Updated June 10th, 2024 at 23:55 IST

Military Plane Carrying Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima Goes Missing, Search Underway

The plane carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima left the capital, Lilongwe, but failed to make scheduled landing at Mzuzu International Airport.

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima,left, and his wife Mary disembark from a plane upon his return from South Korea in Lillongwe, June 9, 2024. | Image:(AP Photo)
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Blantyre: A military plane carrying Malawi's vice president and nine others went missing Monday and a search is underway, the president's office said.

The plane carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima left the southern African nation's capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17 a.m. but failed to land as scheduled around 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

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Aviation authorities lost contact with the plane when it “went off radar,” according to a statement from Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera's office. Chakwera ordered a search operation and canceled a trip to the Bahamas, his office said.

"All efforts to make contact with the aircraft since it went off radar have failed thus far," it said.

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Chakwera was informed of the missing plane by Gen. Valentino Phiri, the head of the Malawian armed forces. The president ordered national and local authorities to “conduct an immediate search and rescue operation to locate the whereabouts of the aircraft,” his office said.

Chilima had been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but the charges were surprisingly dropped by prosecutors last month. That led to criticism that Chakwera's administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

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Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial had not started. He denied the allegations.

Chilima was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third. That vote that was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi's Constitutional Court because of irregularities. Chakwera finished second in that election.

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Chilima then joined Chakwera's campaign as his running mate in the 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.

 

 

 

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Published June 10th, 2024 at 22:21 IST