By Protus Onyango
Siaya, Kenya: The family of Zeituni Abong’o Onyango Obama, the aunt of US President Barack Obama who died on Monday in the US is making funeral arrangements for her burial.
According to Mustafa Obama, the US President’s half brother who spoke to The Standard at their Kogelo home in Siaya County, the family received the news of Zeituni’s death on Tuesday.
“We were informed by a relative who has been living with aunt Zeituni that she succumbed to cancer. The death has affected us so much and more so Mama Sarah Obama,” Mustafa said.
He said his aunt died in her sleep at the Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Harborlights facility in South Boston.
“She was taken ill in January and suffered from breast cancer and respiratory problems,” Mustafa said.
He revealed that the family is in contact with the late Zeituni’s brother Onyango Omar Obama who lives in the US to plan on how their kin’s body will be airlifted to Kenya.
“We want to give our aunt a decent burial and according to our Luo tradition, she will be interred at her home in Kendu Bay. She was married there, but her husband died before she left for the US in 2000. She has four children —a girl and three sons, all working in Nairobi,” Mustafa added.
Security was tight at Mama Sarah’s home and only a few mourners and close family members were allowed into the home after undergoing strict security checks. A family member who requested not to be named said the death of her aunt has robbed the family of a very generous person.
“I met her and lived with her for two weeks in the US when we visited President Obama when he was still the Illinois Senator,” she said.
She added, “She was very magnanimous and loving. We shall miss her counsel and smile. She was devoted to her kids. She loved people and loved life. She loved to travel mostly by train and enjoyed taking pictures everywhere she went. She wanted us to live as a united family.”
Yussuf Odhiambo, a neighbour said he rushed to Sarah’s home after receiving the news of the death but did not know who in the family was dead.
“I have never seen Zeituni as she rarely visited and at first I thought that it was Sarah’s son Abong’o who was dead. But I later learnt that Zeituni is also called Abong’o,” Mr Odhiambo said.
Omondi Ogutu, 70, who is related to the family said that although they are mourning the passing of their daughter, the family is considering burying her at a cemetery in Kisumu in case she is rejected by her husband’s people.
“There were differences in her marriage but we hope her children will take charge and bury her at her matrimonial home. But if there is a problem, we might be forced to bury her at a cemetery as our tradition does not allow us to bury a married daughter (migogo),” Mr Ogutu said.
The family is expecting President Obama to attend his aunt’s burial and is doing preparations to welcome him and other high-profile visitors at the funeral.
“White House determines my brother’s schedule, but I urge him to come home and mourn with us. We are missing him and let him use this opportunity to come home,” Mustafa said.
Workers at the neighbouring Kogelo Village Resort and Malik Obama Hotel were doing minor repairs and routine maintenance in preparation to receive dignitaries expected at the funeral.
The death has slowed down business at the Nyang’oma market as traders gathered in small groups discussing the death in hushed tones.