Zeitun Onyango Obama, US president Barrack Obama’s aunt was yesterday buried inline with the Muslim traditions at the Kisumu Sunni Muslim Cemetery amid tight security. The casket bearing the remains of the 62-year-old Zeitun landed at the Kisumu International Airport from Boston, US and headed to her cousin’s house in Ofafa Estate in Kisumu for viewing by members of the family.
Among her close family members who thronged the home to pay their last respects were her mother Mama Sarah Obama, her children Faisal and Bashir Mboya, her sister Masat Obama and brother Said Obama. Tears and grief engulfed the home as bereaved family members viewed her body. “It’s a great loss for my family. I was very close to Zeitun and believe Allah will rest her soul in eternal peace Insha’Allah,” said mama Sarah.
An hour later, the convoy headed straight to the Kisumu Muslim cemetery where Muslim faithful prayed for the body before the final send off. Her eldest son Faisal Mboya dismissed allegations that their father, Habel Mbiya Okoko had sought a court order to bury their mother. Faisal said her mother had already divorced him and he had no right to claim her body for burial.
“As far as we know, our father abandoned us a long time and it’s our mother who made us what we are today. Our father should now face us his children instead of disturbing the peace of our mother,” he said. Heavily armed administration police officers condoned the area after rumours spread that Mboya had sought a court injunction to stop the burial. The officers locked the gate of the cemetery and opened it after the burial was over.
Said Obama, the deceased’s brother denied media reports that his family was divided over her burial. “The Obama family is united and let no one cheat you that we are divided over this issue.” Zaitun had been ill with complication from an autoimmune disorder know as Guillain-Barre syndrome. At some point, the disease paralysed her and this was part of her explanation why she did not come to Kenya after a court ruled that she be deported. Zeitun, a half-sister of Obama’s late father, moved from Kenya to the US in 2000 and was denied asylum by an immigration judge in 2004.
She remained in the country illegally, living in Boston public housing. She finally was granted asylum in 2010 by a judge who said she could be in danger if she returned to Kenya because of her relationship with Obama. Obama, in his memoir “Dreams from My Father: affectionately referred to Onyango as Auntie Zeituni and described meeting her during his 1988 trip to Kenya. She helped care for his half-brothers and sister while living with his father, Barack Obama Sr in Kenya.