US President Barrack Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango died Tuesday at a Boston Hospital aged 62.
Zeituni, who recently won a court case on her asylum status, had been ill with complication from an autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
At some stage, this disease had paralysed her and was part of her explanation why she did not come to Kenya after a court ruled that she be deported.
Family members in Kenya were Tuesday mourning her death after the news of her demise reached her home village of K’Ogelo in Siaya County.
“We are saddened with her death. The family has lost a matriarch who loved her family and took care of so many while we were young,’ said a cousin Engineer Charles Ochome from Kisumu.
Speaking to The standard, Ochome said the family was yet to meet to decide whether Zeituni will be buried in Massachusetts or whether they will fly her body back home.
Earlier reports had indicated that as Muslim, she could be laid to rest the soonest time possible.
But Ochome, quoting Zeituni’s brother, Said Obama, said she could be buried at her father’s home in K’Ogello.
In his book Dreams from My Father, President Obama fondly refers to her as Auntie Zeituni.
He reminisces how Auntie Zeituni welcomed him and his sister Auma Obama at her house in Kariakor in Nairobi and served them with a dish of Tilapia and ugali.
Zeituni had worked as a computer programmer for the beer making giant Kenya Breweries Ltd before leaving for the US.
She moved to the US in 2000 and settled in Massachusetts in a public subsidised neighbourhood and applied for asylum in 2002, but her request was rejected and her deportation order given in 2004.
During the 2008 USA Presidential elections, her illegal immigrant status was revealed for the first time and days before Obama was elected, he said he did not know his aunt was living in the US illegally and said he believes the law should be followed.
A judge agreed to suspend Zeituni’s deportation order in December last year and reopened her asylum case which she won.
Zeituni had decried the fact that that she could no longer reach to her nephew after the US presidency.
She had fond memories of her unfettered access of Obama when he was both State Senator in Illinois and when he became the Senator of Illinois in Washington D.C.
“Before, we were family. But right now, there is a lot of politics, and me, I am not interested in any politics at all. It is very sad when such a thing happens. There are people, outsiders, you know, they come in between, they divide a family. It’s not easy,” she had said amid sobs.