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Obama's Brother Sets The Story Straight


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Obama's brother sets the story straight

Matt Brown, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: August 28. 2008 12:18PM UAE / August 28. 2008 8:18AM GMT


George Hussein Obama has his brother Barack’s long face and narrow, penetrating eyes. He is tall like Barack and he has his deep, baritone voice.

But unlike his half-brother, who will accept the Democratic nomination for US president tonight in front of a television audience of millions, George Obama loathes the spotlight.

“I don’t like the publicity,” he said in an interview with The National. “I don’t talk much. I’m shy.”

Mr Obama lives in a small, one-room shack made out of corrugated metal in the gritty, impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood of Huruma, where six people were killed during political and ethnic violence that gripped Kenya this year.

An open sewer runs down the middle of the dirt street in front of his house. Inside his room, Mr Obama has a poster of his famous half-brother.

This week, over a lunch of fish and chips, Mr Obama said he has lived in this shantytown for the past few years by choice.

“I like Huruma,” he said. “I have lots of friends here. My neighbours are my friends. I’ve chosen to live here.”

Mr Obama is the youngest of Barack’s seven half-siblings, and he has the same father as the presidential candidate.

George Obama was six months old when his father died in a car accident. He was raised in Nairobi by his mother, who remarried a Frenchman and now lives in the US city of Atlanta.

Mr Obama said he has met his half-brother only twice, but has followed his career and would love to see him end up in the White House.

“He’s definitely going to be president,” he said. “I’d love to have a brother who is president. Having the most powerful person in the world as your brother would be great.”

The reclusive Mr Obama likes to keep his family life to himself. In fact, he only told a few of his closest friends that he is related to Barack Obama, according to John Kiruma, one of Mr Obama’s friends.

“Only three people in our group knew,” Mr Kiruma said. “He didn’t want to tell anyone. I was happy when I learnt. Having [barack] Obama as his brother is a big deal.”

But Mr Obama, 26, is especially distrustful of the media after an article about him appeared in the Italian Vanity Fair. The story exaggerated his living conditions, saying he was destitute and living on US$1 (Dh3.67) a month.

The article implied that Barack, 47, had abandoned his half-brother. The Republican campaign picked up on this and used it to attack the presidential candidate, saying he does not care about family.

“They were portraying the wrong story,” Mr Obama said. “I’ve pretty much had a good life. I think I’ve lived OK. There’s not much I’ve lacked in life. I don’t live on a dollar per month, that’s not logical. I’ve never lived in the streets. Those guys were tarnishing the Obama name.”

Mr Obama, who is studying to be a mechanic, said he dislikes it when people compare him to his older brother.

“I am who I am, and he is who he is,” he said. “He’s my brother and I like what he’s doing, but I also like what I’m doing. I don’t think I’ll venture into politics. I just want to get into vehicle mechanics. I love cars.

“I also aspire to be someone great, but in my own department. I don’t think it’s good, the comparison part. The only comparison is maybe our eyes look the same.”

Besides cars, Mr Obama also loves to play football, and he is involved in his local youth group. The Huruma Centre Youth Group cleans up the environment in the neighbourhood and organises sports events and dances for the youth in the community.

“I’m pretty involved in helping the community,” he said.

If Barack Obama wins the November election, George Obama said he might go to Washington for the inauguration, but he said he will not ask his half-brother for any handouts.“I want to make it on my own,” he said.

Arriving back at his house after lunch, Mr Obama was dejected to find a throng of Kenyan journalists waiting to talk to him. Although he hates the attention, Mr Obama said he would not trade his brother for anyone else.

“He’s my family, and I can’t deny that,” he said. “Whether I like it or not, he’s still my brother.”

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