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Malawian government harshly criticizes Madonna

Thursday - 4/11/2013, 2:20pm  ET

AP10ThingsToSee - Madonna, center, tours the Mphandura orpahange near Lilongwe, Malawi on Friday, April 5, 2013. The performer is spending her fourth day in the southern African country from where she adopted two children David Banda, right and Mercy James, left. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi, File)

RAPHAEL TENTHANI
Associated Press

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) -- Malawi issued a scathing critique of pop diva Madonna on Wednesday, accusing her of exaggerating her contributions to the southern African country and unreasonably demanding special treatment during her tour there last week.

The pop star denied the accusations. Her spokesman suggested they were prompted by the recent removal of the president's sister as head of Madonna's humanitarian organization there.

The singer has a long history with the country, which she first visited in 2006. She adopted two children from Malawi and runs several projects there. She was granted VIP treatment during previous visits, including when she last jetted into the country on April 1. But Madonna apparently was surprised when she learned upon leaving Malawi that that was no longer the case, and that she and her travelling party would have to line up with ordinary passengers and be frisked by airport security.

"There was a directive that Miss Louise Ciccone, travelling on an American passport, and her children Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, Rocco Ritchie, Mercy James, David Banda Ciccone Ritchie should use the ordinary passenger terminal on their way to their jet," said an aviation official who refused to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

A strongly worded statement by the president's office accused Madonna of trying to use her fame and money to press Malawi into giving her special treatment.

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

The presidential statement also questioned Madonna's intentions behind 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.

President Joyce Banda was reportedly angered by Madonna's claims that she has built 10 schools in Malawi, and questioned that statement in widely quoted remarks last week.

"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," Banda said.

In a statement released by her spokesperson, Madonna said he was "saddened" that Banda "has chosen to release
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