A search operation is underway after a military plane carrying Malawi’s vice president went missing, according to the president’s office.

The jet was carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima along with nine others, and left the country’s capital, Lilongwe, on Monday morning.

Aviation authorities lost contact with the plane when it ‘went off radar’, according to a statement from Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s office. 

Chakwera’s office said he ordered a search operation and cancelled a trip to the Bahamas.

The statement said: ‘All efforts to make contact with the aircraft since it went off radar have failed thus far’.

Chakwera was informed of the missing plane by General Valentino Phiri, the head of the Malawian armed forces. 

Corruption charges

President Saulos Chilima had been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but the charges were unexpectedly dropped by prosecutors last month. 

That led to criticism that Chakwera’s administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial had not started. He denied the allegations.

Chilima was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third. 

That vote was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities. Chakwera finished second in that election.

Chilima then joined Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in the historic election rerun in 2020, when Chakwera was elected president. 

It was the first time in Africa that an election result that was overturned by a court resulted in a defeat for the sitting president.

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