AWASA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - The mother of an Ethiopian baby adopted by Angelina Jolie denied on Saturday that she had ever challenged the adoption, and said she was happy her daughter had found a home with the Hollywood star.
In an interview at her tiny home in the southern city of Awasa, Mentwabe Dawit rejected newspaper reports in the United States and Europe this week that she wanted two-year-old Zahara returned to Ethiopia.
Her words had been twisted, she said, by “so-called journalists” who had visited her and claimed to be working for the Oscar-winning actress.
“I have never disputed the adoption,” Mentwabe told Reuters. “This was a mistake. It was something I never said.”
On Thursday, the Ethiopian agency that arranged the adoption said it was “legal and irrevocable” and that Zahara’s grandmother had told an Addis Ababa court her daughter was dead.
Speaking on Saturday in her earth-floored house, lit by a single light bulb, Mentwabe said she ran away from her home five months after giving birth because she had no food for her baby.
“I decided to flee rather than watch her die,” she said.
Her mother searched for her for months around Awasa, 270 km (170 miles) south of the capital, but eventually concluded that she must have died and put the baby girl up for adoption.
Jolie, who also works as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, adopted her in July 2005. She adopted a Cambodian refugee boy, Maddox, three years earlier.
In Awasa, Mentwabe kissed a picture of the actress.
“This is to show I have no ill feelings towards her,” she said. “I think my daughter is a very fortunate human being to be adopted by a world-famous lady. I wish them both all the success they deserve.”
Writing by Daniel Wallis