“I don’t want my brother’s help,” George Hussein Obama declares firmly, like a child rejecting a distasteful meal.\r\nBy: Argwings Odera\r\n
\r\n“All I want is the Americans to pay me my dues.”\r\nI am in my second week of an unpredictable interview with the 29-year-old half-brother of US President Barack Obama.\r\n\r\n“You know we are going into elections next year,” he whispers as he looks around nervously, seemingly fearful his utterance from his dwelling in Nairobi’s filth-choked Huruma slum could be heard across the world.\r\n\r\nI correct him, saying Kenya’s general elections aren’t until 2017.\r\n\r\n“No, I mean the US… America,” he pauses for a while casting a look over the rooftops of the slum, as if he could see America.\r\n\r\n“You know my brother… the Republicans the last time… they came here and used me to fight my brother’s campaign.\r\n\r\n“I don’t want any issues now that things are this close… they (the Republican campaigners) can still come back with sweet talk and lies as they did the last time, at great cost to our (Obama’s Kenyan) family,” he says as he gathers pace, as if being pursued by some Republican bogeyman.\r\n\r\nThe media image of George is one of a drunk living in squalor and in need of his president brother’s financial goodwill.\r\n\r\nIt is true he lives in a room made of tin – the kind that Nairobi city authorities classify as “illegal” and routinely demolish without warning.\r\n\r\nSpeaking statistics, George is among 42 percent, or 44 million, Kenyans living below the poverty line, according to the UN.\r\n\r\nGeorge is among the 4 million Kenyans whose consumption of alcohol is a campaign issue, according to the Kenya National Campaign Against Drugs and Alcohol.\r\n\r\n“That is the stereotype about me,” George says with a grin. “What positive thing can you find about me?”
\r\nThe US president’s brother is a rubbish collector. Together with other men, he collects sacks of stinking waste from residents’ front doors and takes them to a central dumping ground. His pay per sack is 100 Kenyan shillings.\r\n\r\n“That is job creation and keeping our environment clean,” he says as he looks at another pile awaiting his team’s collection. Rubbish collection is George’s only source of income but it was not meant to be so, he insists.\r\n\r\nHe is an accomplished author, having co-written the best-selling memoir Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival, with Damien Lewis, published by Simon & Schuster, in 2010. The book, which includes an audio version, is still selling at Barnes & Noble stores for about US$30.\r\n\r\nHe followed up the book with an off-Broadway play from the book titled Obama the Mamba, with acclaimed playwright David Kegan, starring Clifford Samwe. The play enjoyed a 12-day run in October 2010 at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, England, with tickets selling for $16.\r\n\r\nThe opening night was a sell-out with good reviews from The Telegraph. Critic Dominic Cavendish termed the play “undeniably inspiring”, granting the play four stars out of five.\r\n\r\nBoth book and play are a take on George’s sordid youth and his optimistic attitude as an adult.\r\n\r\nThe proceeds from both were to go to the George Hussein Obama Fund for youth development in his Huruma neighbourhood.\r\n\r\n“The outlook was bright,” explains George.\r\n\r\nAnd then the Republican campaign came to the slum. That is when George’s world, he says, turned topsy-turvy and the “working over” begun.\r\n\r\n“The media creates… and the media destroys,” he mutters.\r\n\r\nAt the helm of the “bad guys” was writer and movie producer Dinesh d’Souza, a Republican campaigning hard against Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. The movie-maker promised a documentary in which the star would be George retelling his book story in a movie format.\r\n\r\nThe movie 2016: Obama’s America went on to rock the box office, grossing over $33 million at the time of its release in over 2 000 theatres across America, according to IMDb, the movie database. It was hailed as America’s second highest grossing political documentary of all time, rivalled only by Michael Moore’s anti-George Bush Fahrenheit 911 at $119m. In the opening weekend, it raked in over $6m, taking it to the Top 10 slot, claiming the 7th most popular movie spot in July 2012.\r\n\r\nRiding on the crest of the success of his movie, D’Souza hit the road trashing Obama and creating a fund called the George Hussein Onyango Obama Compassion Fund.\r\n\r\nD’Souza encouraged Americans to send in donations.\r\n\r\nAnother avowed Republican, Tim Anderson, who was living in Minneapolis, had also set up his own fundraising effort through a website www.helpobamasbrother.org.\r\n\r\nHe declared that if the US president was not going to support his brother, the Republicans would “raise enough money, and fast, to buy Obama’s brother an apartment or house, a car, food, and maybe some auto mechanic classes”.\r\n\r\n“And if he wants to come to America, we’ll help with that, too.”
\r\nThe income that George Obama receives as a rubbish collector. In comparison, his half brother receives a salary of $400 000 annually.\r\n
\r\nOn September 22, 2008, D’Souza wrote: “My modest campaign to assist George Obama has been coming nicely. Sean Hannity mentioned it on his show on the Fox News Channel, and I appeared on a handful of radio shows. The George Obama Compassion Fund was reported on by Kenya’s leading newspaper The Nation. So far, I have received more than $1 000 in small contributions. With my kick-off contribution of $1 000, that’s upwards of $2 000 for George Obama.”\r\nGeorge was to star in another documentary in 2013 titled Siblings, directed by Britta Hosman. Others featured were Leon Hendrix, brother to Jimi; Vanessa Branson, Richard’s sister and Stella Parton, Dolly’s sister – all struggling in the shadows of successful siblings.\r\n\r\nGeorge says: “People ask me whether my brother is supporting me. I don’t need the US president’s support. I make my own.”\r\nWhere is all the money?\r\n\r\nGeorge has nothing to show for the book, whose earnings were to go to his foundation. The billions of shillings from the movie have never been forthcoming, he says. He was unaware of the compassion fund.\r\n\r\nI found the website hosting George’s fund had been shut down and was untraceable.\r\n\r\nTim Anderson from Minneapolis had vanished with it, after his much publicised appeal. D’Souza said he had torn up George’s money after a journalist from the Daily Nation newspaper told him the young Obama had gone into hiding and was not willing to take the cash.\r\n\r\n“Then I was contacted by a reporter for a large newspaper in Kenya who told me the Obama family had refused the money. Evidently, they had consulted with the Obama campaign and been told to go into hiding. My attempts to locate George proved unavailing. So, I tore up the cheques, figuring perhaps I had jostled Obama into doing something for George, if only to save himself from political embarrassment.”\r\n“All lies,” says George. “You see, beware of the Americans.”\r\nHe probes deep in his pockets for change to buy a cigarette. He finds none. He takes off into the darkness of Huruma.