Madonna returned to Malawi today for the first time since her furious row with the country’s former president 18 months ago.
The singer is believed to have flown in this morning with the two children she adopted from the central African country and her other son for surprise talks with the new leader.
Her visit will fuel speculation the star is looking to adopt another child after she posted pictures online today showing her playing with young Malawian children, apparently at an orphanage.
Madonna, who funds orphanages in the country and is helping to build schools and hospitals, was unceremoniously sent packing in April last year after a dispute with ex-president Joyce Banda.
Mrs Banda attacked the pop star for being ‘arrogant’ and bizarrely accused her of being less well-mannered than footballers Gary Neville or Rio Ferdinand ‘despite their equally dazzling stature’.
A statement released by her office, which Mrs Banda later distanced herself from, accused the star of wanting Malawi ‘to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude’ for her charity work.
It also claimed Madonna believed the country should have ‘rolled out a red carpet and blast the 21-gun salute’ upon her arrival.
Mrs Banda, whose sister Anjimile Ntila-Oponyo used to run Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity until her sacking over financial impropriety, stripped the singer of her ‘Very Very Important Person’ (VVIP) status.
This fall-out forced Madonna, 56, to check into her private jet at Kamuzu International Airport as an ‘ordinary passenger’.
However, new president Peter Mutharika, who beat Banda at the May polls, has restored Madonna’s VVIP status.
State House press secretary Frederick Ndala said: ‘We welcome Madonna as guest of the government and people of Malawi.
‘The President appreciates the charity work she is doing for the people of Malawi.’
Madonna is scheduled to hold talks with President Mutharika on Friday at his official Kamuzu Palace in the capital, Lilongwe.
Madonna’s 12-member travelling party is believed to include sons Roco John Ritchie and David Banda and daughter Mercy Chifundo James.
They are said to have arrived at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe at 11am.
‘We were asked to clear the airport’s cargo bay for a special guest,’ said an airport worker, who saw the jet land.
He said Madonna was whisked into a fleet of SUVs and raced into town to Kumbali Lodge, a farm lodge she always stays at on her Malawi visits.
Madonna first visited Malawi in 2006 after her Malawian friend Victoria Keelan told her about the impoverished southern African country’s AIDS situation.
She immediately adopted then one-year-old David Banda at an orphanage.
She adopted her second Malawian child, Mercy Chifundo James, in 2009, at another orphanage.
She periodically visits Malawi, often with all her children – including daughter Lourdes who has not made the trip this time around.
She funds a number of orphanages, including Home of Hope in the western border district of Mchinji where she got David, and Kondanani Children’s Home in the southern tea-growing district of Thyolo.
She is also building a number of schools and a paediatrics ward at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – which she is scheduled to visit during her trip, according to sources.