The Life And Times Of Obama’s Kenyan Granny Mama Sarah Obama

The late Mama Sarah Obama
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Written by See Africa Today

On the 29th day of March 2021, sad news engulfed the bubbly Kogelo Village in Siaya County Kenya; the village’s matriarch Sarah Onyango Obama alias Mama Sarah Obama was no more.

Mama Sarah as she was fondly referred to was a mother to many, a pillar of support for thousands and a source of inspiration to those who knew her well or interacted with her. Mama Sarah had other aliases; Sarah Ogwel and Sarah Hussein Obama.

She is an icon to the world by virtue of being a grandmother to former US President Barrack Obama who served for two terms – 2008 to 2016 – before Republican Donald Trump took over the mantle and was elbowed out by Obama’s former Vice President, Joe Biden, a democrat.

Memories Barrack Obama Shared With Kenyan Grandmother Mama Sarah Obama

Born in 1922, Mama Sarah was the third wife to Obama’s paternal grandfather. She grew to become a revered education advocate and philanthropist whose works and fame transformed the lives of scores who benefitted from her philanthropy.

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Besides, she is the one who raised Barrack Obama Snr – Obama’s father – and she took pride in raising a man who sired a fine young man who became America’s first black president. In an interview with AP, she recalled cycling for six miles daily to take Barrack Obama Snr to school.

Mama Sarah shared a special bond with the former US President who fondly referred to her as “granny Sarah”. When he visited Kenya in 2018, the two were captured having light moments although Mama Sarah could only utter a few English words.

An interpreter kept the conversation going between them as he toured the famous Kogello village in Siaya where his late father was buried. In his fascinating memoir ‘Dream from by Father”, Obama fondly recalls the feeling of meeting his grandmother for the first time in 1988.

Obama was fetched at the airport by his half-sister Dr Auma Obama in an old Volkswagen beetle that kept breaking down through the journey but he enjoyed each moment that he spent with her sister en route to Kogello where he met “Granny Sarah”.

Meeting his grandmother, he wrote, felt special and created a sense of belonging having visited his father’s final resting place. He detailed that he enjoyed every moment of his first meeting with his grandmother and not even the language barrier stopped the warm feeling in him when interacting with his grandmother.

When he was elected the 44th president of the United States of America, Mama Sarah was among those who flew to the US for his inauguration. She loved the experience of it all.

She also became a great part of the US culture and at one time attended the US National Day held in Nairobi during the tenure of US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger.

During Obama’s campaigns, she spoke highly of her grandson and urged people to shun racism citing that a leader can be born from a different race which should not be used to determine his/her leadership skills because all that matter is his ability to lead and not his colour.

Mama Sarah Obama

Mama Sarah Obama. [Photo: The Star]

Mama Sarah’s vocalness helped dilute a tough debate on the then president’s religion. His paternal grandfather was a Muslim but Obama who grew up in Chicago’s southside grew up as a Christian but more as a leader who respected different religions.

While delivering a keynote speech in 2014 to the UN General Assembly, Obama spoke highly of his granny and hailed her for her philanthropy and the great works of ensuring that children in Kogelo attain education.

That same year, Mama Sarah Obama got the Pioneer Award courtesy of the United Nations due to her selflessness in ensuring that education is a priority for all.

Through the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, she took in orphans and took them to school, fed them, clothed and provided housing. Children loved her because she helped change their lives.

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Her inspiration towards her aggressive campaign in education was from her illiteracy which she hated so much. She is on record saying that she receives letters but is unable to read them.

This is what triggered her benevolence towards orphans. She was a believer that children can change their lives and become the captains of their ship with a good education.

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About the author

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See Africa Today

Pharis Kinyua is the editor of See Africa Today. With over seven years of experience in digital media, he has a soft spot for African tours and travel. His drive is to tell the rest of the world what Africa offers, the best accommodation facilities, national parks, culture, shopping malls and best airline deals to travel to Africa

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