Barack Obama Mourns the Loss of His Step-Grandmother in Kenya: 'We Will Miss Her Dearly'

Barack Obama and Mama Sarah
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The former U.S. president confirmed the sad news via Instagram on Monday.

Barack Obama is mourning the loss of his step-grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama.

The former U.S. president took to Instagram on Monday, revealing that the matriarch of his Kenyan family has died. She was at least 99 years old.

"My family and I are mourning the loss of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, affectionately known to many as 'Mama Sarah' but known to us as 'Dani' or Granny," Obama's message began. "Born in the first quarter of the last century, in Nyanza Province, on the shores of Lake Victoria, she had no formal schooling, and in the ways of her tribe, she was married off to a much older man while only a teen. She would spend the rest of her life in the tiny village of Alego, in a small home built of mud-and thatch brick and without electricity or indoor plumbing. There she raised eight children, tended to her goats and chickens, grew an assortment of crops, and took what the family didn’t use to sell at the local open-air market."

"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," he continued. "When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force. When I first traveled to Kenya to learn more about my heritage and father, who had passed away by then, it was Granny who served as a bridge to the past, and it was her stories that helped fill a void in my heart."

Obama added that during the course of her life, "Granny would witness epochal changes taking place around the globe," like world war, liberation movements, moon landings and the advent of the computer age."

"She would live to fly on jets, receive visitors from around the world, and see one of her grandsons get elected to the United States presidency," he explained. "And yet her essential spirit -- strong, proud, hard-working, unimpressed with conventional marks of status and full of common sense and good humor -- never changed. We will miss her dearly, but celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life."

According to The Associated Press, Mama Sarah promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village. She died around 4 a.m. local time on Monday, the outlet reports, while being treated at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city.

"She died this morning," her daughter, Marsat Onyango, told AP. "We are devastated."

“Mama was sick with normal diseases. She did not die of COVID-19,” family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail added, sharing that she tested negative for the coronavirus after being taken to the hospital for feeling ill for a week.

Hear more on the Obamas in the video below.