Page last updated at 03:00 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Barack's bingo-loving stepmother

By Anna Lindsay
BBC News

Kezia Obama (pic: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)
Kezia Obama says her stepson Barack is a lovely man

She is a bingo-loving grandmother who lives in a council house in Berkshire.

On Tuesday he is sworn in as 44th president of the United States - Barack Obama.

Their worlds are seemingly chasms apart - but they are in fact linked in the most extraordinary way.

For the new man in the White House is Kezia Obama's stepson.

Once married to Obama's late Kenyan-born father - before he studied abroad in the US - the 69-year-old is mother to three of Barack's half-brothers, plus a half-sister.

Her children mostly live in Kenya, the place where she first met the man who is now one of the most important people in the world.

"I first met Barack Junior in Nairobi in 1987," she told BBC Radio Berkshire.

"He reminded me of my husband.

"I was remembering, thinking about my husband, Barack Senior, because he looked like Barack Senior.

I don't want to move to America. I want to live in Bracknell
Kezia Obama

"And he was just smart like Barack Senior, talking like Barack Senior.

"He just wanted to talk to people. To know about what his father was doing in Kenya and then about Kenya, about politics. Just to know everybody in Kenya."

Barack Obama Senior went on to marry two more women, including Ann Dunham - Barack Junior's mother.

They divorced when Barack Junior was a small child, and father and son only met one more time.

Barack Senior returned to Kenya and rekindled his love with Kezia before he died in 1982. When Ann Dunham died in 1995, Barack Junior sought to strengthen his ties with his father's family.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama has an unlikely connection with Bracknell
"Most people think he's a strong man and a lovely man who can do something good to them," Ms Obama said.

"He believes in the one life."

It was Kezia's daughter, Auma Obama, who first came to live in Berkshire.

When Auma got married in 1997, Barack Junior - then a civil rights lawyer - ended up on a stag night with his half-sister's fiance in the form of a pub crawl around Wokingham.

She laughs when it is pointed out that her family is now connected to one of the world's most important people.

"It's surprising, it's something good for them.

"It's surprising how come a young man can be a president in the USA."

Local celebrity

Kezia followed her daughter to Berkshire, before Auma returned to Kenya.

She is now firmly rooted in Bracknell, a small town 33 miles (53 km) west of London - population 50,000.

"No, no, no, I don't want to move to America," she says.

"I want to live in Bracknell. I just live here."

Barack Obama's step mother (left) and his wife Michelle
Barack Obama and wife Michelle (right) have strengthened their ties with Kezia
Her famous stepson has led to her becoming something of a local celebrity in the town.

As a daily player of bingo, Ms Obama has had an online version of the game named after her to raise money for Sue Ryder Care.

And last week, the well-known brand behind the game drove her to Heathrow in a sponsored taxi - from where she flew to Washington DC ready to witness Barack Junior's inauguration ceremony.

On the way, an international airline presented her with a birthday cake to celebrate turning 69.

"I'm going to go to Washington DC. I'm going to go to the White House, but not to stay there," she said, laughing.

The last time she spoke to Barack Junior was last year. She said she did not get a chance to speak to him during the election "because he was very busy".

"I was just watching what he was doing there," she said.

But she added she had recently sent him a message: "I just said thanks God, to do a good thing to you."

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