Obama pays tribute to his grandmother, Sarah Obama, who died at 99

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Obama pays tribute to his grandmother, Sarah Obama, who died at 99
Obama is welcomed by his paternal 82-year-old grandmother Sarah Obama at their rural home in Siaya, Kisumu 26 August 2006.SIMON MAINA/Getty Images
  • Former President Barack Obama on Monday mourned his paternal step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, who died at 99 in a Kenyan hospital.
  • "We will miss her dearly, but we'll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life," Obama said in a tweet.
  • Sarah Obama spent decades raising money to educate girls and orphans, and was honored by the United Nations for her work in 2014.

Former President Barack Obama on Monday mourned his paternal step-grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, who died at the age of 99 at a hospital in Kisumu, Kenya.

"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," he said in a statement. "We will miss her dearly, but we'll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life."

Sarah Obama, known as Mama Sarah, spent decades raising money to educate girls and orphans, and was honored by the United Nations for her work in 2014. Barack Obama first met Mama Sarah, who was his grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama's third wife, during a 1988 trip to his father's home country. The former president last visited his grandmother in Kenya in 2018.

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He wrote that Mama Sarah's stories about his father "helped fill a void in my heart" and called the family matriarch "strong, proud, hard-working, unimpressed with conventional marks of status and full of common sense and good humor."

"Although not his birth mother, Granny would raise my father as her own, and it was in part thanks to her love and encouragement that he was able to defy the odds and do well enough in school to get a scholarship to attend an American university," Obama said in his statement. "When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force."

Mama Sarah spent her life in the western Kenyan village of Alego, where she raised eight children in a home without electricity or indoor plumbing, Obama said.

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The former president's father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., worked as a top economist for the Kenyan government and died in car accident in 1982.

A spokesman for the family, Sheik Musa Ismail, told The Associated Press that Mama Sarah was ill for a week before being hospitalized at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in western Kenya.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also released a statement paying tribute to Obama's life.

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"The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation," he said. "We've lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values."

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