US pop star Madonna arrived in Malawi on Sunday to adopt a second child from the impoverished nation and started off a new controversy over fast-track foreign adoptions.
A private jet carrying the 50-year-old pop star and her entourage landed on a runway reserved for cargo planes at Lilongwe’s Kamuzu international airport.
She left the airport in a convoy of four vehicles and went to the village of Chinkhota with her 12-year-old daughter Lourdes but made no comment to reporters about the new adoption.
Madonna’s lawyer, Alan Chinula, is to file papers in the Lilongwe high court on Monday to adopt Mercy James from an orphanage in southern Malawi, according to a court official.
A controversy, similar to a dispute that erupted when Madonna adopted a son, David Banda, in Malawi in 2006, has blown up over her latest plans.
The Malawi charity Eye of the Child has called on the Malawi government to tighten legislation to protect children. Its director Maxwell Matewere said the Madonna case had created a precedent that is “dangerous for vulnerable children.”
British charity Save the Children said that a child was best off in its own country and urged celebrities to think twice before taking on a new family member.
“The best place for a child is in his or her family in their community,” Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt said.
“Save The Children believes that international adoption should only be considered if the child is a genuine orphan, if all other alternatives in their own country have been genuinely exhausted.”
Nutt warned that international adoption could worsen the problem it sought to solve, and that the practice could be “big business” for “unscrupulous adoption agencies.”
According to the British press, Mercy James’s grandmother is opposed to the adoption and wants custody of the girl when she is six.
Madonna first saw Mercy James, who is aged about three, during her first visit to Malawi in 2006 to adopt David.
David is meant to be on this trip and his biological father, Yohane Banda, told AFP on Sunday he would be allowed to see his son for the first time in three years.
“I have been told by officials of Raising Malawi that I will see my son. I am excited about it,” Banda, 34, said in a telephone interview. Raising Malawi is a foundation set up by Madonna.
The father said he last saw David in 2006. David was in an orphanage for the children of AIDS victims, where he was placed by his father following the death of his mother.
The pop singer was accused then of using her fame and wealth to fast-track the process because Malawi does not have inter-country adoption legislation.
Madonna was given a provisional 18-month custody which was made permanent last May.
Madonna was quoted in local reports saying she wanted David “to stay connected to his Malawi culture… to keep him closely connected to his cultural heritage.”
But she has since been in the news again because of her divorce from British film producer Guy Ritchie, with whom she had a son Rocco, now aged eight. Her daughter Lourdes comes from another relationship.
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest nations, with more than half of the population of 12 million living on less than one dollar a day. Madonna has a personal fortune estimated at several hundred million dollars.
source : afp