Malawi’s vice president dies in plane crash with nine others

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Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others were declared dead Tuesday after their plane went missing during tumultuous weather a day earlier.

“Despite the track record of the aircraft and the experience of the crew, something terrible went wrong with that aircraft on its flight back … sending it crashing down and killing everyone on board and leaving us all devastated,” Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said during a news conference Tuesday.

The Malawi Defense Force aircraft was carrying Chilima, 51, and nine others on a flight Monday from the nation’s capital, Lilongwe, to the city of Mzuzu, up north.

The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it was “deeply saddened” by the news of the crash and named all ten victims, which also included former Malawian first lady Shanil Dzimbiri.

The flight departed at 9:17 a.m. from Kamuzu International Airport and was headed for Mzuzu when aviation authorities told the aircraft to turn around because of poor visibility. The authorities soon lost contact with the plane, which was “was unable to land due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather,” Chakwera said in a televised address Monday.

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine other people died while aboard a military plane that crashed amid bad weather on June 10. (Video: Reuters)

The vice president was on his way to attend the funeral of the former attorney general and minister of justice, Raphael Kasambara, who died June 7.

The country launched a large search effort for the missing, with Chakwera saying Monday that soldiers combed through a mountainous region in northern Malawi.

Chakwera described Chilima on Tuesday as “a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction, a formidable vice president.”

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“The others who were on that flight were men and women of honor who served their country with distinction and whose families are left with broken hearts today,” Chakwera added. “I’m profoundly sorry to all of you for this terrible loss.”

Chilima first took office as vice president in May 2014 after a career at multinational companies such as Coca-Cola and the telecommunications firm Airtel helped buoy his entry into politics. He joined Chakwera’s campaign in an election rerun in 2020, which led to his reelection as vice president.

In November 2022, he was arrested on corruption charges after being accused of receiving money and gifts related to government-awarded contracts involving two private companies, which he denied. Leading up to the arrests, Chakwera stripped Chilima of his vice-presidential duties in light of the accusations. The charges were later dropped, Reuters reported.

Malawi — a landlocked country bordering Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique in southeastern Africa — has a population of about 20 million people and has for years maintained a diplomatic and military relationship with the United States.

The United States, Britain, Norway and Israel had all offered some form of support regarding the missing plane, including “specialized technologies” to help with the search, Chakwera said Monday. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said early Tuesday that it offered Malawi assistance in its search, including the use of a Defense Department C-12 aircraft.

Chakwera said Tuesday that the victims’ remains would be returned to the capital.

correction

A previous version of this article misidentified the aircraft that the United States offered for use in Malawi’s search. It is a C-12, not a C-13. The article has been corrected.

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