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Malawi’s vice president laid to rest as president calls for an independent probe into his death

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BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima was laid to rest Monday in his village south of the capital, following a funeral where President Lazarus Chakwera called for an independent probe into his death in a plane crash.

Chilima and nine other people died in the plane crash last week in Malawi’s northern region of Mzimba.

The state funeral was held at the Bingu Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Sunday, where Chakwera and other dignitaries paid their final respects to the late vice president.

In his address, Chakwera called for an independent investigation into the crash.

“Our tears are about the desire to know what delayed the search for this plane. … I would like to assure you, Malawians, that this accident will be investigated by an independent expert,” Chakwera said amid boos and jeers from the crowd.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and forest rangers had searched for more than 24 hours before the wreckage was discovered in a forest plantation south of Mzuzu.

The plane was on a short flight from Lilongwe to the northern city of Mzuzu when it went missing last Monday morning. Chakwera had said earlier that air traffic controllers had told the plane not to land in Mzuzu because of bad weather and poor visibility and to return to Lilongwe. Air traffic controllers then lost contact with the plane.

Chakwera on Sunday called for unity and patience as the investigations continued, saying, “We need answers, but we must remain calm and supportive of each other during this difficult time.”

He said that the Malawi Defense Force cannot conduct an investigation “that can be credible on its own, which is why we need an independent investigation.” He did not elaborate.

The military rendered a 19-gun salute as the body was laid to rest, followed by a long trumpet post and reveille.

Those who laid wreaths included Chakwera, all of Malawi’s three former presidents and Chilima’s wife, children and relatives.

The Chilima family also called for an independent probe.

“We are grateful to the pathologists who carried out tests to ascertain the deaths, but there is need for a thorough investigation on what exactly happened. Such a probe is important to ensure that such an accident does not happen again,” said Ben Chilima, the late vice-president’s brother.

In another tragic accident, four people died at the funeral on Sunday when a vehicle crashed into bystanders, authorities said.

By GREGORY GONDWE
Associated Press

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