Mama Sarah laid to rest in line with Covid rules

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 00:00 |
Members of the Muslim community carry Mama Sarah Obama’s body to the graveside at her home in Kogelo yesterday. Photo/PD/Viola Kosome

Baraka Karama and Rawlings Otieno

The sun has set on Mama Sarah Obama, who was laid to rest at her Nyang’oma Kogelo home in Siaya County yesterday afternoon in line with the Muslim traditions.

 The matriarch of the wider Obama family, who died in Kisumu on Monday after a long battle with diabetes, was buried in adherence to the Covid-19 protocols.

 Mama Sarah is the grandmother of former US President Barack Obama who mourned her as:  “A beloved grandmother affectionately known to many as “dani”  or’’ granny”.

A contingent of police officers erected two roadblocks on the road leading to her home before allowing a handful of mourners into the compound. 

Villagers, who have been her neighbours for over six decades, were denied entry into the homestead to pay their last respects.

 “We have instructions from the high office to ensure the burial remains private and must be conducted in line with laid down regulations,” said Siaya County Commander Francis Kooli.

Sign of respect

  Hilda Oketch, 79, expressed her disappointment for being locked out of the homestead.

 “I woke up very early to come and bury my dear friend but the police have chased me away. I feel very bad that despite being her friend I have not been able to say goodbye to her,” she said.

 Foreign Affairs Minister Rachel Omamo and Information Principal Secretary  Jerome Ochieng represented the national government and read President Uhuru Kenyatta’s condolence message.

Uhuru eulogised Mama Sarah as a diligent woman who played a great role in nurturing young girls.

 He said: “She was a great woman who will be remembered for the role she played in ensuring the young girls get education that will make them valuable in society.”

Uhuru also gave a personal donation of Sh1 million to the bereaved family. Mama Sarah was the step mother of Barack Obama Sr, the father of the former US president.

Governors Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) and Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) also praised Mama Sarah’s philanthropic activities in the village.

Rasanga said: “As a sign of respect to her, the county government of Siaya has decided to gazette her home as one of the tourist attraction sites, so that visitors can learn more about the history of the larger Obama family,” Rasanga said.

 Mama Sarah’s family, led by her son Said Obama, eulogised her as a disciplinarian whose ideals helped in moulding them into responsible citizens. 

“Right from childhood she was strict and despite not having attended school, she made sure that we never missed school,” he said.

Malick Obama, his step grandchild described Mama Sarah as the unifying factor of the family.

On Monday, President Obama paid a glowing tribute to her applauding the  role she played in nurturing his late father.

 “Granny raised my father as her own and it was through her love and encouragement, that he was able to defy the odds to get a scholarship to attend an American University,” said Obama.

Little was known of Mama Sarah until the then Illinois Senator Barack paid her a visit in August 2006.

It was during the visit that Mama Sarah predicted that Michelle would make a good wife and was fit to be the First Lady.

Mama Sarah vividly narrated her encounter with the couple in 1992 during the 2006 visit.

 “She was a joyful lady and was not proud. I knew she would be a good wife for my grandson and that is why I approved of her.

She was just like any other woman. The only difference is that she could not speak Luo. So Auma would translate,” Mama Sarah said.

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