Kenya to Maintain Security for Barack Obama’s ‘Granny Sarah’

Sarah Onyango Obama
Barack Obama's step-grandmother Sarah Onyango Obama reacts with members of her family after the announcement of Obama's re-election, Kogelo, Kenya, November 7, 2012. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty

Kenyan police will continue to provide round-the-clock security for the step-grandmother of former U.S. president Barack Obama despite his exit from office, the country’s government has said.

Sarah Onyango Obama, who is in her 90s, is one of the wives of Obama’s paternal grandfather, though she is not a blood relative of the former president. She lives in the village of Nyang’oma Kogelo, around 30 miles outside the western Kenyan city of Kisumu in Siaya County.

After Obama won the U.S. presidential election in 2008, Kenyan security forces secured his grandmother’s compound, which previously had no fence or gate around it and lacked electricity. The county’s police commandant Ben Abuga said that the security measures—which include a constant police presence outside her compound and vetting of visitors—would be retained for the time being, according to Kenya’s Standard Digital news site.

The deputy county commissioner of a local constituency, Joseph Sawe, said that government officials would be checking on the Obama matriarch. “We are going to visit Mama Sarah next week to find out how she is coping with news of her grandson’s exit from the White House,” said Sawe, Standard Digital reported Monday.

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C. on Friday, marking the formal end of Obama’s eight years in power. The Democrat was barred from running again by the U.S. constitution, which limits presidents to two terms in office.

Obama’s late father, Barack Obama Senior, was a Kenyan economist who married Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in 1961. The marriage ended in divorce in 1964, and the former president only met his father a handful of times. But Obama referred to Sarah as “Granny” in his memoir Dreams from My Father and met with her and other extended family members during a 2015 presidential visit to the East African country.

Sarah received a U.N. award in Washington in 2015 for her work in promoting education among children in her village. The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation is a non-profit organization that runs education programs for children and raises funds for charitable projects, such as clean water and a health clinic in the village.

While Sarah has backed her grandson during his time in office, not all of Obama’s family have been as supportive. His half-brother Malik Obama has frequently criticized the former president on Twitter and has been a vocal supporter of Trump, who has pledged to repeal many of Obama’s policies.