July 9 2015 saw the much awaited IRP ruling over the .Africa domain after DCA Trust took ICANN to task over discriminatory Board decisions and actions taken with regard to DCA Trust’s application for the DotAfrica.
The resultant win is a culmination of wins that started with the IRP declaring that ICANN immediately refrain from any further processing of any application for .africa until this Panel has heard the merits of DCA’s Trust Notice of Independent Review Process and issued its final decision regarding the same. The final decision also sustained the suspension of the .Africa registry contract the ZACR and ICANN signed in dire disregard of the IRP.
The trouble with the .Africa domain though did not start with DCA taking ICANN to the IRP, the delay has been progressing from the time when the AUC went against its own former endorsee of 2009, DCA trust and instead appointed ZACR then called Uniforum through an RFP that was considered uncompetitive and discriminatory.
Here are some of the warnings that AUC and ZACR failed to heed and eventually resulted in a further delay in delegating the .africa domain. DCA Trust in 2012 warned that Uniforum (ZACR) and Africa union commission should be wary of wrong doing, but it appears that no body would take that warning seriously and these are the very reason that the panel found fault in ICANN’s involvement with the .africa domain.
On the AUC RFP DCA Trust noted that at a very early stage not to participate in the AU RFP process to select an operator for the DotAfrica registry. For this reason, Yes2DotAfrica
“would not accept any questionable endorsement or selection of UniForum that is the putative outcome of a flawed and illegitimate exercise. At the time DCA also added “we wish to inform the global public that the entire process was fraught with irregularities and injustice, favoritism and conflict of interest, when critically examined from every angle, completely falls short of the proper ethical standards of probity and accountability. First, the executives of UniForum SA had attempted to use Domain Names Services (Pty) Ltd. (DNS) (a company wholly owned by them) to perpetrate a questionable tie-up with Convergence Investment Partners (CIP) and consummate the formation of the African Registry Consortium (ARC), and when this was exposed by the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign as a potential BEE scam that reeked of rent-seeking and business opportunism, the ARC arrangement failed.”
The Africa Union took itself as the determinant factor of the .Africa domain, AUC usurped ICANN’s responsibility of fairly overseeing the .Africa application process and evaluating each out of merit by trying to force ICANN to reserve names to the AUC through the excuse of e-sovereignty. This miserably failed.
DCA stated that
“the AU is simply one stakeholder in a multi-stakeholder process, and cannot single-handedly outsource, or contract with any organization or participate in the process of selecting a registry operator for a DotAfrica gTLD that it does not own, nor is within its right to delegate. The AU cannot mainstream itself within a particular proposal and endorse the same proposal when it does not possess any sovereignty or ownership over DotAfrica gTLD as an Internet resource that belongs legally to ICANN.”
ICANN Board and Governmental Advisory Council (GAC)
DCA also called upon the ICANN Governmental Advisory Council (GAC) and all African governments including those represented at ICANN to hold the African Union Commission satisfy all aspects of probity and insist that it conforms to these ideals of transparency and accountability over DotAfrica and make full disclosure , however GAC failed to do so, the board adopted GAC’s recommendations to block .Africa application by DCA Trust without a doing due diligence. The IRP panel used the GAC as one of the many reasons why DCA Trust won its case against ICANN.
The IRP has proven that if all the stakeholders including ICANN, Africa union and both the .Africa applicants had endeavoured to follow due process then all the problems that have bungled the domain would have been avoided.