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Tragedy Strikes During Funeral Procession of Malawi’s Late Vice President Saulos Chilima

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NTCHEU, Malawi — A tragic accident marred the funeral procession of Malawi’s late Vice President, Saulos Chilima, when a vehicle in the convoy rammed into a crowd of mourners on Sunday, June 16, 2024 night, resulting in four deaths and twelve injuries, police reported.

The incident occurred in the village of Ntcheu, central Malawi, as the convoy was transporting Chilima’s body to his home village, Nsipe, 180 kilometres (110 miles) south of the capital, Lilongwe, for burial on Monday, a day declared a public holiday in honour of the late Vice President.

“Due to the impact, the two female and two male pedestrians sustained severe head injuries and multiple fractures and died whilst receiving treatment,” said a police statement.

Peter Kalaya, a police spokesman, told AFP that twelve more people had been injured in the crash.

The vehicle, part of a motorcade that included military, police, and civilian vehicles, plunged into the crowd as it tried to maneuver away from the volatile gathering.

Thousands of people had lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Chilima’s coffin.

Felix Njawala, spokesman for Chilima’s party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), described the tension along the route as mourners demanded the procession stop for them to see the coffin.

“In Dedza, people blocked the road and demanded to see the coffin,” Njawala told AFP. “Only when the convoy stopped were people pacified and the convoy was able to proceed,” he added, noting that in some instances, people threw stones at the convoy.

Njawala acknowledged the concerns of the party supporters but urged them to maintain peace. The UTM has called for an investigation into the plane crash that claimed Chilima’s life.

Chilima died on Monday along with eight others when a military aircraft on an internal flight crashed into Malawi’s Chikangawa Forest amid dense fog. The wreckage was discovered on Tuesday.

During a public viewing of Chilima’s body at a stadium in Lilongwe on Sunday afternoon, President Lazarus Chakwera called for an independent inquiry into the accident.

“People want to know how the plane carrying the Vice President and the others went missing and crashed. I too want to know what happened,” Chakwera said.

The plane, a Malawi Army Air Wing Dornier 228-202K, had disappeared after failing to land in the northern city of Mzuzu due to bad weather and was instructed to return to the capital.

The tragic loss of Vice President Chilima and the subsequent accident during his funeral procession have left the nation in mourning, as the call for answers and accountability continues to grow.

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