If you grew up with a brother or sister, then you know that sibling rivalry is all too real. It’s easy for one sibling to get jealous of another over something as simple as a snack or a toy. And some sibling rivalries never go away, especially when one sibling becomes far more successful and famous than the other.
And that’s the case between Barack Obama and his half-brother Abon’go “Malik” Obama. These two were once very close, with Malik serving as Barack’s best man when Barack married Michelle. These days, however, the two are no longer on speaking terms.
What caused this presidential-level fallout? Here is the full story of why Barack Obama is no longer speaking to his half-brother.
Who is Abon’go Malik Obama?
To understand why Barack is no longer speaking to Malik, you need to understand a bit more about who Malik is. Malik was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya in 1958. He is the oldest son of Barack Hussein Obama Sr. and his first wife Kezia Obama. His father later met and married Stanley Ann Dunham in 1961 while studying at the University of Hawaii. She gave birth to their son Barack Obama II that year.
These two half-brothers were born into very different families and in very different places. Accordingly, they have led very different lives, though they hit it off quite well before everything fell apart.
When Barack met Malik
Obviously, Barack Obama did not grow up with his Kenyan half-brother. And that brings us to an obvious question: when did these two actually meet?
The two first met back in 1985 when Malik was visiting the United States. While we don’t know much about this early meeting, it seems the two really hit it off. Barack ended up being the best man at Malik’s wedding and Malik was the best man at Barack’s wedding.
Barack brought his wife Michelle to Kenya a few years after marrying her, and they got a chance to know Malik and other extended members of the Obama family a bit better. And when Barack first began his presidential campaign, Malik supported his brother’s efforts. But all of that would change very quickly!
Clashing over Malik’s charity
In 2008, the same year that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, Malik started a humanitarian charity known as the Barack H. Obama Foundation. And starting this charity was the beginning of the end for his relationship with Barack.
Malik, who worked in the U.S. for years and obtained dual U.S.-Kenya citizenship, claimed he named the supposedly Virginia-based foundation after his father. However, Barack was understandably concerned about a new charity with his name on it popping up during an election year.
In a 2019 appearance on a podcast called The Hidden Truth Show with Jim Breslo, Malik alleged that his half-brother gave him an ultimatum. He said Barack “told me if I don’t shut it down, he’s going to cut me off.”
But when host Jim Breslo pressed Malik about trying to use his brother’s name for his own benefit, Malik didn’t deny it.
“This was an opportunity. The American way. Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
Further issues with the charity
Barack was concerned about Malik’s foundation in 2008. And in 2011, he discovered that his concerns were well-founded.
It started with an investigation from The New York Post. The publication claimed that Malik’s foundation was “an off-the-books American charity.” On top of that, the “Virginia-based” charity was not actually registered in Virginia as Malik had claimed. It didn’t even have a tax-exempt status!
A couple of years later, the IRS granted Malik’s foundation a 501(c) status. But as The Washington Post pointed out in 2013, this kicked off a new round of criticisms from conservatives who claimed that the IRS must have fast-tracked the application due to Malik’s relationship with Barack.
At this point, the damage was done. Whatever Malik’s intentions with the charity were, he had become a political liability for Barack.
Malik’s tacky run for governor
The relationship between Barack and Malik was clearly strained when Malik started his charity. But after Barack won re-election in 2012, Malik didn’t take long to try to capitalize on his famous half-brother’s success once again.
In 2013, Malik ran for governor of the Kenyan county Siaya. And he had a very blunt campaign slogan that referenced Barack’s success: “Obama here, Obama there.”
Malik lost this election badly, garnering fewer than 3,000 votes (the winner, meanwhile, received over 140,000 votes). While neither half-brother spoke much about the incident, we can only imagine how Barack felt about Malik’s campaign trying to piggyback off of Barack’s presidential success. And Malik was likely disappointed that trading off his brother’s name was not as effective as he dreamed.
Malik supports Donald Trump
We don’t know the exact moment that Barack and Malik Obama stopped talking to one another. But by 2016, the battle lines were drawn. This was when Malik Obama did the unthinkable and endorsed Donald Trump for president.
This put Malik squarely against Barack, who was busy trying to help Hillary Clinton win the election. And Donald Trump wasted no time capitalizing on Malik’s support, going so far as to invite him to the presidential debate in Las Vegas.
The irony here is that, on paper, Malik Obama is not the kind of voter Trump courts. As the Chicago Tribune points out, Malik is a polygamist Muslim from Kenya… not exactly Trump’s key demographic. But Trump was happy to use Malik as a pawn to help hurt Hillary Clinton’s election chances.
Malik, meanwhile, seemed content simply to hurt Barack Obama’s reputation. And he would sink even lower a few years later.
Malik fuels the ‘birther’ conspiracy theories
In 2020, Malik once again endorsed Donald Trump for president. At this point, his endorsement wasn’t a surprise. But what was surprising is that Malik tried to add fuel to the fire of the “birther” conspiracy theory.
This was a conspiracy theory embraced by Donald Trump that falsely claimed Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not eligible to be president. This resulted in people demanding to see Barack’s birth certificate as proof of his citizenship, though the release of his actual Hawaiian birth certificate in 2011 wasn’t enough to reassure all critics.
So, how did Malik get involved in the birther conspiracy theory? Back when he was still on Twitter, Malik often parroted Trump’s rhetoric, including calling outlets like CNN “fake news.” This culminated with Malik releasing a fake birth certificate for Barack Obama via Twitter in June 2020.
As Nairobi Wire points, the image is clearly a fake: it’s a copy of an Australian man’s birth certificate with some names substituted. There are some glaringly incorrect details, like calling Kenya the “Republic of Kenya” three years before it became a republic, getting Barack Obama Sr.’s age wrong, and of course, having a seal on it that says Australia instead of Kenya.
Malik’s sister criticizes him
So, why did Malik go to the lengths of tweeting a fake birth certificate for his half-brother? Citizen reports that in a June 2020 Twitter exchange, he called Barack “stingy.”
Meanwhile, his sister Auma Obama (pictured with Barack above) called him out on Twitter for being jealous and bitter.
“So blindly consumed by #jealousy and #bitterness that you will go to any length to slander your younger brother’s name – literally!” she wrote. And to really drive the point home, she added, “Just because he has outshone you in EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of his life. Seek relevance elsewhere big brother!”
It doesn’t look like Malik and Barack will reconcile any time soon.
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