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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Father angry at Madonna's critics
Madonna following her return to London from Malawi
Madonna returned to the UK ahead of David Banda

The father of the one-year-old boy Madonna is hoping to adopt has hit back at rights groups who are aiming to challenge the singer's plans in court.

"Where were these people when David was struggling in the orphanage?" Yohane Banda told the AP news agency.

"These so-called human rights groups should leave my baby alone," he added.

The boy is now in London with Madonna. He will be monitored by Malawian officials over a period of 18 months before the adoption is approved.

Mr Banda said he was forced to give his baby up to the Home of Hope Orphanage in a Malawian village.

His wife died a week after giving birth to David and the couple had two other sons who died in infancy from malaria.

'Kind-hearted'

David Banda arrives at Heathrow Airport
The child arrived in the UK on Tuesday morning

"I was alone with a baby, I had no money. I couldn't buy him milk. That's why I surrendered him to the orphanage," he said.

"Orphanage life is no good. We leave kids there because we can't look after them properly ourselves. Now my son has been taken by a kind-hearted woman, these people want to bring him back to the orphanage," he added.

The child's grandmother, Asianati Mwale, 56, backed Mr Banda.

"Where were they when I and my son were trying to get someone to look after this child? Do they even know what we have had to go through to save the life of David?," she said.

"We trust that Madonna will look after our child well and he will have a better life," she added.

Malawi's Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), a coalition of about 40 organisations, launched a legal challenge to the adoption on Tuesday.

Residency permit

Earlier this week it said it had deferred the move, saying it wanted to interview an unidentified uncle of David's who was "said to be opposed to the adoption plan".

Madonna
Madonna said she wanted to help Malawian children orphaned by Aids

HRCC believes the government in Malawi has relaxed the usual ban on adoptions by foreigners and a requirement that prospective parents have to stay with the child in Malawi for 18 - 24 months before the adoption is approved.

Chair Justin Dzonzi said it plans to approach the courts next week.

"We will meet the judge sometime next week and proceed with an injunction pending the process of adoption granted to Madonna last week by the High Court," he said.

He said the group was not against the adoption but wanted Malawi's laws adhered to.

"If Madonna really wants the child, she has to apply for a residency permit in Malawi," he said.

But a government official told AP that the laws the group referred to were "archaic".

"These laws date back to the 1940s; things have changed now," said Penston Kilembe, director of the Child Welfare Services in the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services.

"Madonna and her husband have broken no laws as far as the government is concerned. They have followed all the legal steps," he added.


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