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Mama Sarah Obama: The village granny who brought hope to sleepy Kogello

By Harold Odhiambo | Mar 29th 2021 | 3 min read
The late Mama Sarah Obama passed on Monday morning. (Standard/Mbugua Kibera)

The late Mama Sarah Obama, the matriarch of the former US president Barrack Obama’s family in Kenya may be dead but the impact she has left behind on the once-sleepy and quiet Kogello village will be felt for decades.

The deceased rose from a village granny to an award-winning globe-trotting celebrity and became a force to reckon with following her grandson’s rise to the presidency of the United States of America.

She has been the face of the Obama family and has kept the expansive family together since the former President fired the family into fame after winning the US Presidency in 2008.

When Obama first visited her some 34 years ago in 1987, Mama Sarah was an ordinary village woman living a simple life in a simple hut and looking after her cattle.

Kogello village where her home lies were still bushy and were decades away from meaningful civilization. But there was hope.

For Mama Sarah, the village is where she made a living and would sell vegetables in the small centre that existed in Kogelo.

Her home neither had a fence nor a gate and having a  watchman was wishful thought. There was no electricity and she would walk a long distance to get water.

During his last visit to Kenya in 2018, Obama recalled how he found Mama Sarah in her hut after he had travelled for two days to retrace his roots in Kenya.

And this turned out to be the turning point for both the family and Kogelo village as a whole. A few years later, Obama’s journey to the presidency kicked off when he began preparing to contest the Illinois Senate seat, a move that would later have a great ripple effect in the small village of Kogello.

Before the poll, he travelled to Kenya in 2004 and sought Mama Sarah’s blessings which placed the simple village granny on record as one of the key people in Obama’s life.

Fortunes suddenly changed for the region after her grandson- Barack Hussein Obama, won the Illinois Senate seat and started exhibiting signs of running for the top seat in the World most powerful country.

And as her grandson’s power rose, Mama Sarah’s power also rose with several people interesting in pursuing the roots of the former US President thronged her home.

Local and international journalists, tourists and researchers swarmed Mama Sarah's little house, daily, requesting interviews and photo sessions.

Her life however completely when Obama shocked the world and made history by becoming the first black president of the United States.

Authorities took a keen interest in Mama Sarah and Kogello village.

Similarly, the US government took a keen interest in Mama Sarah as the Kenyan government also moved to secure her home.

She also used her new rise to stardom to push for developments in the region and it did not take long before the government constructed a police post inside her home and restricted access.

The once dilapidated road that serves Kogelo market was quickly tarmacked and electricity connected to the area.

At her home, a borehole was also sunk while and an iconic bungalow was also constructed to replace her old rusty house.

Mama Sarah was respected in the village and used her rise to stardom to promote development. She also championed the rights of girls and even went ahead to start Mama Sarah Library which continues to serve the region.

Her efforts to help the needy made her earn an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK) for her efforts to help orphaned and vulnerable children through the foundation.

She has been to the US, Canada, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, among many other countries.

Among the world leaders, she has personally met include her grandson Obama, former Libyan president the late Muammar Gaddafi among others.

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