By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Former U.S. President Barack Obama took to the social media to mourn his step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, who died at a hospital in Kenya at the age of 99.
Sarah was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, a herbalist and a village elder who fought for the British in Burma, now called Myanmar.
She helped raise the former president’s father.
“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. When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force,” Obama wrote.
President Obama often showed affection toward her and referred to her as “Granny” in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.” He described meeting her during his 1988 trip to his father’s homeland and their initial awkwardness as they struggled to communicate which developed into a warm bond.
On thereother hand however, former US First Lady Michelle Obama, she says the first time she met Mama Sarah Obama, it was love at first sight.
In her “Becoming” memoir, former Michelle Obama describes her first encounter with Mama Sarah in detail, concluding how safe and confident she felt in her presence.
The year was 1991 in the heat of multiparty clamour, and Michelle and Barrack Obama, with new jobs each, had just engaged. They had taken a vacation to Kenya. They arrived in Nairobi in the morning and found Barrack’s sister, Auma, waiting with her rickety Volkswagen bug. They later took a train to Kisumu and a matatu to Kogelo village at grand Sarah’s home.
“Granny Sarah, they called her. She was a short, wide-built lady with wise eyes and a crinkling smile. She spoke no English, only Luo and expressed delight that we had come all this way to see her,” she writes.
“She studied me with an extra, bemused curiosity, as if trying to place where I came from and how precisely I’d landed on her doorstep,” Michelle writes.
When the night fell, Mama Sarah slaughtered – Michelle says “butchered” – a chicken and made them a stew which she served with ugali. Neighbours and relatives also flocked the homestead to see them.
“I gobbled the food gratefully as the sun dropped and night settled over the village, which had no electricity, leaving a bright spray of stars overhead,” she writes.
“I had a new job, a fiancé and an expanded family, an approving Kenyan granny even. It was true: I’d been flung out of my world, and for the moment, it was all good.”
The following year, Barrack and Michelle got married.
Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila have condoled with with Uhuru penning a message of comfort, saying, “The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation. We’ve lo:st a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values.”
Raila eulogized, “In the passing of Mama Sarah Obama, we have lost a matriarch. She single-handedly kept the family going long after the husband departed.”
Via Social media on Monday, Raila said in between, she became a symbol of the resilience and confidence of the African woman.