As Barack Obama lives the dreams from his father in his White House bid, an American woman goes about her business in Nairobi’s Lavington estate without attracting much attention.
She doesn’t talk about politics, and she doesn’t talk about the Obama Snr she once married.
At the opposite end of town, in Huruma estate live the US candidate’s close relatives. They too have, until recently, been little known. But unlike the woman, they are mobbed by a prying international press, no doubt looking for material with which to help or hurt the Obama Campaign.
In the book Dreams from my Father by the US presidential candidate, Ruth Ndesandjo features prominently.
Obama Snr’s third wife, unlike Senator Obama’s mother Ann, is one of the least known ever since she came to Kenya from Havard 44 years ago and married Obama Snr.
A close family friend who talked to the Nation after the interview at her residence had fond memories of his encounter with Ruth’s parents in Boston, USA, in 1966. Mr Barack Odinge Odera said Obama Snr and Ruth were a wonderful couple.
Ruth was most reluctant to do this interview. “No interview about my private life. I’m Mrs Ndesandjo, a caring man who built for me the school you visited,” she said.
And she could only talk about education, and called for the overhaul of the 8-4-4 system, saying: “These children have no time to be children.
They wake up at 4am carrying loads of books, remain in class the whole day, do home work in the evening and sleep with examinations in mind.
“Life’s not about that. That’s why some footballers, musicians or athletes are earning more money than professors.”
Mrs Ndesandjo was pained by the recent student strikes, and even more pained by the corporal punishment prescribed. “If you fight your wife everyday thinking she will be disciplined, then you are wrong. She will hate you,” Mrs Ndesandjo said.
Across town, is the 26-six year-old Obama Jnr’s half-brother called Hussein, a brother called Rajab and a niece called Mwanaisha. Rajab, who has a college education recently moved out to a more upmarket address.
Their mother, Mrs Jael Otieno, stays in Atlanta, US, but has kept a low profile. She, however, sends money to the family.
Hussein is generally quiet and occasionally speaks softly, but as he moves from a distance, he resembles the US presidential candidate. George Hussein Onyango Obama hardly talks about his world famous half-brother. He also attends part-time training in Buru Buru, not very far from where he stays.
Hours after an Italian newspaper broke the story about the youngest Obama, the Huruma neighbourhood became a beehive of activity, with many international media correspondents fighting for the chance to get an interview.
Our chat was interrupted, and soon Hussein became busy. He started giving appointments, saying:. “I can’t talk now, may be at 3pm,” he told us in the morning. He had given the same time to another international correspondent.
At 3pm, we found several journalists waiting, but Hussein was out for lunch. An hour later, his phone was picked by a newly acquired aid and we were told he was busy.
Busy or not, Hussein has acquired some celebrity status. He may just be on the way to the popularity and attention his grandmother in Kogello has. He visited his grandmother just a month ago.
“I do not live on less than a dollar a month,” he said in reaction to a story in a foreign newspaper that had made the suggestion. Though leaving in considerable humility, the last of the Hussein Obama Snr’s children says he is comfortable with the life he is leading and reads mischief in the author’s decision to paint him as living in misery.
“Life’s good. I live with my cousin and niece in our family house in Huruma,” he said. The motor vehicle engineering student said he fully supported his half-brother’s presidential pursuit and wished him well. He has never been to the US.
“I wish him all the best in the campaigns,” said the soft spoken man.
George was born to Obama Snr and Jael six months before his father died in a car accident in Kenya. Jael has since remarried a Frenchman and settled in Atlanta.
George maintains close contacts with his mother and they talk often. But he last talked to the presidential candidate in 2006 when he visited Kenya.