Safari Rally: Traders bag mixed fortunes as fans rev up sleepy lake town

Karan Patel  with co-driver Tauseef Khan in action during the Nakuru Mogotio rally at Alphega farm in Baringo county on March 5, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Aside from the thrill and adrenaline rush caused by speeding rally cars, Kenyans who thronged Naivasha for the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally, had a lot of fun merrymaking at the annual event yesterday.

Fans arrived in droves, eager to cheer and marvel at the spectacular race, while others took the opportunity to sell their wares and make an extra buck during the second edition of the famed WRC rally.

Ken Kibuchi, a safari rally fan termed the event as one of the best he has attended, having missed out last year due to the prevalent Covid-19 restrictions.

Kibuchi, who joined his friends at Kedong view point to cheer the rally drivers, was full of praise for the organisers for making sure that the spectators’ needs were addressed.

“Though it was very dusty, we easily accessed the venue of the rally and it was pure fun watching the drivers we see only on TV,” said Kibuchi.

And the town did not disappoint as nightclubs and enetertainment joints were filled to capacity to the joy of traders and revelers.

Moi South Lake road, which links different points in Naivasha town was the centre of action, with several entertainment events attracting hundreds of partygoers, some who had flown in from abroad to witness the event.

From lovers of reggae to mugithi, event organisers made sure the needs of the revelers were met to their satisfaction. 

Reggae sensation Tarus Riley flew in to grace the 30th edition of the popular social hangout circuit, Koroga Festival, to rally fans.

Armed policemen were also at hand to enhance security at the tightly-packed venue.

Unlike last year’s event when organisers had limited the number of spectators attending, this year's event was different as all doors were open to everyone.

Naivasha Deputy Commissioner, Mutua Kisulu, said security had been intensified in the town and around various hotels where entertainment events were taking place.

“We have received over 700 officers from the special unit in Nairobi and bomb experts to help in addressing the issue of security over the weekend,” he said.

At the same time, Mr Kisulu announced a ban on parking and hawking of liquor and food items along roads as was witnessed in last year’s event.

“Any car found parked by the roadside will be towed to the police station at the expense of WRC and will be released on Monday,” he said.

Mr Kisulu added that they were working closely with event organisers around the town to make sure that there was ample security and free flow of traffic.

He added that unlike last year when several roads were closed to allow the rally cars pass, this year’s event would be different with organisers keen on free flow of traffic.

But while some made merry, others, especially business people, were left counting losses due to low sales.

According to Gatuna Mwangi, a trader, poor planning had affected many businesses at the famous town.

He said traders had paid over Sh10,000 to the county government for a license to operate during the event, only for other traders to take advantage of the situation.

“The original plan to allow traders who had paid licenses to the county was good, but this was ignored and the traders were more than the customers,” he lamented.

Another trader, Gadi Tundura, said he had travelled from Nairobi with hopes of making huge profits, only to find that the turn-out was low.

Tundura said he had paid Sh35,000 for various licences as per the WRC requirements, but his sales were very low on the first day.

“I have workers to pay, transport costs and I might be forced to give out this food to passersby as I have no one to sell it to,” he said.

Another trader, Ann Muthoni, said she was attracted to the event based on last years’ experience where many made huge profits.

She told of her disappointment as she had not sold any of her items despite paying all the required licences to the county.

“I have travelled from Kinangop and up to now I have not sold anything but I hope things will change in the course of the day,” she said.

Paul Kagwe, who had travelled from Nairobi to sell nyama choma, echoed the sentiments adding traders were counting losses.

“We came with a lot of meat hoping that the number of spectators would be high but things are different and we shall be forced to carry back all our food,” he said.

Meanwhile, some revelers also received the short end of the stick after losing money to thieves lurking in the crowds. In one of the unconfirmed incidents, it is alleged that a reveler was robbed of Sh500,000, while a security officer lost Sh130,000.

According to a source privy to the investigations, the victims were drugged and the thieves used their mobile phones to withdraw money from their bank accounts.

“All the victims are working with WRC and one of the victims was a police officer attached to the event,” said the source.

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