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David Ndesandjo: Here’s All You Need to Know about Obama’s Jewish Half Brother

David Ndesandjo, born David Opiyo Obama, was the Jewish half-brother of President Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.

Like his brother, David grew up in a multi-cultural household in Nairobi that combined Swiss heritage, African traditions, Jewish heritage, and Western customs.

While Barack was born in Hawaii and raised in Honolulu, David grew up in Nairobi and lived with his father and older brother before he passed away in a fatal motorcycle accident in 1982.

So, who was David Ndesandjo? Here is a look at his life.

After two terms of the Obama presidency, you may be forgiven to think that you know everything there is about his family. Chances are you don’t.

Save for the immediate family members including his wife Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha and Malia who are well-known, Obama also has a larger extended family living in America and abroad. The former president has relatively famous half-sisters and half-brothers living in Indonesia, China, and particularly Kenya, where his African roots originate.

David Ndesandjo was Obama’s Kenyan half-brother and is probably the least known of the lot.

He died at a relatively young age (20 years old), and not much is documented about him.

So what do we know about him? Here are notable aspects that defined David Ndesandjo’s life before his fatal death in 1987.

Profile Summary

  • Full name: David Ndesandjo
  • Nickname: Bobby
  • Gender: Male
  • Born: September 11, 1967
  • Died: 1987
  • Cause of death: Motorbike accident
  • Age: 20 years (as of 1987)
  • Place of birth: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Nationality: Kenyan-Jewish-American
  • Ethnicity: Black
  • Hair color: Black
  • Eye color: Black
  • Mother: Ruth Beatrice Baker
  • Father: Barack Hussein Obama Sr.
  • Siblings: Barack Obama, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, Malik Obama, Auma Obama, George Hussein Onyango Obama.

Early life

During his childhood, David lived in Nairobi, Kenya, alongside his mother (Ruth Baker Obama) father (Barack Obama Sr.), and his older brother Mark Ndesandjo.

 In his formative years, David reportedly had a keen interest in music and arts. At the time, the family lived in Nairobi’s Woodley Estate.

Sometime in 1968 David (aged 1 year), Mark (aged 3 years), and his parents visited their grandparents in “Luo land.”

According to Maraniss’ biography Barack Obama: The Story, they stayed in the Luo backcountry of Nyang’oma, Kogelo with Mama Sarah and Hussein Onyango.

In the self-published book called Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery, David’s brother Mark talks about their abusive father who struggled with alcoholism and was largely absent.

 It is reported that sometime before his father’s death, David ran away from home.

As a teenager, he would occasionally take refuge under the wing of his other half-brother Malik Obama, and would sporadically show up at home.

This, it is alleged, stemmed from living in an abusive household under their father, Barack Obama Sr.

Education Background

David Ndesandjo reportedly attended a prestigious elementary school in Nairobi.

He and his brother, Mark Ndesandjo, attended Nairobi-based international schools in 1969.

Unlike his brother who went on to pursue his dreams and become an accomplished accountant, entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, musician, and classical pianist, David’s early demise meant that he couldn’t explore his artistic endeavors.

David Ndesandjo’s educational journey beyond elementary school is still shrouded in mystery.

Details about his formal education and whether he attended high school are, however, not extensively covered.


David’s mother, Ruth Beatrice Baker, was a Jewish-American from Kansas, USA.

His father, Barack Obama Sr – an economist – met her while they were both studying at the University of Hawaii.

He convinced her to come with him to Kenya, and their relationship bore two sons, Mark, and David Ndesandjo.

At the time, David’s mother Ruth wasn’t aware of the family ties she had with the Obama family.

That’s partly because Barack Obama Sr. had divorced his previous wife and Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in 1961 and, secondly, he kept the whole matter a secret.

It was until 1988 (a year after his death) that David’s older brother, Mark, learned of their family’s connection to the Obama family.

While visiting the United States, Mark adopted his birth name Ndesandjo, and that proved to be a pivotal moment because from there, he forged a stronger relationship with his half-brother and who would later become the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

That means the only family David ever knew before his death was his parents, Barack Sr and Ruth Baker, his half-sister Auma Marie Obama, grandparents, Mama Sarah and Hussein Onyango, his older brother Mark Ndesandjo, and half-brothers Malik Obama, and George Hussein Onyango Obama.


Sadly, David Ndesandjo’s promising life was cut short by a tragic motorcycle accident in Nairobi.

While there is no independent confirmation as to when and how that happened, it is claimed that he was out and about in town with his half-brother Malik Obama drinking.

When Malik got arrested for a minor behavior infraction, Malik took a ride home on his motorbike, and that led to his fateful date with destiny.

According to David’s older brother Mark Ndesandjo, David passed away in 1987, a year prior to Mark’s first-ever sibling meeting with Barack Obama.

Details about his burial are unknown.

Wrap Up

Most would undoubtedly know President Barack Obama’s immediate family members, including those who walked by his side throughout his journey as a state Senator and to the White House.

Behind the scenes, however, the ex-president has a massive extended family living around the world.

Did you know, for example, that Obama had a deceased half-brother, David Ndesandjo, who died in 1987 even before they ever met?

And are you aware that David Ndesandjo’s older brother and Obama’s half-brother, Mark Ndesandjo helped Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and even attended his inauguration?

Obama’s family is massive with diverse cultural influences, and it is just a shame that David Ndesandjo didn’t live long to pursue his dreams or at least discover his family ties to the respectable Obama family.

Kenyalogue Contributor


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