Madge in land spat

MALAWI: Malawi's Government has sided with Madonna in a land dispute that has pitted her against impoverished villagers.

Villagers have been refusing to move from land near the capital, Lilongwe, where Madonna - who has adopted two Malawian children - wants to build a $21 million school for girls.

But the Government says it planned to develop the plot, and allowed the villagers to live there only until a project was identified.

Lilongwe District Commissioner Charles Kalemba, other government officials and representatives from Madonna's Raising Malawi charity met about 200 villagers yesterday and told them they would have to move to other government land.

"Government allowed you to occupy this land because there was no project yet," Kalemba told the villagers. "But now that Madonna wants to build you a school you have to give way."

Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, who will be principal of Madonna's school, said the singer paid the villagers more than 16 million kwacha (about $165,000) to compensate them for their mostly mud houses, gardens and trees.

- AP

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