GAC Advice on .africa application fails to address vital concerns

Beijing 46th meeting was the platform that was used to post the ICANN GAC advice, which is a requirement of the new gTLD progress for all the new applications.  GAC is an advisory body to ICANN.

Though their advice came slightly after the deadline since the new gTLD program guideline clearly indicates in Module 3: Objection Procedures, Section 3.1 that: “For the Board to be able to consider the GAC advice during the evaluation process, the GAC advice would have to be submitted by the close of the Objection Filing Period.”

In their 15 page comprehensive and well articulated response, DotConnectAfrica amongst many other points highlighted the above issue, saying:

“We believe that a GAC Objection Advice that was achieved and publicly notified via a GAC Communiqué dated 11th April 2013, nearly 1 month after the Objection Filing period closed officially on 13th March 2013, is most irregular and should therefore not be considered by the ICANN Board of Directors. after the deadline as reported on DotConnectAfrica’s response to ICANN GAC advice”

According to the GAC Beijing Communique, the GAC Advises the ICANN Board that:  The GAC has reached consensus on GAC Objection Advice according to Module 3.1 part I of the Applicant Guidebook on the following applications: 3. The application for .africa (Application number 1-1165-42560)”

However the circumstances under which the advice was received leaves a lot to be answered.  DotConnectAfrica has initially indicated in their response that their request to address the GAC early warning has not yet been received nor action taken. The response quoted

“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.  For example, we had asked for full accountability and disclosures regarding the AUC RFP Process, but this was ignored as if our remonstrations are of no consequence. What is the point in asking us to defend a GAC Early Warning issued by the ICANN GAC, if there is no parallel due process set-up for an Accountability Hearing that would, at a minimum, judiciously investigate the issues that we have raised, and present the results for the interest of the global Internet-using public and global ICANN Community; so as to profoundly demonstrate that there will be no miscarriage of justice under any circumstances over the matter of .Africa? ”

Other major problems that further complicate the issue is the revealed presence of a Kenyan representative who is a member of Uniforum’s steercom, she is credited with orchestrating  a coordinated move to ensure the delivery of the said GAC advice.  DCA wrote:

“GAC advice was forcefully pushed through with the assistance of the strident polemics and tactics of intimidation employed by Ms. Alice Munyua, an active supporter and Steering Committee member of the UniForum ZACR application; who claimed to represent Kenya on the GAC to enable her push the agenda of obtaining a GAC Objection Advice against DCA’s application, whereas in truth, her GAC tenure has already expired since the ICANN Toronto meeting, after which she was replaced by another officially accredited Kenyan government representative. ”

GAC advice hinges its legitimacy of quorum on consensus, but its curious to note, according to DotConnectAfrica’s response that there lacked this important requirement to draw a respectable ‘consensus’ as fondly used.

Indeed “the entire ICANN GAC body is comprised of over 120 governments. The GAC Communiqué that resulted from the Beijing Meeting clearly indicates that only 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”

A key pertinent issue that should not be overlooked is that one of the GAC representatives sent an advice that counteracted earlier advice by Ms. Munyua. These email though circulated was equally ignored, yet the GAC principle 14 clearly rules that “Representatives wishing to develop their position on a particular matter in fuller detail may circulate a written statement for distribution to Members.”

Mr Buruchara had advised that the Kenya Government which is the host country of DotConnectAfrica, “should the situation arise, Kenya does not wish to have a GAC advise on DotConnect Africa Application for .africa delegation. ” and expounded further “There is an apparent conflict of interest in this issue and GAC members representing AU governments while they have a right to support a certain candidate, must not under the same AU auspice, be the ones to object to other competing candidates.   Kenya therefore does not accept this dotafrica communique.”

Clearly this advice may have been misinformed and made in bad faith dangerously breaking the ICANN multi-stakeholder process that ought to be neutral at all costs.

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