Obama family matriarch has died in a Kenyan hospital at 99

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, file photo, Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, speaks to the media about her reaction to Obama's re-election, in the garden of her house in the village of Kogelo, western Kenya. Sarah Obama, the matriarch of former U.S. President Barack Obama's Kenyan family has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday, March 29, 2021 but did not disclose the cause of death. She was at least 99 years old. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

NAIROBI – Sarah Obama, the matriarch of former U.S. President Barack Obama's Kenyan family has died, relatives and officials confirmed Monday. She was at least 99 years old.

Mama Sarah, as the step-grandmother of the former U.S. president was fondly called, promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village. She passed away around 4 a.m. local time while being treated at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city in the country's west, according to her daughter Marsat Onyango.

“She died this morning. We are devastated,” Onyango told The Associated Press on a phone call.

"Mama was sick with normal diseases she did not die of COVID-19,” a family spokesman Sheik Musa Ismail said, adding that she had tested negative for the disease. He said she had been ill for a week before being taken to the hospital.

President Barack Obama has sent his condolences to his family, he said.

“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,” the former president posted on Twitter, with a photo of the young Obama with his grandmother. “We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”

She will be buried Tuesday before midday and the funeral will be held under Islamic rites.

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