DotConnectAfrica Comments and Questions on .Africa at the ICANN-47 Public Forum, Durban SA

Below is a complete unabridged version of the comment/questions raised by Ms. Sophia Bekele, Executive Director and CEO of DotConnectAfrica Trust, at the ICANN-47 Public Forum Meeting in Durban, Republic of South Africa on 18th July 2013. A shorter version was read out at the ICANN Public Forum Meeting on Thursday, July 18, 2013 due to constraint of time.

DotConnectAfrica Trust’s application for the .Africa generic Top-Level Domain name (Application ID: 1-1165-42560) received a GAC Objection Advice at the ICANN-46 Beijing Meeting in April 2013.

According to the GAC Beijing Communiqué, now termed Beijing GAC Advice, DCA Trust’s application received a ‘Consensus Advice’: that it was the consensus of the entire GAC that the .Africa new application submitted by DCA Trust should not be approved. Since the Beijing GAC Advice was published on 11th April 2013, DCA Trust has continued to question the validity of the ‘GAC Consensus’ that led to the GAC Objection Advice against its application.

DCA Trust is aware that the Kenyan GAC Advisor, Mr. Sammy Buruchara had objected to the GAC Advice on its behalf and had sent an email memorandum to the GAC Secretariat with a copy to other recipients. According to how GAC is expected to conduct its official business, Principle 41, a member country can in fact put its objection in writing should they not be present at the meeting. DCA had also amplified this in its written Response to the GAC Objection Advice [PDF].

Amidst this climate of a questionable consensus, the GAC Objection Advice was accepted by the ICANN New gTLD Program Committee through its Resolution 2013.06.04.NG01. The decision is already the subject of a reconsideration request [PD] that has been submitted by DCA Trust to the ICANN Board Governance Committee since June 19, 2013.

However, for the interest of accountability and transparency, DCA Trust is still looking for answers regarding how the consensus was reached by the ICANN GAC at Beijing to issue a GAC Objection Advice against its application.

Pertinent Questions

I would draw the attention of Ms. Heather Dryden, Chair of the ICANN GAC, ICANN Board Member, and member of the New gTLD Program Committee to the following:

(1) An Email communication was written to you by Mr. Sammy Buruchara on 9th April 2013, stating that he was now “the newly appointed Kenya Government Advisor to the GAC”, and at the same time informing you that “should the situation arise, Kenya does not wish to have a GAC advice on DotConnect Africa Application for .africa delegation.”

(2) Why this written objection was not taken into account and advisement as clear indication that there was no consensus on the issue. It appears you chose to ignore Kenya’s written objection — an action that has now resulted in a questionable GAC Objection Advice against DCA’s application for .Africa new gTLD.

(3) At the GAC plenary session we observed a statement by one GAC member that we thought other GAC members were acting in their own self interest rather than GAC as a whole. This was in relation to .Wine. This brought home the contention that exists within GAC and a lack of understanding of their role. Consensus seems to be another word for exhaustion.

.Africa has had a bad experience from GAC where we have been subjected to a clearly orchestrated campaign by the Africa Union (a GAC observer) and certain GAC members against our application. All their objections were identical cut & paste. These GAC members took it upon themselves to provide advice outside of the new GTLD Guidebook and do the work of the Geographic Names Panel. Why?

Other related concerns we have include the following:

(5) Despite the Guidebook stating ” The receipt of GAC advice will not toll the processing of any application (i.e., an application will not be suspended but will continue through the stages of the application process).” Our application has been stopped. Why?

(6) Despite GAC advice coming well outside the 7 month objection period it was still entertained. Why?

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