Malawi mourns as Vice President Saulos Chilima, wife, eight others die in plane crash

The Vice President of Malawi, Dr Saulos Chilima, along with nine others, including his wife, tragically died in a plane crash in the Chikangawa mountain range.

The government confirmed the devastating news on Tuesday. In response, President Lazarus Chakwera declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.

Details of the Crash

The Office of the President and Cabinet released a statement Tuesday morning confirming the crash and the fatalities. The incident occurred Monday morning when the military aircraft departed from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital.

Dr Chilima and his fellow passengers were en route to the funeral of the country’s former attorney general when the plane lost contact with air traffic control. Due to poor visibility, the aircraft could not land at Mzuzu airport, situated approximately 200 miles north of Lilongwe. The pilot was instructed to return to Lilongwe, but the flight vanished from radar shortly thereafter.

Dr. Saulos Chilima: A Prominent and Controversial Figure

At 51, Dr Chilima was considered a strong contender for the presidential election scheduled for next year. His political career was marked by both significant achievements and controversies.

In 2022, he faced arrest on graft allegations, accused of accepting kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts. Dr Chilima steadfastly denied these charges, which were ultimately dropped by the national prosecutor last month.

President Chakwera’s Response

In a televised address Monday night, President Chakwera expressed his deep sorrow and assured the nation that the search and rescue operation would persist until the aircraft was located. “I know this is a heartbreaking situation,” Chakwera said, “and we are all frightened and concerned.”

International Assistance

The search operation received technological support from several countries, including the United States. The US Embassy in Lilongwe expressed its deep concern over the crash in a statement posted on social media Tuesday morning. The embassy also offered all available assistance, including the provision of a Defense C-12 aircraft to aid in the search efforts.

The tragic loss of Chilima, his wife, and the other passengers has sent shockwaves through Malawi and beyond. As the nation mourns, the global community stands in solidarity, offering support and condolences during this difficult time.

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