GUANGZHOU, Nov 4 – US President Barack Obama’s half-brother Mark Ndesandjo on Wednesday broke his silence to speak of their abusive father at the launch of his first novel.
Ndesandjo, who has lived in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for seven years, said he wrote "Nairobi to Shenzhen" after a string of extraordinary events – including his brother being elected president – made him come to terms with his past.
"My father beat me. He beat my mother. You just do not do that," he told a press conference hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China and attended by representatives of the US Consul-General here.
"I remember in my house, I would hear the screams. I would hear my mum’s pain. As a child, I could not protect her," he said as tears streamed down his face.
"I could not remember any good things about my father. My skin had turned hard emotionally for so many years."
Obama’s Kenyan father and American mother separated when Obama was just two and the president has spoken about the problems children face growing up with an absent father.
Ndesandjo, son of Obama’s late father and his third wife Ruth Nidesand, had been dodging the media since his identity came to light during Obama’s election campaign.
He had not used the name "Obama" and had not even told his close acquaintances about his connection with the president until it was reported in the media. But the backdrop at his book launch Wednesday named him as "Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo".
Bearing a strong resemblance in facial features and voice to President Obama, Ndesandjo recalled scenes of the election night at Chicago’s Grant Park which helped him come to terms with the many issues "I had shut out of my life, including the Obama name."
"I saw all the hope and joy in the people’s eyes. I was so proud of my brother Barack. That peeled away the hardness I had felt for so many years."
Ndesandjo said his novel, which was originally meant to be his autobiography, was about a man who was forced to confront his early experiences in Kenya and the United States after arriving in China in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
He said he would publish his second book, an autobiography, in the next few months.
"I want to tell my story, not have others tell it for me."
A graduate of Stanford and Brown universities, Ndesandjo said he left his hometown for China when he lost his job and did not know where his life was heading. He said he eventually decided to devote most of his time to music and service.
He reportedly runs a business consultancy in Shenzhen helping to connect Chinese exporters with US buyers.
Harley Seyedin, president of American Chamber of Commerce in South China and host of the book launch, described Ndesandjo as a talented pianist, writer, artist, and businessman, and a long-time good friend of his.
Ndesandjo said that 15 percent of the proceeds of his novel would go to helping disadvantaged and orphaned children in China and the rest of the world.
Asked if there was anything he would like to tell his brother ahead of Obama’s first presidential visit to China in November 15, Ndesandjo, who speaks fluent Chinese, said: "I would encourage not only my brother President Obama, but also American people, (to understand) that China is about family. Family is always a recurrent theme here."