Former President Barack Obama’s grandmother Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama has died at the age of 99.

Known as Mama Sarah, she passed away early Monday (Mar. 29) at a hospital in the city of Kisumu in western Kenya, her daughter Marsat Onyango told the Daily Nation newspaper.

A family spokesperson said that she’d been ill for a week, but did not die from COVID-19, as she had tested negative for the disease.

Mama Sarah rose to national fame in Kenya back in 2008 after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

Tourists were known to visit Kogelo, the village where she lived, and would often knock on her door.

She used her celebrity to promote her educational and philanthropic efforts, and established the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, which provides food and education to orphans, France24 reported.

Mama Sarah was the third wife of Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.

“The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement. “We’ve lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values.”

According to the family spokesperson, Mama Sarah will be buried on Tuesday (Mar. 30).

“We will miss her dearly,” Barack Obama said in a statement, “but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”


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