Malawian officials said on Thursday that they have moved scores of villagers from land where United States pop diva Madonna plans to build a girls academy.
“The district commissioner for Lilongwe told the villagers to move off the land and [make] way for the construction of the academy because it was government land reserved for development projects,” an official from the commissioner’s office told Agence France-Presse by telephone.
The official, who did not want to be named, said district commissioner Charles Kalemba told the nearly 200 villagers that they were lucky to have been “compensated for the houses, gardens and fruit trees”.
Kalemba, accompanied by officials from the government Department of Lands and Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, visited the site on the outskirts of the administrative capital, Lilongwe, on Wednesday.
The villagers had threatened to block the project unless they got more cash after being paid $500 000 in compensation by Madonna’s charity.
Madonna broke ground last year for the construction of the Raising Malawi Girls Academy, which will provide education to impoverished children.
Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, a top official for the charity, said the villagers had been given “generous compensation” and had no reason to complain.
The official said a local chief, Binson Chinkhota, told the villagers to “accept the reality as there is nothing we can do”. The villagers have been relocated to other villages.
The academy, expected to be completed in two years, will enrol 500 girls from poor backgrounds.
Madonna, whose charity sponsors orphanages and other children’s projects, has adopted two children from Malawi, where Aids has devastated many families. — Sapa-AFP