DotConnectAfrica requests the ICANN Board Not to Listen to GAC Early Warning Advise on .africa

DCA’s response to ICANN Board on its 17 Country objections is full of sensible explanation as to why ICANN cannot use the GAC recommendations in the early warning as a parting shot to its evaluation process in determining who will run the African registry.

The GAC issued 242 Early Warnings on 145 individual applications in the New gTLD program. 17 were posted for DotConnectAfrica with 16 from countries and 1 from the African Union Commision which surprisingly is considered  a “co-applicant” of the .africa together with its partnering organization Uniforum SA.

This may come as the highest objection ever received by a geographic TLD applicant, entirely expected given the controversy of the road that .africa has taken in Africa.   Its assumed to be among the most contested applications in ICANN’s gTLD history and if not properly administrated, many leave a lot to be desired.

In its response submitted on December 12, 2012 to ICANN Board on the 17 similar early warnings, DotConnectAfrica stated the following:

DCA Trust has endeavored to prepare a detailed official response to the ICANN Board and the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee as per this document.  However, before responding to the pertinent issues contained in the GAC Early Warning Advice of the African Union Commission, DCA Trust would like to implore the ICANN Board not to follow the GAC Early Warning Advice.

 After making its initial point DotConnectAfrica expounded saying:

We believe that the governments were teleguided (or manipulated) into submitting these GAC Early Warning Advice, and as such, cannot really be considered as authentic in most cases. It is simply the outcome of a coordinated action which African country governments are being coerced to support, and we believe that actual governmental consultations with respective African country governments has not been done in many cases”

This fact tears closely into the GAC’s mandate that reflects the coordinated attempt at a mass advisory, meaning that there must have existed an element of previous discussion that looked into how to defeat the applicant by instigating what would be seen as a Uniform SA response.

Baku IGF

During the Baku, Azerbaijan IGF  international meeting held  from 6-9 November 2012 where one of the speakers at the sideline meeting held  on African Agenda was quoted saying, and as it appears in the transcribe:

we approaching a vital step in putting up objections for the Africa application for Africa and the support of African members who came up with a form that is completed, we would like to request all of the member countries and send the form back filled in.” 

In what is truly a proof of call for objections to the DotConnectAfrica application, meaning that a UN forum was used to communicate issues that were otherwise private to the .africa application?, validating DCA’s report on complaint of exclusion from this meeting true to mark.

At the same time, DCA pointed out to the ICANN Board:

“The GAC Early warning Advice has been done to punish DotConnectAfrica for opposing the African Union’s proposal to have <Africa> string and its  included in the List of Top-Level Reserved Names.

We may recall that on the sidelines of the ICANN International Meeting at Dakar, Senegal, the African Union Commission-supported African Ministerial Round-Table had submitted a request to ICANN asking to: “Include (.Africa, .Afrique, .Afrikia, ), and its representation in any other language on the Reserved Names List in order to enjoy the level of special legislative protection, so to be managed and operated by the structure that is selected and identified by the African Union.

DotConnectAfrica Trust had openly campaigned against this request by the AUC because its approval by ICANN would have made the .Africa string name unavailable against the backdrop that the List of Reserved Top-Level Names was already indicated in the approved version of the Applicant’s Guidebook”

DCA first point of contention however and surprisingly implores the ICANN Board itself, and for the ICANN Board not to listen to its own advise!  

Referencing the letter written by ICANN Chairman to the African Union Commission on 8 March 2012, DCA responded:

We believe that ICANN’s recommendations to the AU regarding how to directly influence the outcome of the .Africa top-level domain name string, was actually prejudicial to DCA’s application since, this has clearly assisted the AU in the process of coordinating a GAC Early Warning Advice against DCA’s application for .Africa. Our understanding is that the GAC is supposed to independently submit GAC Early Warning Advice to the ICANN Board, but in the case of .Africa, we find the ICANN Board actually recommending to the AUC to perform the GAC Early Warning Advice”

DCA therefore advises ICANN: 

“Procedurally, this is incorrect and problematic, since it gives the impression that ICANN has actually instigated the GAC Early Warning by engaging in an advisory action or activity that seems to subvert the position of an applicant or that puts a particular application in jeopardy.

“Be that as it may, DCA Trust considers this as a very serious aberration that is inimical to the new gTLD application for .Africa that it has submitted.

 we strongly urge the ICANN Board not to follow the GAC Early Warning Advice so that ICANN will not be seen as having acted prejudicially, perhaps inadvertently.”

Some of the specific issues that DotConnectAfrica pointed out as serious, include the process that led to the selection and appointment of UniForum SA, trading as ZA Central Registry,  saying it was not based on an open and transparent RFP Process

DCA thus challenging the African Union through ICANN GAC, requested:

“because this matter is of global import, since governmental representatives and diplomatic observers representing international organization from 5 continents are involved in this matter, and GAC Early Warning Advice notices having been issued in the name of ICANN GAC and about 16 African country governments;  we hereby request the African Union Commission to further justify the integrity of the RFP process that it had put in place that led to the selection of UniForum, by publishing for the sake of satisfying openness and transparency in a globally competitive process, the following:

Listing nearly a  long list of 10 items, DCA requested that the African Union

“make a full public disclosure to the ICANN Board and ICANN GAC in order to further substantiate the GAC Early Warning Advice against DCA Trust’s application for the .Africa gTLD name string”.

DCA also debunked the claim by the AUC that’s application constituted an “unwarranted intrusion and interference on the African Union Commission’s (AUC) mandate”, responding:

“DCA’s application satisfied ICANN’s eligibility requirements in a straight-forward manner based on the Applicant’s Guidebook provisions, and as such was free to submit an application under a competitive, globally-sanctioned program.”

The early warning by AUC also stated “DCA’s application does not adequately and substantively differentiate itself from the AUC’s officially endorsed application for the dotAfrica (.Africa) geographic string” , with which DCA responded saying:

DCA has simply made a straight-forward application for the .Africa name string, the same way that UniForum has also submitted an application for the .Africa name string.  The fact that DCA’s application is in direct completion with the application submitted by UniForum does not constitute any legitimate grounds to issue a GAC Early Warning Advice against DCA.

If the applied-for strings are identical, any pertinent issues in this regard should be left to the relevant ICANN Evaluation Panel to be handled according to the published procedures”.

Laid bare, the entire process means that ICANN cannot truly say its managing the applications properly should it choose to listen to GAC on the African case.  Basically one applicant has an upper hand over the other concerning alleged governmental support. This support is however not rightly sourced given the activities leading to the parallel endorsements.  Under this circumstances, I will also dare say to ICANN, do not listen to GAC Advise!

Link to DotConnectAfrica’s full response to the ICANN GAC Early Warning.

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