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Madonna in bitter war of words with Malawi after recent visit

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government accuses Madonna of demanding special treatment
  • "Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory," the government says
  • Madonna denies the claims, says she remains committed to educating Malawians

(CNN) -- Pop star Madonna is causing a commotion in Malawi, days after her return from a goodwill trip to the nation.

The singer is in a bitter feud with the government over accusations that she demanded VIP treatment, including at the airport, while visiting last week.

Madonna asked to meet the president and she believed Malawi "should have abandoned everything and ... rolled out a red carpet and blasted the 21-gun salute in her honor," the government said in a statement.

A government spokesman also accused her of overstating her contributions, saying she announced that she built schools in the nation while she only helped construct classrooms in existing facilities.

Malawi officials blast Madonna's school plans

The pop star shot down the reports as inaccurate, and pledged to continue helping educate young girls in the nation.

Madonna adopted a son from Malawi in 2006, and her ties to the nation run deep. In addition to adopting a daughter three years later, she has several education projects in the nation.

They include the documentary, "I Am Because We Are," which highlights diseases devastating children in the country. She also co-founded a nonprofit group, Raising Malawi, to help educate and provide programs to help the needy.

Despite her charitable involvement and fame, the government said, it is not obligated to give her special treatment.

"Madonna feels that the Malawi government and its leadership should have abandoned everything and attended to her because she believes she is a music star turned benefactor," Tusekele Mwanyongo, a government spokesman, said in a statement posted by the nation's media outlets.

"Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government ... to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory."

The spokesman did not provide specific details on what kind of special treatment Madonna reportedly asked for.

"I'm saddened that Malawi's President Joyce Banda has chosen to release lies about what we've accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths," Madonna said in a statement.

"I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations. I came to Malawi seven years ago with honorable intentions. I returned earlier this month to view the new schools we built. I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit."

In her statement, Madonna said the animosity is a result of her history with the president's sister, Anjimile Mtila Oponyo, who once headed Raising Malawi. Oponyo was later fired, and sued the nonprofit for wrongful termination.

"Madonna is not letting politics stand in the way of her deep commitment to help build schools there and educate as many children as possible," said Liz Rosenberg, the singer's publicist.

Malawian officials dismissed the implication that their discontent was based on her relationship with the president's sister.

Raising Malawi at first planned to build a major girls academy, but later revised its goal and joined buildOn to construct smaller schools in villages. The two groups say they've built 10 schools so far, all in 2012.

Madonna visited the nation with her children, including son David Banda and daughter Chifundo James, both of whom were adopted from Malawi.

The Malawian president, a longtime women's rights activist and former vice president, came to office last year after the death of her predecessor.

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report

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