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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Madonna adoption divides Malawi
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC News, Lilongwe

The "fast-tracking" of the adoption of 13-month-old David Banda by US pop diva Madonna is causing controversy in Malawi.

Madonna with Malawian children
Madonna's charity set up its own orphanage during her visit

While some say it is a good thing that would ease the plight of Malawi's estimated one million Aids orphans, others fear it could set a bad precedent.

"We must be frank we can't afford to look after the thousands of babies that are being orphaned every day," says Mirriam Nyirongo, a retired nurse who runs an orphanage in the northern city of Mzuzu.

"If rich people like Madonna take just one child, it will be a major boost for Malawi. People like Baby David, when they come to know their roots, might wish to do the same to others."

But Maxwell Matewere, Executive Director of child rights group Eye of the Child, said his organisation is appealing to the government to reconsider the adoption.

"Madonna might have good intentions but we must follow the law to the letter to avoid a situation where criminals with money might take advantage to abuse our children," he said.


Mr Matewere said his organisation wants the government to delay the adoption granted by the courts "for further consultations".

Under Malawian law, couples must normally wait 18 months before being allowed to adopt but a judge has given Madonna temporary custody during her two-week stay in the country.

I wouldn't have my baby adopted by anybody, however rich they may be
Angela, 18

Mr Matewere also said international adoptions were not currently allowed, although the law was being considered.

"If parliament adopts the recommendations it will be good because it means children like David, who are up for international adoption, would enjoy full legal rights, meaning that the country of adoption would participate in the monitoring and assessment of their progress and welfare," he said.

Under current laws, Malawian child welfare officers must be assigned to track Baby David's progress wherever Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie take the baby.

Under the judge's temporary order, if Baby David is being treated differently from Madonna's other two children, the order would be revoked and permanent custody withdrawn.

Mr Matewere points out that while the condition is intended to protect Baby David, it is unlikely to be implemented, since Malawi does not have the resources to fly child welfare officers to track highly mobile people like Madonna.


The issue has also been hotly debated on the streets, during radio phone-ins and by the local press.

"I wouldn't have my baby adopted by anybody, however rich they may be," said Angela, 18, who was sitting exams when the Madonna circus was in town.

Aids orphans in Malawi
Malawi has an estimated 1m Aids orphans
"Planting a black boy from a poor background into a white rich family will have a disastrous effect on the baby's psyche later in life."

Elina, who was listening as the girls studied for the exams in the central district of Mchinji, where Baby David was "discovered" by the pop diva, disagrees.

"A one-year-old will not be affected by this," she reasoned.

"At that age he knows nothing. It would even be great if he does not come to know where they got him from."

But if the adoption does go ahead, it would indeed be a shock for David to leave his mother's London mansion or her exclusive Malibu Beach condo for the mud-and-thatch hut in his biological father's Lipunga village in Mchinji.

But the father, Yohane Banda, 32, said Madonna promised to take David "to know his roots" when he grows older.

While the lawyers argue in court and David waits for his Malawian passport and visas, he is in the custody of the remnants of Madonna's travelling party.

A source at the Home of Hope orphanage, where he has been since he was two weeks old, said the woman at the orphanage who has been looking after David, was taken to the exclusive cliff-top ranch where Madonna stayed in the capital, Lilongwe, to help him get used to his new parents.

Madonna has also flown in a baby psychology nurse from London to help the process.

Madonna on a visit to Malawi


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