Skip to main content

Madonna in bitter war of words with Malawi after recent visit

By Faith Karimi, CNN
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government accuses Madonna of demanding special treatment
  • "Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory," the government says
  • Madonna denies the claims, says she remains committed to educating Malawians

(CNN) -- Pop star Madonna is causing a commotion in Malawi, days after her return from a goodwill trip to the nation.

The singer is in a bitter feud with the government over accusations that she demanded VIP treatment, including at the airport, while visiting last week.

Madonna asked to meet the president and she believed Malawi "should have abandoned everything and ... rolled out a red carpet and blasted the 21-gun salute in her honor," the government said in a statement.

A government spokesman also accused her of overstating her contributions, saying she announced that she built schools in the nation while she only helped construct classrooms in existing facilities.

Malawi officials blast Madonna's school plans

The pop star shot down the reports as inaccurate, and pledged to continue helping educate young girls in the nation.

Madonna adopted a son from Malawi in 2006, and her ties to the nation run deep. In addition to adopting a daughter three years later, she has several education projects in the nation.

They include the documentary, "I Am Because We Are," which highlights diseases devastating children in the country. She also co-founded a nonprofit group, Raising Malawi, to help educate and provide programs to help the needy.

Despite her charitable involvement and fame, the government said, it is not obligated to give her special treatment.

"Madonna feels that the Malawi government and its leadership should have abandoned everything and attended to her because she believes she is a music star turned benefactor," Tusekele Mwanyongo, a government spokesman, said in a statement posted by the nation's media outlets.

"Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government ... to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory."

The spokesman did not provide specific details on what kind of special treatment Madonna reportedly asked for.

"I'm saddened that Malawi's President Joyce Banda has chosen to release lies about what we've accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths," Madonna said in a statement.

"I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations. I came to Malawi seven years ago with honorable 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."

In her statement, Madonna said the animosity is a result of her history with the president's sister, Anjimile Mtila Oponyo, who once headed Raising Malawi. Oponyo was later fired, and sued the nonprofit for wrongful termination.

"Madonna is not letting politics stand in the way of her deep commitment to help build schools there and educate as many children as possible," said Liz Rosenberg, the singer's publicist.

Malawian officials dismissed the implication that their discontent was based on her relationship with the president's sister.

Raising Malawi at first planned to build a major girls academy, but later revised its goal and joined buildOn to construct smaller schools in villages. The two groups say they've built 10 schools so far, all in 2012.

Madonna visited the nation with her children, including son David Banda and daughter Chifundo James, both of whom were adopted from Malawi.

The Malawian president, a longtime women's rights activist and former vice president, came to office last year after the death of her predecessor.

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0250 GMT (1050 HKT)
The comparisons are inevitable: A student-led campaign challenges Beijing authorities for greater freedom. Could Hong Kong protests lead to another Tiananmen?
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0354 GMT (1154 HKT)
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0752 GMT (1552 HKT)
In a country with not enough toilets, scavengers are paid just $5 a day to scoop human waste.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 2332 GMT (0732 HKT)
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
It's a frightening prospect for South Koreans: secret North Korean tunnels under Seoul
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0613 GMT (1413 HKT)
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
If you're lucky, your train might be delayed.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT