The funeral of the vice president of Malawi was held

By Peter Jegwa, BBC News, Lilongwe

Reuters Malawi's Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima arrives at a polling station in Lilongwe, Malawi, May 21, 2019.Reuters

Saulos Chilima planned to run for president next year

Tens of thousands of Malawians took part in a funeral at the national stadium to pay tribute to the vice president who died in a plane crash last week.

Saulos Chilima, 51, was considered a breath of fresh air in Malawian politics.

He was an eloquent public speaker and energetic activist who had great influence among young people, who make up more than half of Malawians.

At the service, President Lazarus Chakwera promised a full investigation into the cause of the accident and said he had asked foreign governments for help.

“I also have the same questions as Malawians,” he said.

President Chakwera had earlier said the military plane had crashed due to poor visibility caused by bad weather, but Chilima’s UTM party has called for a thorough and independent investigation.

The president said the Malawi military would conduct an investigation but that an independent one was also needed.

Mr Chakwera and other government officials were booed by some members of the crowd at the Bingu National Stadium. The 41,000-capacity stadium was full and there were more people outside.

Calm was only restored after the intervention of Catholic priests.

Chilima was a devout Catholic and the service included a full mass.

He will be buried in his home district of Ntcheu, 180 kilometers (112 miles) south of Lilongwe on Monday, which has been declared a public holiday.

His coffin, draped in the red, green and black flag of Malawi, was carried into the stadium by an honor guard.

The service began with touching tributes from his family.

His son, Sean, remembered what a loving father he was, how he always had time for the children and played with them. He added that his father had been extremely competitive and always wanted to win.

“Dad was a hard worker who always made sure things were done,” he said.

His brother, Ben, said the family was grateful that he had been given the personal belongings he had with him at the time of the accident, including his watch and rosary.

Chimwemwe Innocencia/BBC Honor guard holding a photograph of Saulos ChilimaChimwemwe Innocence/BBC

His coffin was carried to the stadium by an honor guard.

Malawi State House A coffin covered with the flag of Malawi and an honor guard looking onMalawi State House

Saulos Chilima was a devout Catholic.

Chilima died last Monday while flying to the northern town of Nkhata Bay, where he was to attend the funeral of a former cabinet minister.

The entire crew and other passengers on board also died, including former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri.

Chilima had a successful career working in the private sector, where he held several high-level, well-paid positions in companies before making what many thought was a risky decision: venturing into politics at just 40 years old.

He had been vice president since 2014, initially under former president Peter Mutharika.

After falling out with Mutharika, Chilima formed his own party, the UTM.

He ran for president in the 2019 election, coming third behind Mutharika and Chakwera, but the election results were annulled by Malawi’s high court following allegations of fraud.

In the 2020 presidential election, Chilima agreed to be Chakwera’s running mate, in an alliance of nine opposition parties.

In June 2022, he said that as part of that agreement, President Chakwera would serve only one term and then back Mr Chilima in the next election in September 2025.

President Chakwera has not publicly disputed Chilima’s claim, but in recent public statements he has begun to hint that he may seek re-election next year.

In public appearances, Chilima and Chakwera appeared to be on good terms, but many thought fallout was inevitable, especially after senior leaders of their respective parties began openly endorsing the two’s candidacies in next year’s elections.

More Malawi stories from the BBC:

Getty/BBC A woman looking at a mobile phone.Getty/BBC

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