Safari Rally rich part of Uhuru Kenyatta legacy and Kenya’s sporting history

Saturday June 25 2022

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off French driver Sebastien Loeb in his Ford Puma Rally 1 at the WRC Safari Rally on June 23, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

By Peter Njenga

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves the presidency in August after 10 years in office with several landmark legacy projects.

But the Safari Rally, an event he worked so hard to see a return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar, is the single most successful international event he has helped capture.

He leaves office a proud man, satisfied that it has a guaranteed slot in the 13-round WRC, and the only one in Africa and developing nations. The president assured Kenyans of his commitment to this mission in 2013 upon assuming office.

In September 2020, some seven years, later the president announced to the world this achievement in a live broadcast from the United States where he was on an official visit.

“Before my administration assumed office in 2013, I made a promise to the people of Kenya, to return the Safari Rally back to the International Automobile Federation World Rally Championship family. This process has taken us seven years,” said the President then.

“It is my pleasure today to announce to the people of Kenya and Africa that this process has been concluded and the Safari Rally has been included in the International Automobile Federation World Rally Championship 2020 Calendar, marking the return of the World Rally Championship to Kenya and Africa, after 18 years of waiting.


“I want to take this opportunity to thank the president of the International Automobile Federation, Jean Todt, the World Rally Championship Promoter Oliver Ciesla, the Chairman of the Kenya Motorsports Federation, Phineas Kimathi and the Directors and Technical teams, for working with my Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage through the World Rally Championship Safari Rally project, to deliver this iconic event that forms part of our national heritage.”


Estonia’s Ott Tanak navigated by Martine Jarveoja racing on a Hyundai i20 in full cruise in Kedong ranch during World Rally Championships Safari Rally in Naivasha, Kenya on June 24, 2022. PHOTO|SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG

Planning return of rally

Kimathi started earnest plans to return the Safari back to the WRC in 2015 when President Kenyatta met with Todt, accompanied by Kimathi, at State House, Nairobi, while Todt was on an official tour in Kenya as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Road Safety.

Kimathi attended the FIA Sports Conference the following year in Turin, Italy, where he met Todt again along with the commercial rights holder of the WRC, the WRC Promoter.

In 2018, the WRC promoter Oliver Ciesla signed an agreement with Kenyan Government to host the 2019 Safari as a WRC Candidate Event, and on September 27, the Safari returned home.

The President continued negotiations with the FIA.

Read: Kenya in dress rehearsal for WRC entry - VIDEO

He later met Todt - the Frenchman a third-place finisher in the 1973 Safari Rally - in Jamaica when he was on a State Visit in July of 2019 where he quietly firmed pending issues.

He went further with backroom negotiations with FIA.


A rally fan smiles in a cloud of dust at Kedong ranch in Naivasha during the World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG

He surprised the world again at the end of last year’s comeback Safari Rally.

“Kenya will host the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally every year until 2026,” President Kenyatta announced to the surprise of many.

The President said the Government secured the hosting rights of the elite motorsport event from the FIA and the WRC after years of intense lobbying and preparations.

“It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to announce, that we have agreed, with the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the World Rally Championship (WRC), to continue hosting the Safari Rally in Kenya, every year until 2026," the President said.

The Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and her Principal Secretary Joe Okudo have been the pillars behind the Safari Rally with a hands-on approach.

Amina is also a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, the committee which manages FIA motorsports activities.