- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

BLANTYRE, Malawi | Pop star Madonna was allowed Friday to adopt a second child from Malawi, although the father of the 4-year-old girl said he wants her back, a plea likely to stir fresh controversy for the American singer.

Malawi’s Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in April that said Madonna could not adopt Mercy James because Madonna was not a resident of the southern African country.

Rights groups have accused the government of giving Madonna special treatment and said the case would encourage foreigners to think they can adopt Malawian children at will.

Mercy’s father said Madonna should not be allowed to adopt Mercy.

“No one wants to listen to me; I have protested this all along … I want my child back but I don’t know what to do now,” James Kabewa said by telephone from his poor township.

“Madonna cannot take her away.”

There is little he can do. The high court ruling cannot be challenged. Mr. Kabewa said he quit his job as a security guard to fight the adoption and was being supported by his aunt.

According to tradition in southern Malawi, where Mr. Kabewa lives, a grandmother has more say in a child’s future than the father. When Mercy’s mother died, Mr. Kabewa was powerless to stop his daughter being sent to an orphanage when she was 3 days old.

An AIDS epidemic in Malawi has orphaned more than 1 million children, and Madonna has set up a children’s charity.

Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo said the singer had shown an interest in helping Malawi orphans and that Mercy would have a better life with her. He said a lower court had erred in turning down the adoption request:

“Madonna has shown that she is bold and compassionate enough to come forward to adopt Chifundo [Mercy] James,” he said.

In a statement, Madonna said: “I am ecstatic. … My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her.”

Malawi’s government came under fire in 2006 after Madonna adopted a 13-month-old child, David Banda, with critics accusing it of giving her special treatment by skirting laws that ban nonresidents from adopting children.

“Of course we are disappointed with the ruling because we know that adoption should only be granted as the last resort,” said Maxwell Matewele, executive director of the Eye on Child nongovernmental organization.

Madonna, who was divorced last year from British film director Guy Ritchie, has enjoyed album sales of more than 200 million.

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