Madonna's friend says Malawi president's recent snub likely due to family grudge
LOS ANGELES – The first female president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, is no Madonna fan.
Last Monday the pop star arrived in the small African country, from which she adopted two children several years ago, to do some work with her charity Raising Malawi only to leave on Saturday stripped of her "Malawi VIP" status, courtesy of President Banda.
According to the UK’s Telegraph, such status enables her to bypass check-in and security lines, in addition to providing a limo service to her private jet.
Instead, the global superstar and her massive entourage were forced to line up and be checked over by authorities like any normal human being in the passenger terminal.
They didn't even get to use a special lounge area!
“She just came announced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her,” Banda is reported to have told a journalist after Madonna had left. Banda reportedly also criticized her last year, condemning over her failed plan to build an elite academy for girls.
So what's going on here?
We talked to the star’s philanthropic advisor, Trevor Neilson, and he told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column that while the whole woman-to-woman fight has been “blown out of proportion” in the press, Banda does likely carry a grudge.
“Madonna didn’t have a so-called VIP status in Malawi; to have something stripped you have to have it in the first place,” he said, before pointing out that the President’s sister, Anjimile Oponyo, was fired from her position as head of Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi, in 2011 on suspicion of theft.
The allegations were denied by Oponyo.
“I am very surprised that the President would allow her personal grudge to influence her actions,” Neilson said. “I’m not surprised (Oponyo) would want to cause problems for Madonna, but I am surprised that the President would actually listen.”
Another source associated with the entertainer told us that Madonna vs. Malawi is nothing new, and something she has had deal with in visits past.
Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center says her adopted children may have something to do with the tension as well.
“When wealthy American celebrities like Madonna get involved in philanthropy overseas trouble often ensues. When adoption is involved, it gets even more complicated. Probably Madonna's adoption of Malawi-born children has made the Malawian president uncomfortable,” he said.. “Exporting children abroad to wealthy foreigners breeds resentment. It sometimes backfires by making the people of the source country feel that they're not good enough to raise their own children.”
The “Like a Virgin” singer did, however, attempt to extend an olive branch while she was in the area by visiting the Consol Homes Orphan Care Center in Namitee, two of the 10 schools funded by Raising Malawi, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. But that may have only angered Banda even further.
Scrawled on a piece of bright yellow stationary, Madonna’s barely legible handwritten note to the President was casually addressed to “Joyce” and came complete with a misspelling of the word “responsibility.”
“First and foremost congratulations on your new position,” Madonna wrote. “As you know I am in Malawi for the week. If you have anytime in your very busy schedule to meet that would be great.”
President Banda – or “Joyce” as it were – did not.
“We haven’t received a response,” Neilson confirmed.
Yet some business and international relations experts are not particularly surprised by the snub.
Madonna isn’t allowing the widely-publicized brush off to cloud her goodwill trip.
“I am so grateful to the people of Malawi for their hospitality towards me and my family during our time here,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of the programs we support here to assist orphans and vulnerable children, and look forward to continuing to provide them with the resources they need to thrive.”
“Madonna is profoundly committed to helping one of the poorest nations on the planet,” Neilson added. “She doesn’t need validation from the press or anyone else. She will continue helping kids in Malawi.”.
President Banda’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.