NAIROBI, KENYA: Former US President Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother ‘Mama Sarah Obama’ (pictured) has died at the age of 99.
Mama Sarah, who has been sick for some time, died while undergoing treatment at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Her demise was confirmed by her daughter, Marsat Obama, who told the Nation that her mother died at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, Kisumu at 4.45am on Monday.
She was arguably the oldest living matriarch of the Obama lineage.
In his message of condolence, Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o said Kenyans will miss her dearly.
“She was always charming and warm to those who visited her home. She was my late mother’s friend and a dear grandmother to all of us. May the Lord rest her soul in eternal peace.”
He added: “Mama Sarah was not only a matriarch of the larger Obama family but a motherly figure to many. She was a philanthropist who helped to mobilize funds to pay school fees for many and vulnerable children. She also supported many widows.”
Who is Sarah Obama?
Sarah Onyango Obama (1921/1922 – 2021) was the third wife of the paternal grandfather of U.S. president Barack Obama. She was fondly known by her short name Sarah Obama; sometimes referred to as Sarah Ogwel, Sarah Hussein Obama, or Sarah Anyango Obama.
She lived in Nyang’oma Kogelo village, 30 miles west of western Kenya’s main town, Kisumu, on the edge of Lake Victoria.
Obama called her “Granny Sarah”. Sarah, who spoke Luo and only a few English words, communicated with President Obama through an interpreter.
On July 4, 2008, Sarah Obama attended the United States Independence Day celebrations in Nairobi, hosted by Michael Ranneberger, the U.S. ambassador in Kenya.
During the U.S. presidential campaign, she protested attempts to portray Obama as a foreigner to the United States or as a Muslim, saying that while Obama’s grandfather had been a Muslim, “In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents.”
Sarah Obama was “a strong believer of the Islamic faith,” as she was once quoted as saying.
On November 19, 2014, Sarah Obama received the Pioneer Award from the United Nations for the work of an education foundation that she headed, as a part of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.