Barack Obama’s grandmother ‘Mama Sarah’ dies in Kenya

Sarah Obama, former US President Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, died Monday at a hospital in Kisumu, Western Kenya, while undergoing treatment for an unspecified ailment, according to authorities. She was 99 years old at the time.

“The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation. We’ve lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement.

Mama Sarah, as she was affectionately known, was the third wife of Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, and assisted in the raising of Barack Sr., the former president’s father.

In his book ‘Dreams from My Father,’ President Barack Obama referred to her as ‘Granny,’ and she rose to national prominence after the then-US senator visited Kenya in 2006. 

Mama Sarah welcomed Obama on his subsequent visits to Kenya in 2015, when he became the first US president to visit the region, and in 2018, after he had left office. 

When her step-grandson was first elected, she served as a cook for British missionaries in Kenya and didn’t have a television. 

According to local media sources, the former US president expressed condolences to his Kenyan relatives over the death of the matriarch. 

The late nonagenarian was a devout Muslim who was known for her charitable work.

On Twitter, Auma Obama, President Obama’s half sister, paid tribute to their grandmother.

“Just lost the most important person in my life – my gran, Mama Sarah,” she wrote. “My heart is broken! But as I write, not able to stop the tears from pouring, I know I was blessed to have her for so long! My inspiration, my rock, my comfort zone, my safe space. Rest in peace Dani! “

Obama was also known for her work with her foundation to help impoverished children in Kenya receive an education. 

She also won the United Nations’ Pioneer Award in 2014 for her educational contributions through her foundation. 

Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, President Obama’s maternal grandmother from the United States, died of cancer in 2008. She was 86 years old when she died.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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