“Mom had normal illnesses that she didn’t die of from COVID-19,” said a family spokesman, Sheik Musa Ismail, adding that she tested negative for the disease. He said she had been sick for a week before she was taken to the hospital.
President Barack Obama had been informed of the death and offered condolences, he said.
She will be buried before noon on Tuesday and the funeral will take place under Islamic rites.
“The death of Mama Sarah is a severe blow to our nation. We lost a strong, virtuous woman, a matriarch who held the Obama family together and was an icon of family values, ”said President Uhuru Kenyatta.
She will be remembered for her work promoting orphan empowerment education, Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o said while offering condolences to the people of Kogelo Village for the loss of a matriarch.
“She was a philanthropist who raised money to pay the school fees for the orphans,” he said.
Sarah Obama was the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama Sr. The family is of the Kenyan Luo ethnic group.
President Obama often showed affection for her and referred to her as “Grandma” in his treatise “Dreaming About My Father”. He described meeting her during his 1988 trip to his father’s home and her initial awkwardness as they tried to communicate, which developed into a warm bond. She attended his first inauguration as president in 2009. Obama later spoke again about his grandmother in his speech to the United States General Assembly in September 2014.
Sarah Obama has been helping orphans and raising some in their homes for decades. The Mama Sara Obama Foundation helped provide food and education for children who lost their parents – school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs and school fees.
In a 2014 interview with AP, she said that even as an adult, letters would arrive but she could not read them. She said she didn’t want her children to be illiterate, so she saw that all of her family’s children were in school.
She remembered cycling the president’s father every day from the Kogelo family’s home village to the larger town of Ngiya four miles to school to make sure he got the education she never had.
“I love education,” said Sarah Obama, because children “learn that they can be self-sufficient,” especially girls who too often haven’t had the opportunity to go to school.
“When a woman receives an education, she will not only raise her family, she will raise the entire village,” she said.
In recognition of her work in supporting education, she was honored by the United Nations in 2014 and received the first Entrepreneurship Day for Women Pioneer Award.