Nairobi, Kenya (AP) – Former United States President Barack Obama’s Kenyan patriarch Sarah Obama has died, relatives and officials said Monday, but did not say what caused the deaths. He was at least 99 years old.
Mama Sarah, as the former US president’s stepmother used to be called, was a philanthropist who promoted the education of girls’ orphans. She died at 4 a.m. local time while being treated at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Training Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city, according to daughter Marsat Onyango.
“She died this morning. “We are devastated,” Onyango told the Associated Press.
He will be remembered for his work to promote education for orphans. This was said by the governor of Kisumu Anyang Nyongo, who expressed his condolences to the residents of Kogelo village for losing the patriarch.
“He was a philanthropist who mobilized funds to pay school fees for orphans,” he said.
Sarah Obama was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather, helping raise her father, Senior Barack Obama. The family is part of the Luo ethnic group in Kenya.
President Obama often loved her, calling her “Grandma” in his memoir “Dreams from My Father.” He described how he had met them during a trip to their homeland in 1988, their initial discomfort as they struggled to communicate, which turned into a warm bond. He attended the inauguration of his first president in 2009. Later, Obama spoke again about his grandmother in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2014.
For decades, Sarah Obama has helped orphans by raising some at home. The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation helped provide food and education to children who have lost their parents by providing school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs, and school fees.
In an interview with the AP in 2014, he said that even adult letters would come, but he could not read them. She said she did not want her children to be illiterate, so she saw that all the children in her family went to school.
He recalled that the father of the family, from Kogelo village to the larger town of Ngia, rode his bicycle six miles (nine kilometers) to school every day on his bicycle to make sure he had received an education he had never received.
“I love education,” said Sarah Obama, as children “learn to be self-sufficient,” especially girls who often do not have the opportunity to attend school.
“If a woman gets an education, she will not only educate her family, but also the whole village,” he said.
In recognition of his work to support education, he was appointed by the UN in 2014. She was honored to receive the First Prize for Women’s Entrepreneurship Education Day.
Details of his funeral will be announced later, the daughter said. Sarah Obama was a Muslim; it is unclear whether she will be buried according to her faith, which dictates that she be buried within 24 hours of her death.