Wednesday, August 5, 2009
By: Gillian Onyango
Dr. Kefa Otiso¬†becomes Third Kenyan in the Diaspora to Receive Award
The President¬†of the Kenya Scholars and Students Association (KESSA) and Bowling Green State¬†University (BGSU) professor, Dr. Kefa Otiso is among four recipients of the¬†Elder of Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) service award bestowed by Kenyan¬†President, Mwai Kibaki, on December 12, 2008. Dr. Otiso is Associate Professor¬†of Geography at Bowling Green University.
Because¬†Dr. Otiso was not in Kenya to receive the award, Kenya‚Äôs ambassador to the¬†United States, Honorable Peter Ogego, flew to the BGSU campus in Bowling Green,¬†Ohio to deliver the award on behalf of President Kibaki during a ceremony.
Dr.¬†Otiso recalls being in a state of disbelief on receiving news of the¬†award.¬† ‚ÄúI was very humbled since I never¬†expected it,‚ÄĚ he told Mshale.
The EBS¬†award, which was instituted by the government after independence, is one of the¬†highest civilian service awards granted by the President of Kenya during Jamhuri (independence) day celebrations¬†every December.
The EBS¬†award comes as a result of the manifestation of Dr. Otiso‚Äô s patriotism in¬†imparting knowledge to fellow Kenyans, facilitating academic workshops, and¬†promoting research and scientific work about Kenya.
Speaking¬†at the ceremony, Amb. Ogego recognized Dr. Otiso‚Äôs efforts in reaching out to¬†fellow Kenyans and Kenyan community organizations and his quest to establish an¬†understanding about Kenya.
Through¬†KESSA, an organization he founded, Dr. Otiso together with the officials; Dr.¬†Maurice Amutabi, Dr. Francis Koti, and Dr. Gichana Manyara, have created a¬†harbor from which Kenyans in the Diaspora as well as friends of Kenya can come¬†together to sharpen their wit while promoting ideas, economic and academic¬†gains on Kenya.¬† KESSA held its first¬†conference in 2008 and those in attendance included many Kenyan scholars,¬†former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Jendayi Frazer
and Mr. Ogego.
Dr.¬†Otiso is also one of the founders of Gusii Educational and Advancement Resource¬†(GEAR), which seeks to improve the educational and economic standards in the¬†Gusii districts of Kenya. ¬†He currently¬†serves as Secretary and Dr. Joshua Bagaka, Associate professor at Cleveland¬†State University, serves as chair. Dr. Bagaka stated that one other aspect of¬†Dr. Otiso‚Äô s work which usually goes unmentioned is his ability to recruit and¬†support Kenyan students at BGSU. ‚ÄúThrough his efforts BGSU stands out as the¬†university in the Midwest with the highest concentration of Kenyan students. We¬†all are proud of his work,‚ÄĚ he said.
In 2004,¬†Dr. Otiso co-organized a conference on International Africa‚Äôs Brain Drain/Gain¬†in Nairobi and as a result, many African nations started seriously engaging the¬†Diaspora in their development. The conference also contributed to Kenya‚Äôs¬†creation of the first Diaspora Policy Paper, which prompted the Kenyan Ministry¬†of Affairs to start working on the Dual Citizenship Bill.
In¬†addition to the many hats he wears, Dr. Otiso is an author, writer and editor¬†in his own right and has written for various academic journal reviews and print¬†media globally including Mshale.
His¬†inspiration comes from his creator, parents, various teachers at all level of¬†his academic experiences and his church in Toledo, Ohio. He said ‚ÄúEveryday life endeavors are Godly¬†service provided they are done as unto God. ¬†This has been a great encouragement to me over the years because it¬†empowers me to put my talents to full use.‚ÄĚ He notes that it‚Äôs important for¬†all of us to know that God cares for every aspect of human life including the¬†spiritual, emotional, and material. ‚ÄúFor this reason, all of us can make a
difference no matter how small.¬† If we¬†all influence one person for the better, the world would be a much better place‚ÄĚ.
Rev.¬†Clement Muturi, pastor of Progressive Grace Church in Roseville, Minnesota said¬†he connected with Dr. Otiso in 1997 due to his Christian background and¬†selflessness. ‚ÄúHe is a great man; he helped me settle in Minnesota. He is¬†respectful, down to earth, a man of God and his community. He has served many¬†students and is a pillar to the Kenyan community.‚ÄĚ Dr. Otiso received his¬†doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota.
The EBS¬†award, which was instituted by the government after independence, is one of the¬†highest civilian service awards granted by the President of Kenya during¬†Jamhuri day celebrations. Dr. Otiso is the third Kenyan in the Diaspora to¬†receive the award. Other Diaspora recipients include Professor Calestus Juma,¬†Harvard University and Professor Ngugi wa Thiongo, University of California.