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The red plate-numbers on our roads: What each code means


A vehicle belonging to an officer of the US Embassy in Kenya. [Courtesy]

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

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