madonnaMadonna has attended a court hearing in Malawi today to begin the formal proceedings for her next adoption.

The singer and her oldest child, twelve year old Lourdes arrived in the country over the weekend and yesterday visited villages just outside the capital Lilongwe. According to onlookers, the mother and daughter greeted villagers and local tradespeople in the country’s native tongue Chichewa - although Madonna was a lot more enthusiastic about it than Lourdes.

Later in the evening, the pair are said to have met the now four year old girl that Madonna has been interested in adopting since she met her while adopting son David from the country in 2006. The girl, Chifundo, which translates into English as Mercy, was placed in an orphanage in the country after her mum died in childbirth but her remaining family is said to be reluctant to let her go, with her grandmother calling the proposed adoption “stealing”.

The girl’s uncle Peter Baneti said yesterday: “We never wanted to let Mercy go. She’s part of our family. My mother, brother John and I said no three times to the orphanage, which was pressing us on Madonna’s behalf.

“[But] now we have been persuaded Mercy can have a better, healthier life somewhere else in the world with this rich white woman.

“We need more advice but everything is going so fast. They have taken Mercy from the orphanage.”

Today’s brief court hearing took place in private and the case has now been adjourned to Friday. A court source told Us Weekly: “Madonna will appear before a judge … to petition the court to certify her adoption.

Madonna will definitely be granted a temporary court order to allow her to take the child away with her.”

Children’s and human rights campaigners in the country have said the new adoption proceedings are a “sad development”. Maxwell Matewere of Malawi group Eye of the Child said: “Our adoption laws require foreigners to reside in this country for at least a year. Madonna has sidestepped this once and seems about to do it again.”