DotConnectAfrica responds to ICANN GAC objection.

Amongst the responses that caused an industry uproar that followed the Beijing GAC advice over many applications submitted by ICANN included DotConnectAfrica’s response which was posted by ICANN on 22 May 2013

DotConnectAfrica the company that applied for .africa (Application number -1-1165-42560) sting and received a GAC objection advice has responded to ICANN in a two part, 8 point response to ICANN.

“We begin by expressing our great disappointment and outrage with the decision of the ICANN GAC to issue a GAC Objection Advice against our application for the .Africa new gTLD.  We totally disagree with it, and would like to repudiate and reject it in the strongest possible terms.” Starts the 15 page response to ICANN.

DotConnectAfrica also goes on to clarify that “we would like to reassure the entire ICANN Global Community and Governments that are represented at ICANN that DCA Trust has no problems with the African Union Commission” a step that exonerated the organization from the notion that they have been fighting the African Union rather than the corrupt processes that have affected its application under the hands of the advisors to the African Union.

The Response also refers to an earlier development of the GAC early warning responses where the organization had received duplicate 17 early warnings from governments about its application.   They state that

a GAC Early Warning was issued, and DCA Trust had submitted a detailed response, we believe that the ICANN GAC did not do its work properly”,  pointing out that GAC did not deal with the pertinent issues raised in the GAC early warning response “The ICANN GAC should have tried to address our concerns regarding the specific points of accountability that we demanded in our Response to the GAC Early Warning.” said DCA.

Some of the issues in the response covers the following key points:

DCA Trust Obtained Early Support from the African Union Commission
DotConnectAfrica emphasizes that it was indeed the first organization to receive recognition and nod to lead the project saying “We know about government support which explains why DCA Trust went to the AUC and UNECA as early as 2008 and 2009 to respectfully request for it; and we are proud to say that the endorsements to support our initiative, which were sought on the basis of direct formal requests presented to the organizations, were freely granted by the respective inter-governmental -cum-diplomatic authorities.”

The Response also questions Uniforum’s purported endorsement that came way after theirs saying

We therefore reject the insinuation that the .Africa new gTLD application submitted by UniForum ZA Central Registry is somehow more valid than the .Africa application that was submitted by DCA Trust because they managed to contrive questionable AU support; but even so, reneging on the terms of their AU endorsement by submitting a fraudulent  application which did not acknowledge an African Community in it”

DCA also note that “For example, the letters written by the Namibian and Kenyan governments to the African Union tend to confirm this assertion. When these letters are compared with the straight-forward letter of Endorsement granted by the Kenyan government in support DCA’s application”.

 The Need for Accountability
The second important issue that will be key as to how the registry would be run on behalf of the continent and is been lacking is the factor of general accountability that must exist in all projects. The response continues that

“We have already escalated our matter to the United States Congress, the highest institution of the US Federal Government, and we shall continue to count on the outcome of a prospective Congressional Accountability Hearing to be adjudicated by a Special Independent Counsel acting as new gTLD Program Ombudsman, which we hope will vindicate us and indict UniForum and its principals for fraudulent misrepresentation and deceit. We need not remind anyone that even ICANN had to seek prior approval and supportive encouragement from Congress in public hearings before proceeding with the actual implementation of the new gTLD Program, so no one should scoff at our intentions of escalating our grievances to Congress as an important arbiter with cross-cutting and over-riding legislative and oversight responsibilities.

As a form of A Way Forward,  DotConnectAfrica proposes that

The processing of applications should continue. The evaluation of our new gTLD application should not be prejudiced in any way. If we pass the Initial Evaluation, we shall present this as ample proof of the viability of our application to enable us go back to the African Union Commission to discuss and negotiate under mutual and cooperative terms.  And that “Our position is that in the absence of any official Accountability Hearing on the issues that we have raised and reported as our grievances against UniForum ZA Central Registry, the implementation of any policy action against DCA’s application by the ICANN Board would be absolutely unlawful.  

 At this time, we believe that statesmanship and conscientiousness are required from all public authorities who have a stake in this matter; in which case, any autocratic, high-handed efforts could cause illegality to be covered up. Accountability and transparency cannot be simply shoved aside by the hubristic intimidation of DCA Trust with the help of those who oppose it on the ICANN GAC. If there is no accountability, then this issue of government support (or lack of support) for applicants should no longer be considered as relevant to the .Africa new gTLD process, and the policy decision by the ICANN Board should now be based only on the other evaluated technical, operational and financial criteria.

GAC Objection Advice is Anti-competitive
DotConnectAfrica’s response also identified the fact that the GAC advice was disturbingly anti-competitive declaring that “Another strong point of disagreement we have with the GAC Objection Advice is with respect to the issue of competition. The GAC Core Principles consider that ICANN’s decision making should take into account public policy objectives that promote effective and fair competition.” Noting that the GAC advice was a wrong step, and against the explicit commitment to fair competition as enshrined in the Core Principles, against the backdrop that the AU is a sort of ‘co-applicant’ that has already mainstreamed itself as part of the UniForum ZACR application and applying structure.

Only ICANN should determine the delegation for .africa: The response also urges the  ICANN Board should accept the Principle that only ICANN should determine the delegation of .Africa new gTLD and  insisting that as far as the new gTLD Program is concerned, it is only ICANN that determines how the new gTLDs should be decided and delegated as per approved new gTLD Program criteria, but the African country governments have simply expressed the position that the AU should actually determine how .Africa should be decided and delegated.

No Consensus: The response also noted lack of Consensus on GAC advice over DCA’s Application where among supposed 120 governmental representation sixty-one (61) GAC members attended the Beijing meeting. We believe that overall consensus could not have been achieved in a situation where about 50 per cent of GAC members did not participate in the meetings.

These among other issues are what the ICANN board is being urged to check and balance properly, with finality to prevent a looming crisis where GAC is seen to overreach its mandate.

One can read the entire response at the ICANN site here

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