An Obama family member has passed away. Former President Barack Obama offered his condolences after he learned that Sarah Obama, a member of his Kenyan family, was confirmed dead on the morning of March 29.
“Mama Sarah,” as Obama’s step-grandmother was fondly called, appeared to have been the opposite of her grandson. Rather than calling for the government to take care of the people, she did it herself. Sarah Obama was known for helping orphans, even raising some of them in her home. She also promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village, using her Mama Sarah Obama Foundation to help provide food and education to orphaned children. The private charity provided school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs, and school fees.
According to her daughter, Marsat Onyango, Sarah Obama passed away at around 4 a.m. local time, while she was being treated at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu, which is the third largest city in Kenya.
“She died this morning. We are devastated,” Onyango told The Associated Press during a phone call.
“Mama was sick with normal diseases; she did not die of COVID-19,” said Sheik Musa Ismail, a family spokesman, noting that she had tested negative for the coronavirus.
According to Ismail, Sarah Obama, the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather who helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr., had been sick for at least one week before being brought to the hospital.
“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,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
“She was a philanthropist who mobilized funds to pay school fees for the orphans,” Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o said.
Former President Obama had referred to Sarah Obama affectionately as “Granny” in his memoir. She attended his first presidential inauguration in 2009.
According to reporting from WGNTV, she will be buried on March 30 “before midday and the funeral will be held under Islamic rites.”