The New York Times | Zeituni Onyango, Obama’s Aunt From Kenya, Dies at 61

Posted April 21, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 4,494 views


Zeituni Onyango

BOSTON — Zeituni Onyango, President Obama’s Kenyan-born aunt, who received asylum in the United States in 2010 after years of living illegally in Boston, died on Tuesday in a rehabilitation home here. She was 61. Her death was confirmed by Margaret Wong, a Cleveland lawyer who represented Ms. Onyango in her immigration case. She said that Ms. Onyango had cancer and respiratory problems.

Ms. Onyango was the half-sister of Mr. Obama’s father. Mr. Obama wrote about his aunt in his 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” She served as his guide in Kenya — and his guide to some painful family history — during his visit there in 1988. She said that Mr. Obama’s father, who died in a car crash in 1982, had taken her in when her husband became abusive and she had no money.

But there was little or no contact between Mr. Obama and his aunt while she fought to immigrate. She attended his inauguration in 2009, but the two apparently did not see each other. Ms. Onyango moved to South Boston on a valid visa in 2000 and sought political asylum in 2002. It was denied in 2004, and she was ordered to leave the country, but she refused.

She was living in relative anonymity in Boston until just before the 2008 presidential election, when her illegal status was reported by The Associated Press. The Times of London found her in what it described as “run-down public housing.”

At the time, aides to Mr. Obama said that he had not known that she was in the United States illegally and that “any and all appropriate laws” covering her situation should be followed. The aides said that he would not intervene in her case and that the two had had no contact. To escape media scrutiny, Ms. Onyango moved to Cleveland, where the Kenyan community took her in, said Ms. Wong, who helped her obtain a green card.

In seeking asylum for Ms. Onyango, Ms. Wong argued that if she were forced to return to Kenya she would face undue attention and perhaps danger because of her nephew’s fame. To be granted asylum, people must show that they would face persecution in their home countries.

In Boston, Judge Leonard Shapiro granted Ms. Onyango asylum in 2010. She died before being granted citizenship.

Ms. Onyango was born in Kenya on May 29, 1952, under a mango tree, and delivered by a midwife in the absence of medical care, Ms. Wong said. She raised a family in Kenya and worked in the computer department at Kenya Breweries, where she managed a staff of 25.

Her memoir, “Tears of Abuse,” was published in 2012. In it she wrote, “The Obama clan is like the Baobab tree; the strength lies in its roots.”

Correction: April 12, 2014
An obituary on Thursday about Zeituni Onyango, President Obama’s aunt, misstated her relation to the president’s father. She was his half-sister, not his stepsister.

Source — The New York Times

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One Comment

    Rev. Joseph Kamugisha

    It would be a wonderful gesture for UNAA leaders to send a condolence message to both the US President and the Obama family in Kenya regarding the loss of Zaituni Onyango.

    The late Zaituni, was there for UNAA when we needed her at the most crucial moment in Washington, DC after the officially scheduled Key note speaker backed out of the deal at the eleventh hour.

    May the soul of Zaitui Onyango rest in peace!


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