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Malawi vice president’s plane goes missing

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A search is underway for a missing plane carrying the southeast African nation of Malawi’s vice president and nine other people, the government said Monday.

Vice President Saulos Chilima was aboard a Malawi Defense Force plane that took off from the capital, Lilongwe, at 9:17 a.m. on Monday. But the plane failed to land as planned at an airport in the north of the country, less than an hour’s flight from the Malawi capital. The plane disappeared from radar and aviation authorities were unable to make contact with it.

The vice president was travelling to attend the funeral of the country’s former attorney general, Ralph Kasambara. Luki Siques, an aide in the vice president’s office, said the plane was unable to land due to bad weather in Mzuzu.

“The civil aviation authority has confirmed that the plane did not land at any airport,” he said. Authorities have yet to find a possible crash site. As night fell, military and police continued to search by car and on foot, but it was difficult to find clues in the dense forests of northern Malawi, according to local media reports.

Malawi’s government said in a statement that President Lazarus Chakwera had deployed search and rescue operations involving national and regional agencies. Chakwera also canceled a planned trip to the Bahamas, the statement said.

Chilima, 51, was a telecommunications executive before entering Malawi politics a decade ago. In late 2022, he was embroiled in a corruption scandal and arrested by the country’s anti-corruption bureau on charges that he accepted kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts.

Chilima has denied any wrongdoing, but the allegations have tarnished the reputation of a government that has vowed to clean up corruption in one of Africa’s poorest countries. Last month, Malawian authorities dropped the case and all charges against Chilima.

Mr Chilima is expected to contest in the 2025 Malawi presidential election.

President Chakwera and Vice President Chilima were once political rivals but formed an alliance after losing the election due to irregularities in 2019. Both candidates successfully challenged the results and won a second vote on the same ballot in 2020 after a judicial panel ruled in their favor.

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