KOGELO, Kenya: President Barack Obama’s half brother has hit the campaign trail in his native Kenya in a bid to get a county gubernatorial seat in the upcoming March 4 elections.
Malik Obama, 54, who shares a father with the US president, told AFP that the achievements of his more famous brother have “inspired and challenged” him to get into politics.
“When I look at the success that my brother has had in America, I feel I would have let down my people if I do not follow in his footsteps,” Obama told AFP in an interview in his ancestral home of Kogelo in western Kenya.
Standing well over six feet and dressed in faded jeans and a flowered beach shirt, Obama, who describes himself as an economist and a financial analyst, but who dodges questions about his employers or clients, said he is well-equipped to deal with the “endless cycle of poverty and unemployment that bedevils my people.”
“I can confidently say that I am the best placed candidate ... by virtue of my second name alone, I have the connections to bring development to Siaya,” he told AFP, referring to his home county some 100 km (60 miles) from the lakeside city of Kisumu.
Obama will need his name if he is to stand any chance against the competition, which includes Oburu Odinga, the younger brother of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the de facto head of the Luo community, of which Obama is also part.
He said his links to Washington will help him clinch the seat.
“Why would my people settle for a local connection when they have a direct line to the White House,” he said as he weaved his way through a group of supporters, the slogan “Obama here, Obama there,” looming on posters.
“You do not have food. You do not have good schools. Life is tough for you guys,” he tells a group of young men before launching into a detailed account of his colorful and successful educational background and the positions he has held in prestigious US companies.
“I am the best placed candidate to deal with the issues affecting the people,” he added.
Government statistics show that in Siaya, the county he wants to represent, poverty is a big problem, with others including the prevalence of HIV and malaria.