, LILONGWE, March 28 – Pop diva Madonna was due in Malawi over the weekend to adopt a second toddler from the southern African nation, a court official told AFP Saturday, identifying the child as a three-year-old girl.
"Madonna wants to adopt Mercy James," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Material Girl was expected to jet in on Sunday to appear at the high court in the administrative capital Lilongwe, where her lawyer, Alan Chinula, will be filing adoption papers on Monday, the official said.
Madonna last year finalised the controversial adoption of David Banda, who had been left by his father to escape a life of grinding poverty from a rural dusty outpost in Mchinji in central Malawi. His natural mother died soon after childbirth.
The official said Mercy had been picked out at Kondanani (Love One Another) orphanage in Thyolo district, near the commercial capital Blantyre in southern Malawi, during the pop superstar’s first visit to Malawi in 2006.
When she visited the centre, Madonna was serenaded with spiritual songs by 128 AIDS orphans living there.
The Malawian government, burdened by 1.5 million children orphaned by AIDS, backed the adoption of David, which sparked a vortex of protest from local rights groups and heated debate about adoption laws in the country.
The Human Rights Consultative Committee, which spearheaded the legal challenge on the controversial adoption, maintained Madonna’s adoption could allow others to take advantage of Malawi’s lack of inter-country adoption laws.
Malawi is now reforming its laws to allow easier adoptions by foreigners.
Madonna has set up a charity in Malawi, Raising Malawi, which provides support for Malawi’s orphans and vulnerable children.
She has already built a multi-purpose community centre at Mphandula village, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Lilongwe, which looks after more than 8,000 orphans in scores of villages in the area.
British-based charity Save the Children on Saturday stressed that the best place for a child was with their family in their home country and urged celebrities to think twice before taking on a new family member.
"The best place for a child is in his or her family in their community," Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt said in a statement.
"Most children in orphanages have one parent still living, or have an extended family that can care for them in the absence of their parents."
"Save The Children believes that international adoption should only be considered if the child is a genuine orphan, if all other alternatives in their own country have been genuinely exhausted."
He warned that international adoption could actually worsen the problem it sought to solve, and said the practice could be "big business" for "unscrupulous adoption agencies."