Born in August 3, 1929 in Gem, Siaya County Dr. Bethwell Allan Ogot is a distinguished historian, scholar, mentor, and a diligent public servant. He’s renowned for numerous contributions to the research of Kenya and East Africa’s history as well as his work in Luo oral traditions.
Little known of him was his contribution to Kenya’s independence, where as a leader of the Kenya Students Association he assisted the late Oginga Odinga during the 1960 negotiations in London. He is the incumbent Chancellor of Moi University, Eldoret.
Ogot attended both Luanda and Ambira Primary School before joining Maseno Secondary School. He was later admitted to Makerere University College where he studied mathematics and history. After Makerere he returned to Kenya and taught briefly at the Alliance High School, before enrolling for history and philosophy at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom.
After studies in England, he returned to Makerere as a history tutor and a few years later, he was back in UK for his post-graduate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London where he graduated in 1965.
As a Public servant
Ogot served as a dean at the University of Nairobi, first director of the Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Pre-history, as a professor at Kenyatta University, and director of research at Maseno University College before taking over as the Chancellor at Moi University in 2003.
He was also instrumental as a faculty member and chairperson in making the history department of the University of Nairobi, as well as the founder president of the Historical Association of Kenya.
Other positions held
J Secretary-General of East African Institute of Social and Cultural Affairs and the institutes’ publishing firm, the East African Publishing House (later Jomo Kenyatta Foundation)
J Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA)
J Member of the executive board of UNESCO
J Chairman of the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications, Kenya Railways and National Oil Corporation
Dr. Ogot immensely contributed and helped to promote publication of new research in the Kenya Historical Review, Hadith and the Transafrican Journal of History. He was also part of the creators and publishers of the UNESCO General History of Africa.
Here are a few of his works:
‘A place to Feel at Home (A study of two independent churches in western Kenya)’ with F.B Welbourn (1966)
‘History of the Southern Luo: Volume I, Migration and Settlement, 1500-1900, (Series: People of East Africa) ’ (1967)
Zamani: A Survey of East African History with J.A Kieran (1968)
‘Decolonization and Independence in Kenya’ with William R. Ochieng
My Footprints in the Sands of Time: An Autobiography (2006)
In 2012, the African Studies Association (ASA) established the Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize, an annual award given at the ASA meeting to the author of the best book on East African Studies.
Awards and Honours bestowed on him
Distinguished Africanist Award by the African Studies Association in recognition of a lifetime of notable service to African studies (2001).
UNESCO’s Gold Medal
Elder of the Burning Spears (EBS)
Hon.D.Litt of Kenyatta University
He is married to renowned author Grace Akinyi Ogot.