Sarah Obama, the matriarch of former U.S. President Barack Obama, has died at the age of 99, relatives and officials confirmed on Monday.
Obama, who was often called Mama Sarah by those close to her, died around 4 a.m. local time while being treated at Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya.
“She died this morning. We are devastated,” her daughter Marsat Onyango told the Associated Press.
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“Mama was sick with normal diseases, she did not die of COVID-19,” Sheik Musa Ismail, a spokesman for the family said. He also said that she tested negative for the virus and felt ill for a week before being taken to a hospital. She will be buried on Tuesday with a funeral held under Islamic rites.
President Obama has been informed of her death and sent his condolences to the family.
“The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said. “We’ve lost a string, virtuous woman, a matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values.
She was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather and she helped raise his father, Barack Obama Sr. The ex president recalled meeting “Granny” for the first time in a 1988 trip to Kenya in his memoir, Dreams from My Father. She also attended his 2009 presidential inauguration.
In 2014, Mama Sarah received the inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Education Pioneer Award from the United Nations for her decades long work to make sure that every child received an education.