As a tall, strangely familiar figure leaves his one-room shack in a notorious African slum this week, a few people jokingly call out to him: ‘Mister President! Mister President!’
Heading for breakfast through his junk-strewn yard, stepping over streams of sewage, the appearance of this slim, angular man prompts giggles and pointing from children in rags playing in the muck.
The man’s name is George Hussein Obama and his half-brother is Barack Hussein Obama, Kenya’s most famous son, the first black President of the U.S. and the most powerful man in the world.
The two men may share the same father, but while Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to his father’s American second wife, George — born in Kenya — was the product of Obama Senior’s fourth marriage.
Today, while Barack entertains at the White House, flies aboard Air Force One and is a friend of film stars and royalty, George, 30, is to be found slumped in his corrugated iron shack which even fellow slum-dwellers regard as a hovel.
Details of his unorthodox lifestyle emerged with news that he has agreed to appear in a documentary film being made by one of Barack Obama’s most trenchant critics.
Called 2016, and directed by the production team behind Schindler’s List, the film sets out the supposed horrors of another four years of Obama in office — though George does not criticise the President on screen. It is the idea of U.S. author Dinesh D’Souza, whose book The Roots Of Obama’s Rage paints a deeply unflattering portrait of the ‘narcissistic’ President.
Whilst his half-brother inhabits a desolate Kenyan slum, U.S. President Barack Obama, pictured during an election campaign rally in Colorado Springs, is firmly in the limelight
George has also written a memoir, called Homeland. Published in 2012, it details how he turned his back on a middle-class Kenyan upbringing to live among the desperately poor in Nairobi’s infamous slums. The book’s precis tell us: ‘George chooses to live in the Nairobi ghetto, where he works to help the ghetto-dwellers, and especially the slum kids, overcome the challenges surrounding their lives.’
And the book quotes George thus: ‘My brother has risen to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Here in Kenya, my aim is to be a leader among the poorest people on Earth: those who live in the slums.’
In what sounds like the script for a Hollywood film, he claims to have been the driving force behind the transformation of a slum football team into one of the top sides in Kenya, known as ‘Obama’s champs’.
Such, apparently, is his devotion to good works that many Kenyans want George to stand for President, believing anyone sharing the name and blood of the most powerful politician on the planet can transform their lives.
But, as I discovered, this may prove beyond George. Indeed, standing — let alone talking much sense or walking in a straight line — is tricky for the U.S. President’s brother much of the time, due to his chronic addiction to drink and years of drug abuse.
Nor is there anything heroic and altruistic about his motives for living in the slums. His principal reason is that the potent local moonshine is cheap and readily available here, as is cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
Clearly following the dictum that the best place to hide a tree is in a forest, George’s decision to settle in a slum called Huruma — which is scarred by alcoholism, drug addiction and violence — means his own destructive behaviour attracts little attention.
Although he claims not to be using heroin or cocaine, George now spends his time drinking what locals call Chang’aa — a spirit distilled with maize and spiked with chemicals — from the moment he wakes to the moment he slips into unconsciousness.
Laced with ethanol, embalming fluid or battery acid to give it more kick, this substance is regularly blamed for causing blindness and death when the criminal syndicates behind the trade mix it wrongly.
A glass costs about 10p and, after just five small shots, even hardened drinkers can barely remember their own name. Regular users suffer liver and kidney failure, as well as mental impairment known as ‘wet brain’.