President Obama’s half-brother told an Israeli newspaper that when he first met Barack, he was struck by his sibling’s rejection of Western culture.
“I remember that my impression at the first meeting was that Barack thought that I was too white, and I thought that he was too black,” Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo told Maariv. “He was an American citizen on a journey in search of his African roots, while I was a resident of Kenya seeking to find his white roots.”
“I remember that when I spoke with him about the heroes of Western culture he rolled his eyes impatiently. My feeling was that, here is an American who in many ways is trying to be a local Kenyan youth. This is something I tried to flee my entire life," Ndesandjo said of the brothers’ first meeting in Kenya, which Obama described in his 1995 best-selling memoir, "Dreams From My Father."
In his memoir, Obama also described the first meeting with his brother: "I don't feel much of an attachment [to Kenya]. Just another poor African country," Obama quoted Ndesandjo saying. He went on to say, "You think that somehow I'm cut off from my roots ... Well, you're right."
As reported on TheBlaze last month, Ndesandjo has said he wants to “set the record straight” about some of the details presented in Obama's memoir.
The siblings have met since that first meeting in Kenya, including in 2007 before then-candidate Obama’s debate with rival Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I came to visit him in Texas, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. He entered the room where I was waiting for him, looked at me and said, ‘Mark, what happened to your afro?’ And I asked: ‘What happened to your afro?’ He said: ‘I cut my hair.’ It was a real moment, very natural, as if for a moment we returned to being two brothers,” Ndesandjo recounted.
Ndesandjo described his relationship with the president as “loaded” and “passionate.”
“There were very good conversations or very loaded,” he said in the interview, which was published Thursday.
The siblings share the same Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr., but had different white American mothers.
"A few months ago I asked him to contact his relatives in Kenya. I told him that even one phone call would propel them to the sky with such happiness, but he didn’t like what I asked, and that moment broke off the connection with me,” Ndesandjo said.
Note that in Hebrew – the language in which the interview was published - the same word is used for “connection” and “relationship” so it’s unclear if Ndesandjo meant that his brother Barack cut off the telephone conversation or their relationship.
“He can be sensitive, aggressive or very stoical. That’s a side of his personality that many people do not know,” Ndesandjo said of Barack Obama. “Barack and I have a lot in common. Both of us have advantages and disadvantages, and some of them come from our father."
The president’s half-brother described their relationship with their parents and with each other.
He called their father “a boundary-breaking man and to a large extent rebellious. He was a man of great passion and intellect, who attracted many people."
Asked what he has in common genetically with Barack, Ndesandjo said, “I think that the common link between us comes not from [our] shared father, rather more from our mothers. Both of us had strong mothers, women who took great risks to raise their children and to protect them. Barack and I love our mothers to no end, because they defended us and protected us."
"I thought it was amazing how much he resembles me,” Ndesandjo said of their first meeting. “And yet, we were like two Siamese twins who looked in the direction of the other, and we were unable to see each other."
Ndesandjo today is a businessman and musician who lives in China. He published an autobiographical novel several years ago which described an abusive Kenyan father.
He also runs the Mark Obama Ndesanjo Foundation which promotes cultural exchanges between Asia, Africa and the U.S. and provides instruments and music teachers to needy children in China.
When his parents divorced, Ndesandjo moved to the U.S. where he studied physics at Brown University and Stanford and earned an MBA from Emory University.
Ndesandjo’s mother, Ruth Nidesand, Obama Sr.’s third wife, was born in the U.S. to Lithuanian Jewish immigrants.
Ndesandjo told Maariv he considers himself a member of the Jewish people: “I am a Jew not only because I have a Jewish mother but first and foremost because there exists in me great pride to be a part of the Jewish people. I feel great belonging to Jewish heritage, to Jewish culture, and to the Jewish philosophers."