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Malawi’s Vice President, 9 others killed in plane crash

Secretary General for Malawi's Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima's UTM party, Patricia Kaliati (C), addresses supporters and sympathizers soon after a press briefing following a press briefing in Lilongwe, on June 11, 2024. Malawian searchers have found the wreckage of a plane that was carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima, images from the scene showed on June 11, 2024, a day after the aircraft went missing in bad weather. Photographs shared with AFP by a member of the military rescue team showed army personnel standing on a foggy slope near debris bearing the registration number of the Malawi army Dornier 228-202K aircraft. (Amos Gumulira/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima, a potential candidate for the top job in next year’s elections, was killed in a plane crash, the nation’s leader said.

The aircraft carrying Chilima and nine other passengers left Lilongwe, the capital, shortly after 9 a.m. local time on Monday bound for Mzuzu, a city in the country’s north where the terrain is hilly and densely forested. The journey was scheduled to last less than an hour but contact was lost, initiating a search operation.

“The army commander informed me the wreckage was found on one of the hills of Chikangawa Forest,” President Lazarus Chakwera said in a televised address Tuesday. “Everyone in the plane perished. All passengers on board died on the impact of the crash.”

The plane Chilima was traveling in was a 37-year-old Malawi Defence Force Dornier 228 turboprop aircraft, according to information obtained from a tracking website.

Chilima, 51, was a charismatic politician whose support among Malawi’s youth made him a potential power broker in next year’s elections, with neither the ruling Malawi Congress Party nor the rival Democratic Progressive Party expected to win an outright majority. While Chilima had been expected to run for the presidency, he’d made no public declaration of that intent.

An economist and former telecommunications executive, Chilima entered politics in 2014. He became the country’s youngest vice president later that year after then-President Peter Mutharika picked him as his running mate.

He fell out with Mutharika and quit the ruling party in 2018 to protest a perceived failure to clamp down on graft, but retained the deputy president’s post because he was directly elected. He went on to form his United Transformation Movement party and contested the 2019 presidential elections under its banner, finishing third after Mutharika and Chakwera.

After the courts overturned the results of the vote, Chilima teamed up with Chakwera and formed the Tonse Alliance. It won fresh elections in 2020 and he was named vice president.

In June 2022, Chakwera said he would no longer delegate duties to Chilima, after the vice president was named in a corruption probe in which dozens of officials were linked to a UK-based Malawian who was alleged to have paid bribes to win state contracts worth more than $150 million.

The authorities arrested Chilima five months later and charged him with multiple offenses, including receiving a $280,000 bribe. He denied wrongdoing and the case was dropped earlier this year.

—With assistance from Mike Cohen and Siddharth Philip.


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