FAMU Professor Enters Kenyan Politics

Barack Otieno Abonyo Ph.D isn’t your average professor at Florida A & M – he is running for governor of Kisumu County, Kenya.

The Kenyan native of the Nyando District, Abonyo has an extensive résumé, with attributes ranging from being a published author to an award-winning physiologist.

After earning a Ph.D in physiology in 2001, Abonyo became a postdoctoral fellow in the department of infectious diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He later joined the faculty of the College of Pharmacy of and Pharmaceutical Sciences as a visiting biology professor in 2005, and was soon promoted to an associate professor of pharmacology in 2008.

“Education is the key to all success,” Abonyo said. “It is imperative that we as a people continue to spread this message. Any goal one wants to achieve, with hard work it is accessible.”

Since being at FAMU, Abonyo has earned a plethora of awards recognizing his work,

In 2010, he won the “Teacher of The Year” award and the university-wide “Emerging Researcher of the Year.” His most renowned research contribution is currently helping to develop a safe lung cancer and asthma gene therapy.

His research on the food habits of Tilapia in Lake Naivasha, Kenya helped fish farmers thrive in Kenya’s largely agrarian economy, which has since generated major revenue for the community bordering the lake.

Abonyo’s ambition is to become the governor of Kisumu County, located in western Kenya. The district, which borders Lake Victoria, has a population of about half a million according to the latest statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics in 1999.

His platform promotes a variety of issues such as, self-reliance and free education for the country. He described his decision to run for governor as pressing and compassionate, and spoke of the great pride he has for his country and its potential.

“I went home a few months ago, and seeing the poverty hurt my heart,” Abonyo said. “People don’t have food. Kenya has human resources there but has a great lack of leadership. I will do my best to use my country’s resources to build up.”

Ren Moses has known Abonyo for more than eight years and will serve on his campaign team.

“Dr. Abonyo can change the country within five years. He is a very honest man, we are energized and working hard to win this election,” Moses said.

The election is December 2012 and Abonyo has already launched his campaign, hosting events such as soccer tournaments and small receptions, and making sure his message is heard through different realms of the media.

He explained the importance of FAMU’s support of his campaign, stressing that the university’s support would help alleviate poverty in his home country.

“You need capitol to run for a position at that level,” Abonyo said. “I am going there as an ambassador of FAMU. It would be excellent for all organizations to help me anyway they can. All donations, no matter how big or small, will help the cause.”