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Malawi's VP Saulos Chilima to be laid to rest on Monday after state funeral

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, left, greets government officials upon his return from South Korea in Lillongwe, Sunday, June 9, 2024   -  
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The late Malawian Vice President will be buried on Monday in his home district of Ntcheu 180km south of Lilongwe.

The 51-year-old Saulos Chilima and 8 other individuals including the ex-wife of the former Malawian President died when a twin-propeller aircraft went down in a hilly, forested area in bad weather.

A state service was conducted on Saturday led by the country's President Lazarus Chakwera to pay tribute to the vice president.

Officials with Chilima’s United Transformation Movement political party — a party different from the president's — criticized the government response as slow and said there was no transponder on the plane, concerning for an aircraft carrying a high-level delegation.

Chilima and Chakwera had led Malawi under unusual circumstances. They both ran for president in 2019 as opposition candidates but teamed up to challenge election results in court over irregularities, and won. They then won the rerun of the election — the first time in Africa that a court-overturned election result resulted in a defeat for the incumbent president.

Chilima had said Chakwera had agreed to step down after his first term and allow him to run for president in next year's election as part of their alliance. However, Chakwera announced he would run for reelection, and there were signs of friction between the two.

Chilima also had recently faced corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government procurement contracts for the armed forces and the police. Prosecutors dropped the charges last month. He had denied the allegations.

Chilima had just returned from an official visit to South Korea on Sunday. He was in his second term as vice president after serving from 2014 to 2019 under former President Peter Mutharika.

The search for the plane prompted an international response. Chakwera said the U.S., the U.K., Norway and Israel had offered assistance and provided “specialized technologies.” The U.S. Embassy in Malawi said it had assisted and offered the use of a Department of Defense small C-12 plane. Malawi also asked neighbors Zambia and Tanzania if they could help.

Malawi, a country of around 21 million people, was ranked as the fourth poorest nation in the world by the World Bank in 2019.