Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 13:08 UK

Malawi welcomes Madonna adoption

By Raphael Tenthani, BBC News, Blantyre

Madonna with adopted son David Banda
Madonna previously adopted Malawian boy David Banda

The decision to grant pop star Madonna the right to adopt a second Malawian child has been warmly received by many in the southern African state.

The singer's victory at Malawi's Supreme Court of Appeal led the news on local radio stations and prompted a positive response on phone-in shows.

But James Kambewa, who is claiming paternity of the four-year-old girl, remains opposed to the adoption.

"I won't give up the fight," he said, adding that the court disregarded him.

"I wrote to the court challenging the adoption because I am ready and willing to take care of my child," said Mr Kambewa.

"How can they continue referring to her as an orphan when I told them I am there for her?"

Madonna, pictured on a recent visit to Malawi
Madonna's charity Raising Malawi helps to look after orphans in the country

However, Mr Kambewa was a lone voice of opposition, with most Malawians welcoming the court's decision to allow Madonna to adopt Chifundo "Mercy" James.

"She is taking Mercy out of a life of destitution; she could have lived in the orphanage until she was old enough to start prostitution," said Michael Jonas, a curio seller in Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city.

"I am happy for her and the world should ignore the so-called father. We have lots of fathers but very few parents."

"I am happy for Mercy," said Martha Banda, a university student in Blantyre.

"Those who are against the adoption are just plain selfish. How can one say she is better off in an orphanage?"

Anxious wait

Chifundo's uncle, Peter Baneti, said her family were "very happy".

"We, as a family, have been anxiously awaiting this ruling. We are very happy for Chifundo," he said.

He added that Mr Kembewa could "jump into Lake Malawi" for all he cared.

"We don't know this James boy. He was not there when my sister was pregnant; he didn't attend her funeral. How can he just come out to claim the baby? Does he want to steal my niece?"

Mercy's teenage mother died of child-birth complications a few days after giving birth.

Mr Kambewa admitted he had denied responsibility for his girlfriend's pregnancy. He met the 14-year-old Mwandida Mwaunde in secondary school, but deserted her when she fell pregnant in 2006.

"I was young then, but now I am old and responsible," he said.

Madonna's lawyer on adoption verdict

Yet even those in Malawi initially opposed to the adoption appear to have had a change of heart.

"We are happy today's ruling has clarified issues of inter-country adoptions," said Maxwell Matewere, Executive director of Eye of the Child - a child rights organisation which previously expressed reservations about the adoption

Frank Phiri, a resident in Bvumbwe - where the Mercy orphanage is situated - said Malawi has millions of orphans and one orphan less must be viewed as good news.

"I wish other rich people would come here to adopt orphans like Madonna has done," he said.

"Governments should encourage people to adopt children because living in an orphanage is tough."

'Extremely grateful'

According to the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Development, there are close to 2 million orphans in Malawi, a quarter of whom have lost their parents as a direct result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Madonna, one of the most successful stars in pop history, first met Mercy in October 2006 at Kondanani Children's Village, just outside Blantyre, the same year she began the process of adopting David Banda.

Immediately after the ruling on Friday, Madonna's Malawian lawyer called up the singer in New York.

"My client was ecstatic; although it was still early in the States she was up to wait for the ruling," he said.

The singer herself responded: "I am extremely grateful for the Supreme Court's ruling on my application to adopt Mercy James."

"I am ecstatic... My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her," Madonna said in a statement.

The pop star also has two biological children - Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, aged eight.



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