In 2001 when then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama’s first child was born, it was Obama’s aunt Kenyan aunt Zeituni Onyango who stepped in to help new parents Barack and Michelle. Onyango, who had moved to the United States the year before on a visa, took care of baby Sasha and kept the Obama’s Chicago home in tidy order.
After Onyango, 61, died at a Boston, Massachusetts nursing home after battling breast cancer and respiratory issues earlier this month, President Barack Obama returned the favor by helping to pay for her funeral expenses.
But the President did not attend the funeral. He hit the links and sent a condolence note, instead, a New York Times profile on Obama’s relationship with his relatives released on Tuesday declares.
Family arranged for Onyango’s body to be shipped back to Kenya earlier this week. The White House did not immediately return a request for clarification on how much the President contributed to his aunt’s funeral fund.
‘This is the president’s personal family, so we are not going to have any comment,’ a White House spokesman told the New York Times when it asked about his relationship with his Kenyan relatives.
Obama first met his aunt during a trip to Kenya in 1988. He references their meeting in his memoir Dreams From My Father. Onyango became the subject of media attention during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign after press found out she was living illegally in the United States at that time. A judge later waived orders for Onyango to be deported, and she has been living in the country legally since 2010.
It is unclear how much contact the President has had with her since, but The New York Times notes that framed photographs of the President and Onyango still hung on his late aunt’s walls when relatives cleaned out her apartment after her death.
The Weekly Standard first drew attention to the fact Obama was golfing at the time of his aunt’s funeral.
On that day, Obama was at his regular golf course at Joint Andrew’s Base with frequent golfing buddies Marvin and Walter Nicholson and Joe Paulson. Marvin Nicholson and Joe Paulson are aides to Obama. Walter Nicholson’s tie to the golfing group is that he is Marvin’s brother.
Obama rarely golfs with elected officials or cabinet members, and none were on course with him the day of his aunt’s funeral.
While the leader of the U.S. was not at Onyango’s funeral, Kenyan officials reportedly were. A Kenyan blog published photos of former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Mombasa, Kenya governor Ali Hassan Joho reportedly taken at Onyango’s funeral.
Odinga, who served as Kenya’s prime minster until 2013, was already in the United States on other business. The former prime minister is from the same tribe as the Obamas and claims to be related to the President. An uncle of Barack Obama’s has refuted that claim, however.
Raila Joho and hassan at zeituni funeral below!