Malawi Government Criticizes Madonna After Visit

Officials accuse singer of using fame and money for VIP treatment

Madonna visits the Mkoko Primary School in central Malawi, one of the schools her Raising Malawi organization has built .
AMOS GUMULIRA/AFP/Getty Images
Madonna visits the Mkoko Primary School in central Malawi, one of the schools her Raising Malawi organization has built jointly with another US organization, BuildOn.
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Madonna received angry criticism from the Malawi government today, including claims that the singer used her fame and money to demand VIP treatment for her tour through the country last week.

According to the Associated Press, the president's office issued a statement today that bashed the pop star for her travel expectations. Madonna had previously received VIP treatment in Malawi, including on her April 1st arrival; however, when she and her crew returned to the airport on April 6th, they were forced to go through airport security along with regular passengers.

It's unclear if Madonna was aggressive or defiant about this change, but the Malawi government is unhappy with her behavior. "Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government under whose territory Madonna finds herself, including Malawi, to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory," read the statement, signed by State House Press Officer Tusekele Mwanyongo.

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"There was a directive that Miss Louise Ciccone, traveling on an American passport, and her children Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, Rocco Ritchie, Mercy James, David Banda Ciccone Ritchie should use the ordinary passenger terminal on their way to their jet," said an aviation official.

President of Malawi Joyce Banda reportedly expressed outrage last week at Madonna's claims that she built 10 schools in the African country. "Where are the 10 schools she has built? She is just building school blocks at already existing schools. In some cases she just renovated an already existing block," Banda said, according to AP. "This is an insult to the people of Malawi. She can't be lying to the world at our expense."

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The Malawi government said Madonna's conduct nearly amounted to "blackmail" and accused the singer of holding the country ransom over her two adopted Malawian children, David Banda and Mercy James. "Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. 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 the statement signed by Mwanyongo. "Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can't be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else."

For their part, Madonna's camp claims something more suspicious is at work, as Banda's younger sister, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, was fired from her position as CEO of Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi. "The President of Malawi appears to be using her office to pursue the financial interests of her family," said Trevor Neilson, a representative of the philanthropic group managing Madonna's projects in the country. "Immediately Oponyo began to use that office to pursue her grudge against Raising Malawi, first by harassing organizations that Raising Malawi has donated to and then by having the Education Ministry [that she helps lead] claim that [it built] the 10 schools that BuildOn built with Raising Malawi funding."

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