US President Barack Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyango has passed away at the age of 61, reports the New York Times. Ms Zeituni who was being treated for cancer and respiratory problems, died at a Boston rehabilitation center according to her lawyer Margaret Wong. Wong had represented Zeituni in her immigration case. She added that Zeituni was ill since January and passed away in her sleep on April 8. No further details regarding the actual cause of death has been revealed.
Margaret described Zeituni Onyango as “an awesome, funny, shrewd, smart lady born at the wrong place at the wrong time.” She goes on to add; “If she was only born in America or born in more Western open society instead of being bogged down by tribes, lineage and being a woman in Kenya, she could have been anything she wanted to be.”
Zeituni Onyango initially came to the limelight back in 2008 – just before Obama’s election as the President of the United States. Back then the Associated Press had reported about Ms Zeituni’s immigration status while a Times of London report showed her living in what it described as “run-down public housing”.
Zeituni Onyango is the half-sister of President Obama’s late father. She moved to the United States from Kenya in the year 2000. Her appeal to be granted asylum in the US was denied by an immigration judge back in 2004. She however continued to stay in the US illegally and lived at a Boston public housing in virtual anonymity – until the 2008 elections happened and Obama came to spotlight. It was only in 2010 that Onyango was granted asylum after convincing the judge that her life would be in danger if she moved back to Kenya with people knowing that she is a relative of President Obama.
Obama had in his memoir “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” referred to Zeituni Onyango as auntie Zeituni affectionately. He had met her during his visit to Kenya in 1988 – long before presidency happened.
Zeituni Onyango was born in Kenya in May 1952 “under a mango tree” reports the NPR. She was delivered by a midwife. She was raised by a Kenyan family and went on to work in the computer department of Kenya Breweries before moving to the US in 2000. Zeituni also took care of Obama Sr’s half brothers and sisters when she was living with him in Kenya.
There has been no official reaction from the White House immediately after the death of Zeituni Onyango. The White House had also in the past clarified that Obama had not intervened in her immigration case. Recently, President Obama’s uncle Onyango Okech Obama was granted asylum in the United States.
[Image via Yahoo]