Madonna 'Saddened' by Malawi Government's Criticisms

Pop star denies claims she exaggerated her charitable work

Madonna and her children at Mkoko Primary School, one of the schools Madonna's Raising Malawi organization has built jointly with US organization BuildOn.
AAMOS GUMULIRA/AFP/Getty Images
Madonna and her children at Mkoko Primary School, one of the schools Madonna's Raising Malawi organization has built jointly with US organization BuildOn.
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Madonna said she was "saddened" by the Malawi government's assertion yesterday that she made VIP demands during a recent visit to the impoverished African country.

"I was very happy to visit with the children of Malawi earlier this month and to see with my own eyes the 10 new primary schools in Kasungu province that Raising Malawi and buildOn completed this past year," the pop star said in a statement, addressing the government's claims that she exaggerated her charitable work in the country.

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In their initial letter, the Malawi government said Madonna's behavior was akin to "blackmail," and that she was essentially holding the country ransom over her two adopted Malawian children, David Banda and Mercy James: "It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude," read a statement signed by State House Press Officer Tusekele Mwanyongo.

Rebutting such accusations as "lies" and "untruths," Madonna added: "I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations. I came to Malawi seven years ago with honorable intentions. I returned earlier this month to view the new schools we built. I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit. I will not be distracted or discouraged by other people's political agendas. I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise."

Madonna's Raising Malawi foundation had initially planned to build a central girls academy in the country, before deciding that smaller schools in villages around the country would be a more sustainable model. Organizational issues, however, got in the way and Raising Malawi's new efforts have since been met with resistance from members of the government, including President Joyce Banda and her sister, Anjimile Oponyo, a former Raising Malawi team member who now works in the Ministry of Education.

While the government claimed that all Madonna had done was build extra classrooms, not new schools, the pop star stressed that her 10 new schools were now educating more than 4,800 children daily in safe environments with as many girl students attending as boys.