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Obama Mourns His 'Mama Sarah'

Former president's stepgrandmother dies in Kenya
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2021 10:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – Sarah Obama, the matriarch of former President Obama's Kenyan family, has died, per the AP. She was at least 99 years old. Mama Sarah, as the stepgrandmother of the former president was fondly called, promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village. She died at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, one of Kenya's largest cities, says daughter Marsat Onyango. The cause of death has not been specified, but the family says she didn't have COVID. "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," tweeted the former president. "We will miss her dearly, but we'll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life."

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She'll be buried Tuesday before midday, and the funeral will be held under Islamic rites. "The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation," said President Uhuru Kenyatta. "We've lost a strong, virtuous woman, a matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values." 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. President Obama often showed affection toward her 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 the warm bond that ensued. She attended his first inauguration as president in 2009, and he spoke about her in presidential speeches.

(Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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