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Explained: Why County vehicles use white number plates and what it means

Ever been in traffic and wondered why vehicles have so many different registration numbers and what they mean? Understanding the meaning of the various numbers on vehicles will help you know to whom the vehicle in front of you belongs.

In 2014, the Ministry of Transport yielded to pressure from governors and offered the 47 counties unique car number plates. The ministry gazetted the new plates and each of the devolved units were given a unique number that is blue in shade and sit on white background.

The number plates replaced the green ones that were inherited from the defunct local authorities that county chiefs had opposed despite the Registrar of Motor Vehicles having in place the old models to fix in the new cars that were being bought by the governors.

Mombasa County uses the number 01 before CG 001A, Kwale 02 CG 001A, Nairobi (47 CG 001A), Kisumu (42 CG 001A), Nakuru (32 CG 001A), Machakos (16 CG 001A), and Uasin Gishu (27 CG 001A).

The bulk of the new county vehicles, especially those used by county executive officials, have private number plates. The changes in the car plates came at a time when the counties had stepped up their purchase of cars.

While the State agreed to the governors’ plea on car plates, MPs on the other side stripped the county chiefs the right to fly the national flag on their vehicles.

However, governors’ vehicles use the abbreviation GVN followed by the specific county code, for example GVN 22… for the Kiambu governor’s vehicle.

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Other number plates in Kenya include, embassies and chartered diplomats. The initials CD on red plates with white letters and numbers are preceded by a country code. The diplomatic number given to the embassies were assigned in the order that they recognised at Kenya’s independence.

The first three countries in this order are Germany, Russian Federation and Ethiopia which have the codes 1 CD, 2 CD and 3 CD respectively. 29 CD belongs to the United States of America while 123 CD, the last number according to the United Nations in 2008, belongs to the United Arab Emirates embassy.

Vehicles belonging to United Nations officials have the initials UN, for example 40 UN for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), according to the Traffic Act Cap 403. International organisations operating in Kenya are also issued with red number plates with white lettering and the prefix KX.

Motorcycles also have unique registration numbers and now use the KMCA series, while tuktuks use KTWA. The shape of the rear plate is dependent on whether the vehicle was bought new or second-hand.

Imported second-hand vehicles are registered using square rear number plates while brand new ones, such as the locally assembled models like the popular Suzuki Alto and Volkswagen Polo, have rectangular plates at the back with the entire registration number running across it.