The red registration plate numbers on vehicles driven on Kenyan roads communicate two things – first, that the vehicle could be owned by a foreign embassy or international agency, and two, the identity of the embassy or agency that owns that vehicle.
The red registration plates are called diplomatic number plates.
The red colour screams “this is an embassy or UN car”, and the number code which is followed by the initials “CD” give you the identity of the embassy that the vehicle belongs to.
Germany, which was the first country in the world to recognise Kenya’s independence, has the Number One code, that is 1CD. CD stands for Corps Diplomatique (French) or Diplomatics Corps (English)
Norway became the fifth nation in the world to recognise Kenya’s independence attained in 1963. That means Norway’s Embassy in Kenya have vehicles bearing the 5CD number plates.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was among the latest nations to recognise Kenya’s autonomy, has the code 123 allocated to it. So, the UAE Embassy in Kenya has vehicles bearing the red plate number 123 CD.
Depending on which Embassy officer the vehicle is assigned to in Kenya, it could get a registration plate with, for instance, the following code: 1CD 18K – for Germany Embassy officers in the country.
The 1 connotes the Embassy, based on the year it recognised Kenya’s self-rule. The 18 is rank of the Embassy officer assigned the vehicle, and the “K” communicates that the Embassy is located in Kenya.
The foreign Embassy’s Head of Mission to Kenya, known as the Ambassador or Consul-General in some jurisdictions, gets the Number One (01) rank code. For instance, Germany’s Head of Mission to Kenya gets the plate number 1CD 01K.
The foreign nation’s Deputy Ambassador or Deputy Chief of Mission to Kenya gets the Number Two (02) rank code. In Germany’s case, the plate number would read 1CD 02K.
The other officials would get the remaining rank codes based on seniority in rank.
All the embassies are required to return the plate numbers to the assigning authority – in the Kenyan case, the NTSA – when the vehicles get old, are sold or exported.
Senior staff members of international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) also get the red plate-number. Unlike the embassies, their initials are not CD, but UN.
Some of the privileges that come with driving the red plate number include exemption from parking charges, especially for the Ambassador and his or her deputy.
Another privilege is, holders of red plate numbers rarely have the vehicles flagged down by traffic police.
Embassy vehicles are usually very well maintained, with repairs done promptly by the best mechanics in town.
“Another advantage that the embassy vehicles have, is that their taxes are lower compared to civilian vehicles. Actually, what the embassies pay the government is called permits. These allow the importation and use of vehicles within the borders,” Paul Ogonda, a communications officer of the Kenya Revenue Authority, told The Standard.
A senior traffic police officer in Nairobi told The Standard that the red number plate is, however, not a license for drivers of vehicles bearing the registrations to flout Kenya’s traffic rules.
“When the driver of a diplomatic vehicle breaks traffic rules, he or she will be arrested and handed over to diplomatic police for subsequent legal action,” said the senior cop in confidence.
Ambassadors are not listed among VIPs who get road clearance.
Those who enjoy this privilege are the President, the Deputy President, the First Lady, the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament, CSs for Defence, Interior and Foreign Affairs, Defence Forces Service Commanders, Police Inspector-General and his two deputies, the two Houses of Parliament Majority Leaders, retired presidents and former prime ministers.
Ambulances and fire engines are also on the list.
An influx of motorists driving vehicles bearing red registration plates, which are usually used by diplomats, prompted police to crack down on fake plate-number holders on Wednesday, January 12.
The exercise saw motorists plying Lang’ata Road, Magadi Road, some parts of Thika Superhighway, among other busy routes being pulled over for inspection.
The exercise was conducted jointly by traffic police and officers of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).
Lang’ata Sub-County Police Commander Benjamin Mwathi told The Standard that the exercise will help weed out motorists who are disguising under the red and foreign plate numbers to either avoid paying insurance charges or get preferential treatment on the roads.
Below is a full list of the red plate-number codes, indicating the countries or organisations they represent:
1 CD – Germany
2 CD – Russia
3 CD – Ethiopia
4 CD – China
5 CD – Norway
6 CD – Hungary
7 CD – Egypt
8 CD – Serbia
9 CD – Italy
10 CD – France
11 CD – Slovakia
12 CD – Denmark
13 CD – Japan
14 CD – Sudan
15 CD – Austria
16 CD – India
17 CD – Australia
18 CD – Canada
19 CD – The Vatican
20 CD – Finland
21 CD – Switzerland
22 CD – Britain
23 CD – Liberia
24 CD – Israel
25 CD – Nigeria
26 CD – Ghana
27 CD – Netherlands
28 CD – Malawi
29 CD – United States of America (USA)
30 CD – Belgium
31 CD – Sweden
32 CD – Pakistan
33 CD – Poland
34 CD – Korea
35 CD – Bulgaria
36 CD – Greece
37 CD – Cuba
38 CD – Kuwait
39 CD – Spain
40 UN – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
41 UN – World Health Organization (WHO)
42 UN – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
43 UN – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (The World Bank)
44 UN – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
45 UN – World Food Programme (WFP)
45 CD – Romania
46 CD – Thailand
47 CD – The African Union (A.U)
48 CD – Colombia
49 CD – India
50 CD – Somalia
51 CD – Brazil
52 CD – Turkey
53 CD – Lesotho
54 CD – Zambia
55 CD – Madagascar
56 CD – Malaysia
57 CD – D.R. Congo (DRC)
58 CD – Swaziland
59 CD – Sri Lanka
60 CD – Iraq
61 CD – Rwanda
62 UN – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees / UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
63 UN – United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern & Southern African Regional Office
64 CD – Iran
65 CD – Cyprus
66 CD – Argentina
67 UN – United Nations Information Centre (UNIC)
68 CD – Philippines
69 CD – Burundi
70 CD – Chile
71 CD – Oman
72 CD – League of Arab States / Arab League
73 CD – European Union
74 CD – Yemen
75 CD – Kenya Mission to UNEP
76 CD – Côte d’Ivoire (Consulate)
77 CD – Bangladesh
78 CD – Saudi Arabia
79 UN – United Nations Centre for Human Settlements / UN-Habitat (UNCHS)
80 CD – Libya
81 CD – Ireland (Consulate)
82 CD – United Nations Centre for Human Settlements / UN-Habitat (Kenya Mission)
83 CD – Algeria
84 CD – Palestine
85 CD – Uganda
86 CD – Mexico
87 CD – Morocco
88 CD – Costa Rica (Consulate)
89 CD – Gabon (Consulate)
90 UN – United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Kenya Country Office
91 CD – Indonesia
92 CD – Portugal
93 CD – Venezuela
94 CD – Zimbabwe
95 CD – International Civil Aviation Organization (I.C.A.O)
96 CD – Asian Development Bank
97 CD – Tanzania
99 CD – Peru
100 CD – International Finance Corporation (I.F.C)
101 CD – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Norwegian Mission
102 CD – Mozambique
103 CD – South Africa
104 CD – Eritrea
105 UN – United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON)
106 CD – Czech Republic
107 CD – The Aga Khan
108 UN – United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
110 UN – UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization)
115 CD – Ukraine
116 CD – Sahrawi
117 CD – Djibouti
118 CD – Sierra Leone
121 CD – South Sudan
123 CD – United Arab Emirates