Written by 01:07 World

Aircraft Carrying Malawi’s Vice President Is Missing

A search is underway for a missing aircraft carrying the vice president of the southeastern African country of Malawi and nine other people, the country’s government said on Monday.

The vice president, Saulos Chilima, was traveling on a Malawi Defense Force aircraft that took off at 9:17 a.m. Monday from the capital, Lilongwe. But it missed a scheduled landing at an airport in the north of the country, less than an hour’s flight away.

The aircraft was unable to land because of poor visibility caused by bad weather, Malawi’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, said in a televised address. The pilot was instructed to turn back, but within minutes, the aircraft disappeared from radar and the aviation authorities have been unable to establish contact with it.

“I know that this is a heartbreaking situation,” Mr. Chakwera said in a late briefing. “I know that we are all frightened and concerned.”

The president deployed a search and rescue operation that included both national and regional agencies, the government said in a statement. By the afternoon, rescuers had narrowed the potential crash site to a six-mile radius.

As darkness fell, military and police officers continued the search by vehicle and on foot, but struggled to comb through the thick forests in Malawi’s north, local news media reported. Despite these challenges, the search would continue until the plane was found, Mr. Chakwera said.

His government also reached out to neighboring countries in southern Africa for assistance. They were working with officials from the United States, Britain,Norway and Israel who could offer technological support, he added.

The vice president was on his way to attend the funeral of the country’s former attorney general, Ralph Kasambara.

Mr. Chilima, 51, was a telecommunications executive before entering Malawi’s political scene a decade ago. In late 2022, he became embroiled in a corruption scandal and was arrested by the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau over accusations that he had received kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts.

He denied any wrongdoing, but the accusations tarnished a government that had sworn to clean up corruption in what is one of Africa’s poorest countries. Last month, the authorities in Malawi abandoned the case and withdrew all charges against Mr. Chilima.

He had been expected to launch a bid for the Malawian presidency in the 2025 election.

Once political rivals, Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima formed a coalition in 2019 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 subsequent second vote in 2020 on the same ticket.


Last modified: 12 June 2024