Sarah Onyango Obama, known as Mama Sarah, the third wife of former US president Barack Obama's paternal grandfather, died on Monday in the lake-bordering western city of Kisumu, in Kenya, the Kenyan presidency announced. She was 99 years old.
"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," Obama tweeted on Monday.
"We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life."
We've lost a strong, virtuous woman," said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, "a matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values."
She passed away while receiving medical treatment at a hospital in Kisumu. The statement did not specify what the illness was, but a spokesperson for the family clarified to the BBC that she did not die of COVID-19, Business Insider
She was born in either 1920 or 1921, The New York Times
reported, quoting her as saying that she wasn't sure of her exact date of birth. At the time, the newspaper noted, birth records were not reliable or exact.
She told the Times
in 2007 of her strict and dedicated commitment to Islam: "I am a strong believer of the Islamic faith."
Former US President Barack Obama embrace his grandmother Sarah Obama at the Sauti Kuu resource centre near his ancestral home in Nyangoma Kogelo village in Siaya county, western Kenya July 16, 2018. (Credit: REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA)
She was also a "loving and celebrated philanthropist who graciously shared the little she had with the less fortunate in her community," the president noted, referring to her philanthropic work.
Obama has, over the years, launched various community development projects in her home in Nyang'oma Kogelo in Siaya County, about 60 kilometers northwest of Kisumu.
She has, for years, aided orphans in any way she could, even raising some in her home, France 24 reported.
In 2009, she launched the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation for the purpose of creating a fund for girls' education, particularly for those who can't afford it. The funds were also directed toward the building of an educational campus.
"I am their sole parent right now, so I help pay school fees and also get them the things they need, like sanitary towels, books, necessities like a pencil, school uniforms. That’s what I do," she told NPR in 2014.
She was present at her grandson's 2008 inauguration as the first Black president. The New York Times
noted that during a reporter's visit to her village in 2014, she credited the running drinking water, properly-installed electric power and paved roads to her grandson's success.
She will be buried on Tuesday in her home in Kogelo, the Daily Nation