Former US President Barack Obama’s grandmother dies at 99

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Former US President Barack Obama’s grandmother, Sarah Obama, has died aged 99 in western Kenya, her daughter told AFP Monday.

“It is true she has gone to be with the Lord,” said an emotional Marsat Onyango, her daughter, “she passed on this morning.”

Sarah Obama, popularly known as Mama Sarah, had been admitted to the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu.

Once a simple countrywoman, Sarah was for a long time best known for the hot porridge and doughnuts she served at a local school.

But she rose to world fame with the 2008 election of her step-grandson Barack as the first black US president.

Already a national celebrity after the former Illinois senator Barack Obama visited Kenya in 2006, Sarah’s modest homestead became a tourist attraction with Obama’s November 2008 election triumph.

Born in 1922 in a village on the shores of the glittering waters of Lake Victoria, Sarah was the third wife of Hussein Onyango Obama, President Obama’s grandfather, a herbalist, and a village elder who fought for the British in Burma now called Myanmar.

Onyango Obama, who died in 1975, is said to be the first man to swap goatskin clothing for trousers in his village. He returned from the war in Burma with a gramophone and a picture of a white woman he claimed to have married.

Although not a blood relation, Obama often refers to Sarah as his grandmother, calling her “granny”.

On his trip back to Kenya as US president, he met with her among other family members in Nairobi.

After leaving office, he travelled to her home in the village of Kogelo in 2018, joking he had been unable to do so in 2015 as his jet was too big to land in Kisumu.

Obama is linked to his Kenyan family via his father, Barack senior, a pipe-smoking economist who Obama has admitted he “never truly” knew.

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