Malawi: Madonna 'Demanded Special Treatment'

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Malawi: Madonna 'Demanded Special Treatment'

Malawi's government has launched a scathing attack on Madonna, accusing her of demanding special treatment and exaggerating her contributions to the country during a tour last week.

The pop star has visited the southern African nation several times since 2006 and runs several projects there after adopting two children.

But her latest trip has raised the ire of President Joyce Banda's government, which claimed she had "demanded state attention" - unlike other international figures the country has hosted, such as footballers Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville.

"Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government under whose territory Madonna finds herself, including Malawi, to give her state treatment," the president's office said.

"Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory."

On previous trips, Madonna has received numerous privileges, but during the latest visit she was reportedly denied use of the VIP section at the airport

The government also questioned Madonna's intentions with her humanitarian efforts in Malawi, alleging that the singer "wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude".

"Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can't be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes," the statement said.

A spokesman for Madonna said claims that the singer had requested special treatment were "nonsense".

Madonna herself said she was "saddened" that President Banda had "chosen to release lies about what we've accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths."

She said: "I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations.

"I came to Malawi seven years ago with honourable intentions.

"I returned earlier this month to view the new schools we built. I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit. I will not be distracted or discouraged by other people's political agendas.

"I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise."

Trevor Neilson, whose Global Philanthropy Group is managing Madonna's projects in Malawi, said: "Obviously these attacks are influenced by the fact that the president's sister was removed as the head of Madonna's organisation in Malawi due to concerns about mismanagement of \$3.8m (£2.5m).

"As the largest private philanthropist to Malawi we would think that the government would be pleased that she is giving her time and money to one of the poorest countries in the world."

However, the statement from the president's office dismissed the claim that Ms Banda was angry because Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo had been fired as the CEO of the Raising Malawi charity.

The charity was to have built a \$15m (£9.8m) academy for girls but the project was dropped because of the concerns, with Madonna saying instead she would build community schools.

Last week, Ms Banda reacted angrily to Madonna's claim to have built 10 schools in Malawi.

"Where are the 10 schools she has built? She is just building school blocks at already existing schools. In some cases she just renovated an already existing block. This is an insult to the people of Malawi. She can't be lying to the world at our expense," she said.