Malawi court allows Madonna to adopt second child

BLANTYRE Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:11pm EDT

1 of 2. Pop star Madonna holds the child named Mercy in this undated publicity photo taken in Malawi and released to Reuters April 13, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Tom Munro/Warner Brothers Records/Handout

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BLANTYRE (Reuters) - U.S. pop star Madonna was allowed on 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 singer.

Malawi's Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in April which said Madonna could not adopt Mercy James because she 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, one of the music industry's most successful singers, 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 told Reuters by telephone from his poor township.

"Madonna cannot take her away."

There is little he can do. The Supreme Court ruling cannot be challenged. 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 Kabewa lives, a grandmother has more say in a child's future than the father. When Mercy's mother died 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 one 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,"

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 non-residents 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 non-governmental organization.

Madonna has entertained millions around the world with hits like "Material Girl" and "Papa Don't Preach," creating a fair amount of controversy along the way.

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

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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