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Malawi’s Vice President Killed in Plane Crash

Malawi’s Vice President Killed in Plane Crash


The president of Malawi said Tuesday that the country’s vice president had been killed in a plane crash a day earlier that had prompted a massive search effort.

The plane went missing on Monday morning, prompting a massive search and rescue operation for the vice president, Saulos Chilima, and the nine other people on board.

In an address to the nation on Tuesday, President Lazarus Chakwera said the wreckage had been found and there were no survivors.

“Something terrible went wrong with that flight,” Mr. Chakwera said.

He called Mr. Chilima, 51, a “good man” who “served his country with distinction.”

Mr. Chilima, was 51. Details about the other victims were not immediately available.

The Malawian military aircraft carrying Mr. Chilima and nine others took off at 9:17 a.m. on Monday from the capital, Lilongwe. It was bound for Mzuzu, less than an hour’s flight away, according to the government.

The plane was unable to land because of poor visibility caused by bad weather, Mr. Chakwera had said in a televised address late on Monday. The pilot was instructed to turn back, but within minutes, the aircraft disappeared from radar.

The Malawian authorities began a massive rescue operation that continued through the night in the Chikangawa forest, an uninhabited reserve that covers roughly 443 square miles.

On Tuesday morning, Gen. Paul Phiri of the Malawi Defense Force said that nearly 200 soldiers were involved in the search, which has been hindered by thick fog. Police officers, park rangers and Civil Aviation Authority employees were also participating in the effort, he said at a news conference.

Malawi’s authorities also turned to other governments for assistance. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it had lent a C-12 aircraft to aid in the search, while Mr. Chakwera said he had asked neighboring countries, along with Britain, Norway and Israel, for technological support. On Tuesday morning, the Malawi Red Cross joined the search effort.

Mr. Chilima had been expected to run for president in the 2025 election.

He entered Malawi’s political scene a decade ago, leaving his role as head of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies in a successful campaign for office in the presidential elections as the running mate for Peter Mutharika in 2014.

The two had a falling out in 2019, with Mr. Chilima accusing Mr. Mutharika of corruption and going on to start his own political party, the United Transformation Movement.

Once political rivals, Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima formed a coalition that year after losing an election marred by irregularities. The two candidates successfully challenged the result, and, after a judicial panel ruled in their favor, the two men won a second vote that was carried out in 2020 on the same ticket.

In late 2022, Mr. Chilima was arrested by the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau over accusations that he received kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts. He denied any wrongdoing.

The Malawian authorities abandoned the case and withdrew all charges against Mr. Chilima last month, but the scandal has nevertheless tarnished his image as a politician who had sworn to clean up corruption.

Mr. Chilima was born in Malawi’s central Ntcheu District. He studied economics at the University of Malawi and earned a doctorate in knowledge management from the University of Bolton in Britain, according to his official profile. He is survived by his wife, Mary Chilima, and their two children.



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