Obama's half-brother is tracked down to Nairobi slum

It is a detail of the already exotic life story of Barack Obama that his campaign was not intending to highlight to voters at the Democratic Convention in Denver next week: the circumstances of a little half-brother called George.

It is not quite the first time we have heard of 26-year-old George Hussein Onyango Obama. The candidate did give him a very cursory mention in one of his best-selling memoirs, with the observation that he was a "beautiful boy with a rounded head".

But it is only now that we know where George is and what he is up to. The Italian version of Vanity Fair purports in its latest edition to have tracked down brother George living in obscurity in a hut in the shanty town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, surviving on less than a dollar a month.

He will not, in other words, be by his brother's side in Colorado enjoying reflected adulation. "No one knows who I am," he told the magazine, saying he is too embarrassed to admit to anyone that the man running for the White House in America is his half-brother because of his abject penury. "If anyone says something about my surname, I say we are not related. I am ashamed."

There was no reaction from the Obama camp last night nor was it clear whether the discovery of George – if indeed it is he – stood in any way to embarrass or damage the candidate. George shares a father with Barack, Barack Hussein Obama, but was born to a different mother, known only as Jael.

Family baggage has, of course, surfaced to trouble presidential hopefuls in the past. In the case of Bill Clinton, it was half-brother Roger, whom he had pardoned while Governor of Arkansas. Roger had been convicted for cocaine distribution and sent to prison.

Senator Obama was born in Hawaii to Ann Dunham, who had married a student she met at university on the islands, Barack Obama Sr. However, he abandoned the family when his son was two years old and eventually returned to Kenya where he fathered George. He was killed in a car crash in 1982.

It seems that the Senator and George have met on two occasions, first when he was five and then during a visit to Kenya in 2006. Of the second meeting, the brother said: "It was very brief, we spoke for just a few minutes. It was like meeting a complete stranger."

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

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