Former United States President, Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama passed away on Monday while receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment at a hospital in Kisumu, Western Kenya.
Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement describes Mama Sarah as fondly called “a matriarch who held together with the Obama family and was an icon of family values,” adding that “the passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation. We’ve lost a strong, virtuous woman.”
According to CNN, Mama Sarah was the third wife of the former US leader’s paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama and she helped raise the former president’s father, Barack Sr.
According to President Obama, they call her Granny or Dani. She rose to prominence in 2006 when she was visited in Kenya by Obama during his tenure as a US senator.
Obama visited her again in 2015 when he became the first US president to visit Kenya and in 2018 after he left the office.
Mama Sarah was a devout Muslim and will be remembered for her philanthropy.
President Obama’s half-sister Auma paid tribute to their grandmother on Twitter.
“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! “
Mama Sarah was also renowned for her strides in helping indigent children acquire education in Kenyan communities through her foundation.
In 2014, she also received the United Nations’ Pioneer Award for her foundation’s efforts in education.
President Obama lost his American maternal grandmother, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, to cancer in 2008. She was aged 86.
Read below President tribute to Dani as published on Obama’s official Facebook page
“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. Born in the first quarter of the last century, in Nyanza Province, on the shores of Lake Victoria, she had no formal schooling, and in the ways of her tribe, she was married off to a much older man while only a teen. She would spend the rest of her life in the tiny village of Alego, in a small home built of mud-and thatch brick and without electricity or indoor plumbing. There she raised eight children, tended to her goats and chickens, grew an assortment of crops, and took what the family didn’t use to sell at the local open-air market.”
“Although not his birth mother, Granny would raise my father as her own, and it was in part thanks to her love and encouragement that he was able to defy the odds and do well enough in school to get a scholarship to attend an American university. When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force. When I first travelled to Kenya to learn more about my heritage and father, who had passed away by then, it was Granny who served as a bridge to the past, and it was her stories that helped fill a void in my heart.”
“During the course of her life, Granny would witness epochal changes taking place around the globe: world war, liberation movements, moon landings, and the advent of the computer age. She would live to fly on jets, receive visitors from around the world, and see one of her grandsons get elected to the United States presidency. And yet her essential spirit—strong, proud, hard-working, unimpressed with conventional marks of status and full of common sense and good humour—never changed.”
“We will miss her dearly, but celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”