Sarah Obama, Barack Obama’s grandmother and matriarch of the former president’s Kenyan family, has passed away. She was 99.
Fondly known as Mama Sarah, Obama was Barack’s step-grandmother and promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village.
According to the Associated Press, Sarah Obama passed away at around 4 a.m. local time while being treated at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu.
“She died this morning. We are devastated,” daughter Marsat Onyango told the AP via phone.
“Mama was sick with normal diseases; she did not die of COVID-19,” Sheik Musa Ismail, a family spokesman, said, adding that she had tested negative for the disease. Ismail said Obama had been ill for a week before being taken to the hospital.
“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,” Barack tweeted with a photo of himself as a child with his grandmother. “We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”
The AP reports Sarah Obama will be buried on Tuesday (March 30) during a funeral under Islamic rites.
Sarah Obama was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr. The family is part of Kenya’s Luo ethnic group.
In his memoir, Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama referred to Mama Sara as “Granny” and described meeting her during his 1988 trip to his father’s homeland. She later attended his first inauguration as president in 2009.
For decades, Sarah Obama helped raise orphans, even raising some of them in her home. The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation helped provide food and education to orphans. School supplies and medical needs were among the resources the program assisted with.