I took some photos with my phone and I sent a collection of about 52 of Gandhi’s most racist quotes and sent them to the entire University’s UG Staff list and that is what started the conversation on campus going. The discussions were lively but the general sense was that, indeed, people were not aware about Gandhi’s articulated thoughts, words, and deeds as the anti-Black pro-Indo-Aryan upper-caste Hindu that he was. Other colleagues, notably Dr. Appiagyei-Atua, Prof. Akosua Perbi, Prof. Adomako Ampofo (who was on sabbatical at the time), and Dr. Gamel Nasser Adam came together and we were tapped to do various interviews on campus and beyond. The conversation continued until the good folks at the Public Affairs Directorate, headed by Ms. Stella Amoa, censored the staff (and later student) list via a new policy of selective email “moderation.” However, we would not be silenced, we joined up with folks in civil society who had independently gotten some buzz around the issue on social media, notably Mantse Aryeequaye of Accra[dot]Alt, and, together, started up the Change.org petition.

Figure 1: Original #GandhiForComeDown (Pidgin for #GandhiMustFall) Graphic

In the petition, we listed some of our points including 1) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s racist identity; 2) There are currently no statues of our own heroes and heroines on our campus; 3) Removal of racist symbols from “world-class” universities; 4) Protests against statues of Gandhi throughout the world; and 5) There was no consultation about the placing of the statue. We gave a sample of how anti-Black and racist Gandhi was in terms of his thoughts, words, and deeds and how he fought the Zulus in South Africa as a Sergeant Major – a fact that is well-documented in Desai & Vahed (2015).[1] Gandhi continued his anti-Black activities against the Dalits, the black untouchables of India as documented in Ambedkar (1945).[2] This book by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar documents how, through Gandhi’s unscrupulous machinations, he took away their double vote, special electorate, and constitutional safeguards. Indeed, he “fasted unto death” to prevent them from getting what is their just due, ultimately leading to the Poona Pact.

Figure 2: Bright Ackwerh's original work showing how our Vice-Chancellor Allowed himself and Ghana to be Disrespected

This is indicative of consistency in action from youth all the way to old age in fighting against Black people as an Indo-Aryan. Indeed, this was his own wording to appeal to his British “fellow-colonists” saying that the British and the Indians arise from a common Indo-Aryan stock. He also referred to Black people as Kaffirs, which is a racial slur punishable by law in Umzantsi (South Afrika). Gandhi apologists say that the term was not a racial slur during his time, but this is not the only disparaging term that he used for Black people. He also called us “half-heathen,” “savages,” “one degree removed from the animal,” and that we “lived almost like animals.” None of these are terms of endearment. Gandhi himself acknowledged the pejorative nature of the term “Kaffir.” In his typical hypocritical double-standard, in the same breath that he opposed Indians being referred to as the equivalent pejorative racial slur for Indians, “Coolies” he disparaged Black people with the even more demeaning “Kaffir.”

The Campaign:

In our #GandhiMustFall campaign, there were several different letters that we wrote to the University Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration that we presented with our petition which, at that time, had well over a thousand signatures. While someone ripped off the statue’s spectacles, we, on the other hand, were really trying to prosecute the campaign in a calm rational scholarly way. This is because we are all scholars and researchers. This is to say, when we do our research and come out with it and it is found to be correct, even if it shatters one’s tin gods and glass idols like Gandhi, it is still based on facts. We got a few reactionary knee-jerk reactions from the few who were wedded to the mythical Gandhi and weren’t ready to address the real Gandhi who could be seen clearly through his own words and deeds. After several letters and over two years, they finally removed the unwanted statue. Below is a brief timeline of events related to the Gandhi statue:

Table 1: Timeline of Gandhi Statue Events

27 May 2016

First announcement of address by President Pranab Mukherjee emailed to faculty without mention of a Gandhi statue

1 June 2016

Second announcement of address by President Pranab Mukherjee emailed to faculty without mention of a Gandhi statue

12 June 2016

Notice of “Address by His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Hon’ble President of India At the University of Ghana” posted to UG Website[3]

13 June 2016

Final Reminder regarding Address by President Pranab Mukherjee emailed to faculty without mention of a Gandhi statue[4]

13 June 2016

Statue unveiled prior to President Pranab Mukherjee’s address without consultation or prior notice to UG community[5]

4 July 2016

Upon driving past the statue, Dr. Kambon sends email to all faculty and students announcing the presence of Gandhi’s statue along with 52 of Gandhi’s more pro-Indo-Aryan anti-Afrikan/anti-Black quotes from 1894-1911 inciting shock and sparking running email debate

12 September 2016

#GandhiMustFall Online petition starts at Change.org[6]

21 September 2016

Prof. Appiagyei-Atua delivers letter and #GandhiMustFall petition with over 1500 signatures gathered within two (2) weeks to University of Ghana Registrar

22 September 2016

Counter-Petition starts, garnering a total of 230 signatures (including ghost signatures) to date compared to #GandhiMustFall petition’s 1980 verified signatures to date[7]

30 September 2016

Letter from University Council to #GandhiMustFall petitioners acknowledging receipt of petition

2 October 2016

Gandhi statue defaced with spectacles stolen[8]

4 October 2016

Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo and Dr. Kambon give public seminar to overflowing conference room situating #gMF events in the context of Black Lives Matter and Decolonizing the Academy[9]

5 October 2016

Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues public statement vowing to relocate statue of Gandhi[10] for the protection of the inanimate object, yet has remained curiously silent on repeated murders and mob violence against Afrikans=Black people in India[11],[12],[13],[14]

12 October 2016

Petitioners issue response to public statement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pen letter to then-Chairman of the University Council, Prof Kwamena Ahwoi[15]

7 December 2016

NDC Government voted out of power

19 December 2016

University of Ghana Council sends petitioners letter stating “Council did not object to the decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to relocate the statue”

19 December 2016-December 2018

Despite MFA and University Council decisions, statue remains at UG Campus in spite of continued public outcry

17 March 2017

Indian government offers to build $200 million 400-seat capacity Parliament House for Ghana[16]

15 August 2017

Indian government gives Ghana President HE Nana Akufo-Addo $1 million for renovation of Flagstaff House presidential residence[17]

12 December 2018

Statue surreptitiously removed with alacrity from University premises

27th February 2019

Gandhi statue relocated to Kofi Annan Center of Excellence in ICT[18]

 

The Gandhi Statue Removal and University Community Reaction

Unfortunately, the removal took place after students were already home for the break and it was not announced. Those who happened to be around and from whom I got photos told me later that day that security personnel confiscated phones of those students who attempted to photograph or record the removal. Fortunately, however, a colleague had a long-range camera and was able to capture stills of the removal from across the street. Now, in terms of the reaction, I went to the site of the statue on Wednesday and as I was standing there, no less than two dozen people drove by and shouted “Oh yes! Gandhi has fallen!” I wondered where they had been over the last two years, but, indeed, with over 2,500 signatures to date, it was clear that the vast majority of well-meaning Ghanaians were on our side. In all, it was clear that people were ecstatic! People were excited! Some, including students, even wanted to take photos, some of which are already online now. In the immediate aftermath, it was an atmosphere of jubilation.

Figure 3: Dr. Kambon with a few students celebrating the removal of the hideous Gandhi statue

A major observation was that despite all the impropaGandhi (improper propaganda about Gandhi), the majority of Black people in general and Ghanaians in particular are interested in Black dignity and self-respect and that they outnumber the anti-Black quislings who stand against Black struggles because they have been compromised by Indian money or anti-Black ideologies that demand that they sell-out Black people and Black causes. For the majority, who are not compromised in such ways, they truly saw it as a victory that we, the indigenous Black people of Ghana, won’t be the footstool or a rug to be stepped on by anyone. Also, it was tied to other sister movements like the #GandhiMustFall movement in Malawi, #RhodesMustFall in Oxford, with whom we contributed to a book by the same name,[19] etc. Apart from these movements, there have also been linkages with the National Anthem protest in the US as well as the protests that are on-going in India about the black people who were beaten and killed in broad daylight. There was a man, Masonda Ketanda Olivier, a Congolese man who was beaten to death in broad daylight over a autorickshaw. Mob attacks against Afrikan=Black students go on all the time in India. Ironically, while 24/7 security was put on a statue of Gandhi and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came in to deliver a sycophantic neo-colonial pro-Gandhi statement, their voice has been conspicuously silent when it comes to our Black brothers and sisters who are abused and killed in the streets of India at the hands of upper caste Hindus like Gandhi.

Figure 4: Images of Black people beaten, injured, and mobbed regularly in India

There is so much documentation of mob attacks and anti-Black race riots against the indigenous Black Dalits and Adivasis and also, by extension, against Afrikan=Black students who live in India. This is why, since the beginning, there has been mutual solidarity between us.

Partial Victory: The Misguided Relocation rather than Complete Removal from Ghanaian Soil

The removal of the statue from the University campus was a partial victory in a battle not an overall victory in the war for Black dignity and self-respect.

Figure 5: The hideous Gandhi statue with ropes around its neck being removed from University of Ghana's hallowed soil

I say partial because 1) the ignorant anti-Black mentality that even allowed the statue to be brought in the first place has not been eradicated and 2) the statue has recently relocated to the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (GI-KACE). Essentially, Indians moved it to a place established with their money so that those who are more interested in their bellies than abstract notions of dignity and self-respect can carry the day. As the world’s oldest complete book, the Instructions of imAxw Ptahhotep, states,  iw sḏm n ẖt.f ns-sw ḫfty “One who listens to his belly belongs to the enemy.” This was echoed by Nana Thomas Sankara who said “He who feeds you, controls you.” There is a related proverb in Akan that says Wodidi fiduasa mu a, na w’ano nyɛ den ‘If you eat in thirty houses, your mouth cannot be harsh (lit. hard)’ All of this is to say that just as India built Jubilee House to buy off our president and has offered $200,000,000 to build a new parliament building to buy off our lawmakers, GI-KACE, which was founded with Indian money is clearly a place that has been compromised with Indian money to go against Afrikan=Black causes. The current speaker of the House, Prof. Mike Ocquaye has been saying that Black people standing up for our dignity should take a back seat to diplomatic relations, without asking the fundamental question of why should diplomatic relations be dependent on the disrespect of the dignity of Black people. Recently, we also heard from the Indian High Commissioner to Ghana, Singh Yadav, who has called the campaign against Gandhi’s anti-Black racism misguided. While he is displaying the typical arrogant Indo-Aryan caste-Hindu attitude, we must acknowledge that he must have gathered all the restraint within him to refrain from calling we, the #GandhiMustFall protesters, “savages,” “half-heathens,” “Kaffirs,” and “animals” in the true Gandhian tradition. We also would like to thank him for not organizing a mob to beat and burn us to death as routinely occurs in India to the indigenous Black Dalits, Adivasis, and Siddis, as well as Afrikan=Black students and migrants in no small measure due to Gandhi’s lifelong adherence to the varnasrama dharma caste system.

Our contemporaries of #GandhiMustFall Malawi are still fighting the good fight and we recognize that Gandhi is the face of Indian soft power through “new forms of colonialism dressed up as anti-imperialism.”[20]

Figure 6: Nana Akufo-Addo grinning with his "gift" of One Million Dollars from India

We recognize that the white upper-caste Indo-Aryan Hindus are fighting a proxy war with China over who is going to control Afrika because everyone knows that whosoever controls Afrika and her resources controls the entire world; and unfortunately, it is not Afrikans controlling Afrika as our leaders play the role of prostiticians – an odd mix of prostitute and politician willing to get in bed with whoever has the deepest pockets. This understanding of the control of Afrika is seen not only by Indo-Aryans and the Chinese, but also via the united snakkkes in their Ghana military base, Francophonie (and its concomitant Françafrique), the British-headed Commonwealth, kwk. As China destroys our environment with galamsey, they position themselves to back their currency with Ghanaian gold. In this vein, UG’s Confucius Institute becomes their soft power overture just like the Gandhi statue and Kumkum Bagya are India’s. While the removal of the hideous statue of Gandhi – "the greatest enemy the untouchables have ever had in India" – from the soil of the University of Ghana was a partial victory, it was just that: partial. Much work remains to uproot the anti-Black mentality that allowed the statue in in the first place. More pressingly, much work needs to be done to resurrect the #GandhiMustFall campaign as we are now faced with the misguided relocation of the statue of Gandhi: Ghana’s unwelcome guest, rather than its outright expulsion. Nonetheless, we take heart in the observation that irrespective of our many spineless stomach politicians, Ghanaians who stand for Black dignity and Black self-respect are still fighting the good fight standing in solidarity with Black people of like mind in Malawi, India, the UK, the US and beyond. #GandhiMustFall (Again!!!)

 

[1] Desai, A., & Vahed, G. (2015). The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

[2] Ambedkar, B. (1945). What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables. Delhi: Gautam Book Centre

[3] UG-PAD, "Address by His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Hon’ble President of India at the University of Ghana," archive.org, https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://www.ug.edu.gh/events/address-his-excellency-mr-pranab-mukherjee-hon%E2%80%99ble-president-india-university-ghana.

[4] "Address by His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Hon’ble President of India at the University of Ghana".

[5] "Ug Receives Indian President His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee," ug.edu.gh, https://www.ug.edu.gh/events/address-his-excellency-mr-pranab-mukherjee-hon%E2%80%99ble-president-india-university-ghana.

[6] Ampofo et al., "Gandhi's Statue at the University of Ghana Must Come Down".

[7] Lang T. K. A. Nubuor et al., "Counter-Petition for the Conservation/Preservation of the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi," ipetitions.com, https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/counter-petition-for-the-conservationpreservation. Oddly enough, the first signatory purports to be from Gandhi himself, calling the ethics of the anti-Black/anti-Afrikan quislings and their whole charade into question.

[8] Ismail Akwei, "Controversial Gandhi Statue's Glasses Stolen from University of Ghana," africanews.com, http://www.africanews.com/2016/10/05/controversial-gandhi-statue-s-glasses-stolen-from-university-of-ghana/.

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE0E59GhCCg

[10] Jonas Nyabor, "Gov’t to Move Gandhi Statue from University of Ghana," citifmonline.com, http://citifmonline.com/2016/10/05/govt-to-move-gandhi-statue-from-university-of-ghana/.

[11] Reporter, "‘What Happened to Olivier Could Happen to Any African in India’".

[12] Anand and Raj, "Attacks against African Students Rise in India, Rights Advocates Say".

[13] Wu, "African Students Hospitalized in Roving Mob Attacks in India".

[14] Mackey, "Beating of African Students by Mob in India Prompts Soul-Searching on Race".

[15] Akosua Adomako Ampofo et al., "Response to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration," change.org, https://www.change.org/p/the-members-of-the-university-of-ghana-council-gandhi-s-statue-at-the-university-of-ghana-must-come-down/u/18130187.

[16] Della Russel Ocloo, "India to Help Ghana Build 400-Seater Capacity Parliamentary Chamber," graphic.com.gh.

[17] Godwin Akweiteh Allotey, "Akufo-Addo Gets $1m India Money to Renovate Flagstaff House," citifmonline.com, http://citifmonline.com/2017/08/15/akufo-addo-gets-1m-india-money-to-renovate-flagstaff-house/.

[18] This is particularly ironic given Gandhi’s anti-technology stance. Apparently, those who moved the statue there were also lacking in research on this point as well.

[19] Kambon, O., & Appiagyei-Atua, K. (2018). The Exportation and Imposition of Statues and why Gandhi Still Must Fall in Ghana. In O. Rhodes Must Fall Movement (Ed.), Rhodes Must Fall: The Struggle to Decolonise the Racist Heart of Empire. London: Zed Books.

[20] Ashwin Desai, Personal Communication, 23 November 2016.

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Topic starter Posted : 05/10/2019 8:58 pm

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