DotConnectAfrica sent appeals letter to United States Congress for an independent Ombudsman warning for a successful outcome of the new gTLD program by ICANN

“it is important that any new Internet Expansion Initiative such as the new gTLD program be seen as an important test of mettle for ICANN, and for this organization that is under (the IANA) contract to the United States Government to deliver such a new gTLD program successfully.   Any failure will be roundly seen as ICANN’s inability to demonstrate to the global community of nations that it is a competent U.S.-based institution that can handle Global Internet Governance and question why this status quo must be preserved.”

DotConnectAfrica an organization that is reputed for a 6 year composite program to set up a registry recently  has written an appeal letter to the US Congress, addressing Honorable Senator John ‘Jay’ Rockefeller IV  Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on  Commerce, Science and Transportation and Honorable Greg Walden Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Communications and Technology United States House of Representatives and copied to ICANN CEO and Chair and Key Stakeholders, and members of the US senate, Chairperson of the African Union H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma among others.

This may weigh in the same reservations the ICANN’s CEO recently saying I would have delayed the new gTLD program by a year if it was me.  While many people have felt the same way given that there were also many issues reported to Congress relative by Trademark owners. DotConnectAfrica is expressing issues that nobody has dared to bring up and it sounds as though it is an impetus driven by the experience that DotConnectAfrica faces in its bid and wants to communicate openly to congress given the African countries will always weigh in its support to African Union as an institution for any support.   This, despite any form of irregularity or illegality has taken place from mid-process

DotConnectAfrica has written similar letter to the AU itself to investigate this irregularity and illegality but without any redress.  In following the developing story, the letter to AU says:

 

Accordingly, we hereby request the African Union to now withdraw its avowed support for the .AFRICA application submitted by UniForum. We also request the African Union not to provide any support to UniForum that would enable it obtain any support(s) for its application from individual African country governments. The fact that UniForum failed to submit a Community TLD application 3 Commitment. Good Governance. Diplomacy. Leadership for .AFRICA vindicates our earlier claims that a special interest group, acting as a ‘DotAfrica Task Force’, had used the machinery of the African Union to hijack the .AFRICA gTLD to serve the purposes of a narrow clique.”

and the Uniforum application submission, AU is a direct beneficiary of the  Uniforum bid, leaving any other .africa bidder in a non-competitive advantage. This not only throws the .africa registry at risk of not materializing but the AU would be blocking the entire African TLD for its benefit.

DotConnectAfrica is saying:

“ If any aspect of the new gTLD program has become prone to irregularities for whatever reason; or if an applicant has been found or suspected to be the beneficiary of an act (or acts) of illegality, there is no means to demand thorough accountability within the new gTLD program.”

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“The program has been designed in such a way that an applicant (participating in the program) cannot sue ICANN on the basis of its application or matters relating to the  new gTLD program, thus constricting any possible avenues of legal redress for any aggrieved applicant. Since applicants are constrained to work only within the confines of the limited accountability mechanisms in-built into the new gTLD program, and to pursue dispute resolution within the prescribed (or what one would term as circumscribed) procedures;”

 

The letter also cites corruption cases of its chief competitor Uniforum who is affiliated with the AU saying

we believe that it is pertinent to highlight the salient points of our case against UniForum ZA Central Registry, the other competing applicant for .Africa gTLD, whom we believe is the beneficiary of wholesale illegality in the process of winning the endorsement of the African Union (AU) Commission for the .Africa geographic Top-Level Domain name.”.

In 2009 DotConnectAfrica has been endorsed by the AUC and UNECA among others, and organizations like the IDRU but the letter from AU was letter rescinded in unclear circumstances and purported to have been given expressly to the Uniforum.

The bases of the DotConnectAfrica’s complaints and grievances against UniForum also relates to “ ethical transparency and accountability, especially regarding their purported endorsement for the .Africa gTLD” .

Uniforum has given an impression that it would apply on behalf of the African community but DotConnectAfrica, in what it believes was a very serious infraction says “but after obtaining the endorsement from the African Union Commission, Uniforum not only failed to prepare and submit a Community TLD application for .Africa, and also failed, rather deliberately, to acknowledge the same African Community in its application that was submitted to ICANN for the .Africa gTLD name.”

The letter severally also mentions a South African official, Chairperson of the South African Domain Names Authority (ZADNA) and the then Chair of AfTLD, where DotConnectAfrica notes:

“Clearly, there is a very manifest discrepancy between the official manifest discrepancy between the official claim conveyed in the AU Communiqué regarding a supposititious tender process that local and international registries had participated in, and the apparent intervention”  of Mr. Vika Mpisane who is alleged to have

actively lobbied on behalf of, and for the name of UniForum ZA Central Registry to be put forward in a proposal to the African Union Commission in the illegal subversion of what was supposed to be an open and competitive tender process.”

Drawing their whole arguments DotConnectAfrica concludes saying

against the backdrop that the processing of new gTLD application is now going towards speedy approval and finalization, DotConnectAfrica Trust believes that UniForum should be held accountable now.” And goes on to appeal to the USA Congress “to give the necessary approval and official impetus for the establishment of a new gTLD Program Ombudsman that would handle and look into different forms of grievances reported by new gTLD applicants; and investigate any forms of alleged irregularities and acts of illegality committed by applicants, especially of the sort that DCA Trust has outlined against its direct competitor for the .Africa gTLD, UniForum ZA Central Registry.”

The letter also acknowledges that while other disaffected countries are challenging and questioning the United States’ continuing role in Global Internet Governance and the

“.Africa gTLD is now generally seen by many watchers and observers as an important test case of a highly controversial domain name, and how it is decided, and to whom it is eventually delegated by ICANN”

we believe that this calls for the swift intervention of Congress as the only respected and empowered institution that can save the day by appointing an Independent Counsel as new gTLD Ombudsman that will look into any acts of illegality and probe any  irregularities  to ensure that there is thorough accountability within the new gTLD program and in the process, also ensure that an important new gTLD such as .Africa is not delegated by ICANN to an applicant that has benefitted from an RFP process that lacked openness and transparency.

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