‘Mama Sarah’, referred to affectionately as Barack Obama’s stepgrandmother died in Kenya at the age of 99.
Mama Sarah, known affectionately to many as Barack Obama stepgrandmother, has died in Kenya at the age of 99. Marsat Onyango, her daughter, said her mother died early on Monday at a hospital in Kisumu, in western Kenya.
- Sarah Obama, Barack Obama’s stepgrandmother, died at the age of 99 in Kenya.
- She passed away in a Kisumu hospital on Monday morning following a short illness.
- The Daily Nation newspaper reported that the death was not related to Covid-19.
- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta honored Sarah Obama on Twitter.
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Her death was not related to the Covid-19 scandal but rather to a short illness, reported the newspaper The Daily Nation. Sarah Obama was the third wife of the former president’s paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.
In a statement, Barack Obama said: “My family and I are mourning the loss of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, affectionately known to many as ‘Mama Sarah’ but known to us as ‘Dani’ or Granny. We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”
Mama Sarah was known to Kenyans for her social activism centred on issues related to children and families, mainly centred on reproductive health. The Guardian met Sarah Obama during an international reporting project in 2012 about reproductive health.
Born in 1922, Muslim Sarah Obama was part of western Kenya’s Luo native group. She spent decades in charge of a foundation that educated girls and orphans despite being unable to read herself. Her warm porridge and doughnuts were popular with schoolchildren.
Obama also made two further high-profile trips to Kenya — one in 2015, when he visited as the first sitting US president and met Sarah Obama and other members of his family in Nairobi.
During the second trip, which took place in 2018, after he left office, he visited his father’s hometown and jokingly apologized that he had not been able to visit his grandmother earlier because Air Force One was too big to land at her local airfield.
In January 2009, Sarah Obama attended her grandson’s inauguration in Washington and gave him a Kenyan oxtail fly swatter as he swore to become president.
Furthermore, she consistently defended him from right-wing attacks fuelled by Donald Trump’s lie that he was born in Kenya and raised a Muslim.
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, paid tribute to Sarah Obama on Twitter. In a statement, he says that Sarah Obama passed away while receiving treatment at a hospital in Kisumu this week.
“The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation,” he wrote. “We’ve lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values.”