Malawi’s vice president plane is missing 

A military plane carrying Malawi’s vice president and nine others went missing Monday while on a short trip from the capital to a mountainous region in the country’s north and a search is underway, the president’s office said.

The plane carrying 51-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima left the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17 a.m. but disappeared from radar and failed to land as scheduled around 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

“All efforts to make contact with the aircraft since it went off radar have failed thus far,” according to a statement from Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s office. Chakwera ordered a search operation and canceled a trip to the Bahamas, his office said. The others onboard were not identified.

Mzuzu is Malawi’s third biggest city and the capital of the northern region. It lies in a hilly, forested area dominated by the Viphya mountain range, which has vast plantations of pine trees.

Malawi’s The Times media group reported that search teams involving soldiers, police officers and others were scouring one of those forested areas near Mzuzu for signs of the plane.

Chakwera ordered national and local authorities to “conduct an immediate search and rescue operation to locate the whereabouts of the aircraft,” his office said. Chakwera later announced on his official Facebook page that he would make a live speech to the nation at 11 p.m.

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 surprisingly 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 an 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.