In the annals of the East African Safari Rally, the year 1969 stands out not just for the historic moon landing but for a remarkable feat achieved by Sospeter Munyegera and Giga Noor Mohammed. Seizing the 31st position, they etched their names into the history books as the first Africans to conquer the grueling safari, breaking a dry spell that had lingered since the inaugural attempt by Africans in 1958.

Driving a Saab 95 D car, Munyegera and Giga defied the odds, providing a beacon of victory that resonated across Uganda. The finish was a triumph for a nation that had long struggled to produce a safari Rally champion, unlike neighboring Tanzania, which boasted champions like Bert Shankland in 1966 and 1967.

The 1969 Rally, however, unfolded against a backdrop of diplomatic tension between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s drivers were barred from competing in Kenya, creating a vacuum that made every entry of an indigenous African driver a cause for jubilation. Two years later, Peter Shiyukah and Eliud Thuku seized victory, becoming national heroes and inspiring generations to come.

Amidst the limelight, Shekhar Mehta’s 27th place finish in a Peugeot 204 went unnoticed. Little did observers know that Mehta, still a Ugandan citizen at the time, was embarking on a career that would later see him claim his first safari Rally victory in 1973, peaking with additional wins in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982 driving a Datsun/Nissan model.

In a turnaround for Ford, the Taunus, navigated by Robin Hikyar and Jock Aird, claimed victory in a rain-soaked year. The previous year had seen only seven finishers, setting the stage for an intensely competitive race.

Joginder Singh, now a revered national hero, thrilled his growing legion of fans by securing second place in a Volvo 142s, outpacing top European drivers and reinforcing the prowess of local talents. Jamal Din and M. Minhas secured the third spot, steering a Datsun 1600s.

The narrative takes an intriguing turn with Bharat Bhardwaj, once Singh’s navigator, later transitioning to rally management. Under his stewardship as the chair of the safari Rally, the event evolved in stature, attracting title sponsors and solidifying its position as a premier motorsport spectacle.

In the pages of motorsport history, Munyegera, Mohammed, and their contemporaries emerge not just as racers but as trailblazers who paved the way for a new era in African motorsport. Their triumphs and challenges echo through time, a testament to the enduring spirit of the East African Safari Rally.

BY Mwambazi Lawrence

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