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Malawi leader, pop star Madonna meet "secretly" over orphan adoption


The Nation website, Blantyre

BBC Monitoring International Reports

President Bingu wa Mutharika and Madonna avoided discussing the adoption of a Malawian orphan by the top pop star when the two met secretly at the New State House in Lilongwe on Tuesday [10 October] afternoon, The Nation has learnt.

A source close to the visit told The Nation that there were many unresolved issues on Madonna's offer to adopt an orphan. The source said the President had very little information on the pop star's intentions.

"There has been a serious communication breakdown between government officials and State House and what worsened the situation was failure by Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources Chimunthu Banda to welcome Madonna last Friday on behalf of Mutharika," said the source. Presidential press officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi refused to say anything on the Mutharika-Madonna private talks. He said he had no idea about what the two discussed on the child adoption issue. "The only thing I can tell you is that I have no comment," said Mtumodzi.

Chimunthu Banda, confirming being assigned to officially welcome Madonna on behalf of Mutharika who was on holiday in Australia, also declined to give details about the visit which has remained a mystery because of the manner Madonna's schedule has been kept a secret. "I was supposed to meet Madonna last Friday, but due to some logistical hiccups the meeting was cancelled," said Chimunthu Banda. "My duty was simply to welcome her into the country and not to discuss anything technical on the purpose of the visit. I am not sure that she finally met the president since I have been travelling a lot this week."

Madonna's one-week visit has been shrouded in secrecy, with conflicting information on who she was going to adopt from the Mchinji Orphanage. Speculation first centred on a one-year old orphan boy, reports Madonna's spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg dismissed. It was later reported that Madonna had settled for 14-year old David Banda whose mother died some years ago. However, negotiations with the boy's father, Yohane Banda, were not completed during her two visits on Friday last week and last Monday.

Efforts to talk to Mchinji Orphanage founding director Timothy Chipeta and executive director Lucy Malitowe proved futile as their phones could not be reached. Secretary for Women and Child Development Andrina Mchiela said it was unethical to discuss Madonna's adoption offers because such matters are legally sensitive. "There are many things involved in the adoption of children. It is not right for me or my minister to comment on Madonna's issue at the moment," said Mchiela. "I would suggest that we wait for the right time, definitely not today [Thursday]." Mchiela confirmed that she had not met Madonna and that the Minister of Women and Child Development Kate Kainja-Kaluluma, who was out of the country when the pop star landed last week, also has had no chance to interact with the pop star.

According to earlier media reports, Madonna plans to pump in at least 3m dollars (420m kwacha) into programmes supporting orphans in Malawi and another 1m dollars (140m dollars) for a documentary on the plight of children in the country.

2006 Oct 13