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Madonna won't let me see Mercy, says her father


Madonna won't let me see Mercy, says her father

By Stewart Maclean; Emily Miller 19/04/2009
Anguish of Mercy's dad

The father of the little African girl Madonna wants to adopt claims he has been banned from meeting her on the singer's orders.
James Kambewa has discovered his four-year-old Mercy James is under the protection of Madonna's aides.
Nightwatchman James, 24, who walked out on Mercy's mother when she got pregnant at 18 and has never seen his daughter, was due to meet her at an orphanage in Malawi last week.
But he is furious that 50-year-old Madonna - now appealing against a judge's decision to turn down her adoption bid - arranged for aides to spirit the child away.
According to relatives, Mercy is being looked after by a nanny at luxury Kumbali Lodge - where Madonna stayed earlier this month, along with her 15-strong entourage.
James, who has written a moving letter to Mercy, is now determined to stop her being taken out of Malawi. He says: "I don't have money and influence like Madonna, but I do have something that she doesn't... I am the child's flesh and blood.
I'm sure Madonna thinks she has my daughter's best interests at heart, but here in Malawi we value more than just money and power.
"I want to show my child love and to bring her into my home. Until I knew I was a father, I felt like I boy. But I feel like a man and I know my life must change." James says he hasn't seen Mercy before because he was told she died with her mother.
He has consulted lawyers and claims he was barred from Kondanani Children's Village.
Mercy was sent there after her mother, Mwandida Maunde, died weeks after giving birth.
Local authorities assumed James, who lives 200 miles away in a remote township, was also dead. He said: "Imagine knowing you have a daughter but not being allowed to meet her. It's too much pain for me to cope with." Though he earns just £23 a month compared with Madonna's millions, James is preparing for a custody battle.
He said: "I am not going to give up my daughter without trying to be her father." Madonna believed Mercy was an orphan when she began her adoption bid. She first spotted her in 2006 at the orphanage, near Blantyre where she found her adopted son David Banda. James said: "I admit I did a foolish and shameful thing when I ran away from Mwandida, but I was young and scared. Our families wanted us to marry but I wanted to finish my schooling.
"I refused to get married and even denied the baby was mine.
But although the community were angry with me, Mwandida understood and accepted my decision. We met in secret for a couple of months. It wasn't that I didn't love her, but I was scared of the responsibility of fatherhood.
"If we'd married I would never have finished my education, and what kind of home could I have provided for my daughter then?" James, who wears a heartshaped wooden pendant with the words "Mercy James" says: "I believed my baby had died.
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Now I know she is here it is all I can think of. When I hear a child cry I just think of her. What is she doing... is she playing? Is she laughing? Is she happy?" If Madonna wins her appeal Mercy could be taken to Britain or the US to live a life of luxury with the star's other children Lourdes, 12, Rocco, eight, and David, three.
But James dreams of taking Mercy home, too. He has a three-roomed home with no electricity or running water but aims to bring her up with the help of a sister and aunt.
He earns 5,000 Malawian kwachas (£23) a month working seven 12-hour night shifts a week as a watchman in a private home. About half of that goes on rent, leaving little left for food and other things.
But he is confident he can give Mercy a decent upbringing. He said: "Money cannot buy you everything. I would teach her kindness, send her to school and help her grow." Last week he bought a few small gifts in case he gets to see his daughter, including a flower-patterned dress, biscuits and a carton of juice.
James adds: "I just wish I had realised sooner that I am a father. Now I fear it is too late." Madonna's appeal on the adoption is set to be heard on May 4 in the southern African country's Supreme Court in Blantyre. Last week, in a new publicity drive, she released a photo of her tenderly cradling Mercy, and declaring her love for the girl in an open letter to Malawi's biggest newspaper.

James' letter to his daughter:
Mercy, my tears drop down around my cheek to cry for you.
Sometimes when I am thinking about the past I cry, because I denied you when you were in your mother's womb.
That time I was still young and not grown in mind... but your mother was an innocent and lovely woman.
I denied to marry with your mother because I was still schooling. But now I am a good man full of responsibility.
My dear, I am also sad that Madonna wants to take you away.
Today you are not an orphan because I am alive. Other people said to me that you died as well. But today I am happy because you are alive.
I need you to be in my hand and to give you some good love as your father.

2009 Apr 19