Four Mourners Killed By Car As Malawi VP’s Funeral Convoy Passes, Witnesses Say

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Four mourners, including a pregnant woman, were killed after a vehicle tried to avoid the convoy carrying the body of the late Malawi Vice-President Saulos Chilima, witnesses say.

According to the witnesses, twelve other people were also injured in the incident on Sunday night and were being treated in hospital.

The accident occurred following clashes between local people, the police and soldiers escorting the late vice-president’s funeral convoy from the capital, Lilongwe, to his home village for burial.

Mr Chilima died in a plane crash a week ago and was buried on Monday in his home district of Ntcheu, some 180 km (112 miles) south of the capital. During the burial, some mourners sang songs criticising President Lazarus Chakwera.

“The traffic accident happened on Sunday night when thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the coffin as it was being transported for burial.

“As the procession passed through areas close to Mr Chilima’s home, some people started to throw stones at government vehicles and officials.

“In the commotion, one privately owned vehicle travelling in the opposite direction swerved to avoid the funeral convoy and went off the road, hitting a group of mourners,” witnesses say.

According to a police statement, two men and two women lost their lives, adding that the car was not part of the official convoy as had been earlier reported.

The spokesman for Mr Chilima’s UTM party told the AFP news agency there was some tension along the route as mourners demanded the procession stop so they could see the coffin.

“In Dedza, people blocked the road and demanded to see the coffin,” Felix Njawala was quoted as saying.

The convoy proceeded after the mourners were pacified. The party has condemned the acts of violence and asked supporters to refrain from any violence or destruction.

“We cannot tolerate violence, Dr Chilima advocated for peace, let us do the same,” state broadcaster MBC quoted UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati as saying.

Mr Chilima, 51, died last Monday along with eight others when a military aircraft on an internal flight crashed in a forest in the north of the country amid bad weather.