June 16th, 2024

Malawi’s vice president and 9 others have died in a plane crash, the president says


By Gregory Gondwe And Gerald Imray, The Associated Press on June 11, 2024.

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, left, greets government officials upon his return from South Korea in Lillongwe, Sunday, June 9, 2024. A military plane carrying Malawi's vice president and nine others went missing Monday and a search was underway, the president's office said. The plane carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima left the capital, Lilongwe, but failed to make its scheduled landing at Mzuzu International Airport about 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north around 45 minutes later. (AP Photo)

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) – Malawi’s vice president and nine others were killed in a plane crash, the country’s president said Tuesday.

The wreckage of the military plane carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima was located in a mountainous area in the north of the country after a search that lasted more than a day. There were no survivors of the crash, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said in a live address on state television.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and forest rangers had been searching for the plane that also carried a former first lady after it went missing Monday morning while making the 45-minute flight from the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe, to the city of Mzuzu, around 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

Air traffic controllers told the plane not to attempt a landing at Mzuzu’s airport because of bad weather and poor visibility and asked it to turn back to Lilongwe, Chakwera said. Air traffic control then lost contact with the aircraft and it disappeared from radar, he said.

Seven passengers and three military crew members were on board. The president described the aircraft as a small, propeller driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces. The tail number he provided shows it is a Dornier 228-type twin propeller plane that was delivered to the Malawian army in 1988, according to the ch-aviation website that tracks aircraft information.

Around 600 personnel were involved in the search in a vast forest plantation in the Viphya Mountains near Mzuzu, authorities said.

Chilima was serving his second term as vice president. He was also in the role from 2014-2019 under former President Peter Mutharika. He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third, behind the incumbent, Mutharika, and Chakwera. The vote was later annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities.

Chilima then joined Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in an historic election rerun in 2020, when Chakwera was elected president. It was the first time in Africa that an election result that was overturned by a court resulted in a defeat for the sitting president.

Chilima had previously been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government procurement contracts for the Malawi armed forces and the police, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month. He had denied the allegations, but the case led to criticism that Chakwera’s administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

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Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa

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