LILONGWE, Malawi – A 1-year-old boy whom Madonna and her husband are seeking to adopt left for England on Monday, flying first on a chartered plane to South Africa, then on a regularly scheduled flight to London, where the singer has a home.
The boy, David Banda, was accompanied by two Britons and two Americans, one of whom listed her occupation as nanny, according to an immigration official at the airport in Malawi who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A woman carried the child through Johannesburg international airport to board the plane for London. Three male bodyguards tried to prevent reporters from photographing the boy, whose face was shielded by the woman's hand.
A statement from Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's publicist in New York, said the child was issued a passport and a visa Monday. She said the family expected to be reunited in coming days.
"She's going to do her best to not make it a public circus," Rosenberg said. "It's not my sense that she would want to expose the whole thing to public scrutiny."
Human rights groups on Monday asked Malawi's courts to review a ruling allowing Madonna to adopt the child from this impoverished, AIDS-stricken southern African country, saying they want to ensure child protection regulations were not swept aside to benefit a pop star who has been generous to the country.
The pop star's charity Raising Malawi is setting up an orphanage for up to 4,000 children.
The Malawi High Court granted preliminary custody to Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie on Thursday, even though the law requires would-be parents to live in the country for a year while social welfare officers investigate their ability to care for a child.
Rosenberg said the couple would have temporary custody of David for 18 months, and would be evaluated by the courts of Malawi according to its customs.
Boniface Mandere of Eye of the Child, a local child protection society involved in challenging the adoption, told The Associated Press earlier Monday: "The court seems to have made a decision based on Madonna's wealth. But being a good parent is not about money, it is about caring, having heart, it's about love."
He said his group was not necessarily opposed to the adoption, but wanted to ensure the law was followed.
Madonna and Ritchie have a son, Rocco, 5, and the singer also has a daughter, Lourdes, 9.
Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries, devastated by AIDS and periodic drought. According to the National AIDS Commission, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has left close to a million orphans here. Because AIDS has killed so many young adults, many children are left in the care of grandparents or older siblings.