ACCRA, GHANA(TIP): : Ghana has expressed its intention to remove a statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from a university in the capital, citing a controversy over what critics call his “racist identity.”

But the government made clear the move would be for the statue’s safety, telling the critics that “we must remember that people evolve.”

Professors at the University of Ghana launched a petition last month calling for the removal of the statue, which was unveiled by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in June.

Ghana’s foreign affairs ministry said the government “would … want to relocate the statue from the University of Ghana to ensure its safety.”

Obadele Kambon, one of the petition’s organizers, said Thursday there was no confirmation the statue would be removed. He said moving the statue to another location in Ghana would be insufficient.

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He urged the government to send it back to India.

“We don’t think the statue would be well received anywhere in Ghana,” he said.

Gandhi, a lawyer, traveled 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 he refers to black South Africans as savages.

At the same time, Gandhi’s approach of nonviolent protest influenced the African National Congress and its resistance to white minority rule.

“While acknowledging that human as he was, Mahatma Gandhi may have had his flaws, we must remember that people evolve,” Ghana’s statement said. “He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.”

The statement also expressed concern that the professors’ campaign could harm Ghana’s ties to India.

The professors say the university instead should feature statues of local heroes like Yaa Asantewaa, who led a rebellion against British colonialism, or Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president.

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