Barack Obama’s grandmother Sarah dies in Kenya aged 99 

Barack Obama has paid tribute to his grandmother Sarah following her death in Kenya aged 99 on Monday. 

The former president tweeted: ‘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.’

Sarah Obama passed away around 4 a.m. local time while being treated at a hospital in Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city following an undisclosed illness, her daughter Marsat Onyango said.

Family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail confirmed her death was not COVID related.  

She 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.

President Obama often showed affection toward his step grandmother and referred to her as ‘Granny’ in his memoir, ‘Dreams from My Father.’ 

He described meeting her during his 1988 trip to his father’s homeland and their initial awkwardness as they struggled to communicate which developed into a warm bond. 

She attended his first inauguration as president in 2009. Later, Obama spoke about his grandmother again in his September 2014 speech to the U.N. General Assembly. 

President Barack Obama had been informed of the death and has sent his condolences, according to family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail. The pair are pictured in 2006

President Barack Obama had been informed of the death and has sent his condolences, according to family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail. The pair are pictured in 2006

President Barack Obama had been informed of the death and has sent his condolences, according to family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail. The pair are pictured in 2006  

The former president tweeted: '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'

The former president tweeted: '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'

The former president tweeted: ‘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’

For decades, Mama Sarah, as she was known, promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village. She raised many in her home.

The Mama Sara Obama Foundation helped provide food and education to children who lost their parents – providing school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs, and school fees. 

Her daughter Onyango said Monday: ‘She died this morning. We are devastated.’ 

‘Mama was sick with normal diseases she did not die of COVID-19,’ a family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail said, adding that she had tested negative for the disease. He said she had been ill for a week before being taken to the hospital.

She will be buried Tuesday before midday and the funeral will be held under Islamic rites. 

President Barack Obama, center, with his half sister Auma Obama, left, and his step-grandmother Sarah Obama, center-right, walk in Kogelo, western Kenya in 2018. Sarah Obama, the matriarch of Barack Obama's Kenyan family has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday but did not disclose the cause of death. She was at least 99 years old

President Barack Obama, center, with his half sister Auma Obama, left, and his step-grandmother Sarah Obama, center-right, walk in Kogelo, western Kenya in 2018. Sarah Obama, the matriarch of Barack Obama's Kenyan family has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday but did not disclose the cause of death. She was at least 99 years old

President Barack Obama, center, with his half sister Auma Obama, left, and his step-grandmother Sarah Obama, center-right, walk in Kogelo, western Kenya in 2018. Sarah Obama, the matriarch of Barack Obama’s Kenyan family has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday but did not disclose the cause of death. She was at least 99 years old

‘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 will be remembered for her work to promote education to empower orphans, Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong´o said while offering his condolences to the people of Kogelo village for losing a matriarch.

‘She was a philanthropist who mobilized funds to pay school fees for the orphans,’ he said.

In this 2006 photo, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama meets his step-grandmother Sarah Obama at his father's house in Kogelo village, western Kenya

In this 2006 photo, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama meets his step-grandmother Sarah Obama at his father's house in Kogelo village, western Kenya

In this 2006 photo, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama meets his step-grandmother Sarah Obama at his father’s house in Kogelo village, western Kenya

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, pictured in 2012, has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday. She was at least 99 years old

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, pictured in 2012, has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday. She was at least 99 years old

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, pictured in 2012, has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday. She was at least 99 years old

Already a national celebrity after the former Illinois senator Barack Obama visited Kenya in 2006, Sarah’s modest homestead became a tourist attraction with Obama’s November 2008 election triumph. 

Born in 1922 in a village on the shores of Lake Victoria, Sarah was the third wife of Hussein Onyango Obama, President Obama’s grandfather, a herbalist and a village elder who fought for the British in Burma, now called Myanmar.

Onyango Obama, who died in 1975, is said to be the first man to swap goatskin clothing for trousers in his village. He returned from the war in Burma with a gramophone and a picture of a white woman he claimed to have married. 

On his trip back to Kenya as US president, he met with her among other family members in Nairobi.

After leaving office, he travelled to her home in the village of Kogelo in 2018, joking he had been unable to do so in 2015 as his jet was too big to land in Kisumu.     

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of then U.S. President Barack Obama, holds a photograph of them together, as she speaks to the media in the living room of her house in 2008

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of then U.S. President Barack Obama, holds a photograph of them together, as she speaks to the media in the living room of her house in 2008

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of then U.S. President Barack Obama, holds a photograph of them together, as she speaks to the media in the living room of her house in 2008 

In a 2014 interview with AP, Sarah said that even as an adult, letters would arrive but she couldn´t read them. She said she didn´t want her children to be illiterate, so she saw that all her family´s children went to school. 

She recalled pedaling the president´s father six miles to school on the back of her bicycle every day from the family´s home village of Kogelo to the bigger town of Ngiya to make sure he got the education that she never had.

‘I love education,’ Sarah Obama said, because children ‘learn they can be self-sufficient,’ especially girls who too often had no opportunity to go to school.

‘If a woman gets an education she will not only educate her family but educate the entire village,’ she said.

In recognition of her work to support education, she was honored by the United Nations in 2014, receiving the inaugural Women´s Entrepreneurship Day Education Pioneer Award.  

Sarah Obama, was the second wife of President Obama´s grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr. The former president is pictured as a child with his father

Sarah Obama, was the second wife of President Obama´s grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr. The former president is pictured as a child with his father

Sarah Obama, was the second wife of President Obama´s grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr. The former president is pictured as a child with his father 

Obama is linked to his Kenyan family via his father Barack senior, a pipe-smoking economist who Obama has admitted he ‘never truly’ knew. 

He met Barack Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, in Hawaii. But he walked out when Obama was just two and died in a car crash in Nairobi in 1982, aged 46.

Obama senior had worked in the government of Jomo Kenyatta, who led Kenya at independence from Britain until his death 14 years later in 1978.

The two men did not get on well, with Kenyatta -the father of Kenya’s current president Uhuru Kenyatta – sacking Obama senior, and blackballing him for further government jobs, an ostracization that would help fuel alcoholism.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, file photo, Sarah Obama, then U.S. President Barack Obama's step-grandmother, listens as she attends 'Women's Entrepreneurship Day' where she received the Pioneer Award at U.N. headquarters

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, file photo, Sarah Obama, then U.S. President Barack Obama's step-grandmother, listens as she attends 'Women's Entrepreneurship Day' where she received the Pioneer Award at U.N. headquarters

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, file photo, Sarah Obama, then U.S. President Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, listens as she attends ‘Women’s Entrepreneurship Day’ where she received the Pioneer Award at U.N. headquarters

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