ICANN frustrated with a delay of its own making on the approval of .africa TLD

ICANN is in the middle of a email exchange for the apparent delay of .africa, with the AUC. This comes just 3 days to the 22 – 26 June 2014 ICANN 50 in London, England.

On  02 Jun 2014, Dr. Elham M. A. Ibrahim the African union Commissioner, Infrastructure and Energy wrote a letter to Mr. Fadi Chehadé expressing complaints of delays in approving the .africa TLD.

Dr Elham notes the progress that has already proceeded that includes the signing of the ZACR .africa contract at ICANN 49 Singapore in March 2014, despite an ongoing IRP case between DotConnectAfrica and ICANN.   The Commissioner wrote:

“It is therefore with great concern that we are faced with yet another delay in delegating this important regional TLD due to the recent IRP instructions stopping ICANN from processing the dotafrica application until it has rules on the complaint filed by DotConnectAfrica (DCA).”

Mind in a unrelated case, but the same issue, the AUC recently also stopped the Principal of DotConnectAfrica from giving a speech at an ITU organized ICT girls day event that was held at the AUC premises, due to a .africa dispute.

It is important to note that, as a result of ICANN’s allowing the contract signing to proceed, IRP Panel ruled that

“ICANN must 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.”

As much as the letters express disappointment over the delays of .africa, Africa union has been in the center of all controversy by failing to manage a transparent open bidding process for .africa.   Africa Union Commission which is an arm of Africa Union under the watch of Dr. Elham issued an endorsement to DotConnectAfrica initially, then rescinded it and later, and gratnted an appointment letter to Uniforum [ZACR] under unclear circumstances, despite all complains by DotConnectAfrica that it would not participate in a flawed RFP  .africa process.

ICANN has been tagged along as a willing accomplice of African Union.  This was visible from advice given by the ICANN Chair Dr. Crocker when a ministerial roundtable asked ICANN to reserve .africa related names to African Union, an issue vehemently opposed by DotConnectAfrica.   Steve Croker while rejecting the request reservation of names, yes in a controversial statement added that 

“While ICANN is not able to offer the specific relief requested in the Communiqué, the robust protections built into the New gTLD Program afford the African Union (and its individual member states), through the Government Advisory Committee, the opportunity to raise concerns that an applicant is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic, or provide direct advice to the Board. In addition, the African Union (and its individual member states) can avail itself of any of the appropriate objection processes mentioned above in the event an application is received for any string – even those beyond representations of .Africa – that may raise concern”  

Elhams letter continues that

“As you can understand it is becoming increasingly difficult for the AUC to explain to not only its member states but also other Africa stakeholders why the African Geo TLD application has become so challenging for ICANN to expedite despite the various statements made towards the need to support developing regions. The Africa continent is already significantly marginalized within ICANN processes it is therefore very important that this process is not delayed any further”

It is apparent that bad processes yield bad results. Therefore this is the situation that African union and ICANN find themselves in at the moment.   AUC cannot explain why .africa delegation is taking time, because it did not properly educate African governments or stakeholders on the ICANN new gTLD program, but went ahead to expedite an award to ZACR.

In his response Fadi says

“I sincerely appreciate your acknowledgement of ICANN’s Bylaws and the accountability procedures afforded through the Bylaws, including the Independent Review Process (IRP) that has been invoked by the competing applicant for the .AFRICA TLD. Even when challenges are not well taken (such as the way that we view the .AFRICA IRP), it is essential for all stakeholders – including those just joining ICANN from the developing world – to see ICANN’s commitment to upholding its accountability processes. Unfortunately, at times this requires delays such as those faced by ZACR and the AUC in seeing the launch of the .AFRICA TLD.”

He continues that

“ICANN is also frustrated with the time required for a final determination in the .AFRICA IRP to be issued.”

However this delay is an issue of ICANN’s own making in two ways

1. ICANN Allowed ZACR to proceed with its application and even expedited a contract signing despite the controversies.

2. As the panel ruled,

“First, the Panel is of the view that this IRP could have been heard and finally decided without the need for interim relief, but for ICANN’s failure to follow its own bylaws (Article IV, section 3, paragraph 6) and Supplemental Procedures (Article 1), which require the creation of a standing panel.”

“In the Panel’s unanimous view, it would be unfair and unjust to deny DCA Trusts request for interim relief when the need for such a relief by DCA Trust arises out of ICANN’s failure to follow its own bylaws and procedures,” it states, further conceding that: “DCA Trust has demonstrated, to the satisfaction of this Panel that, beyond the procedural rights it must enjoy to have its case heard, DCA trust also enjoys according to ICANN’s own bylaws the right to have ICANN’s  Board decision reviewed by an Independent panel, a right which will be lost if an interim relief is not granted in this case.”

Therefore ICANN is the center of all the .africa issues and it must fix its house, address all complaints of favoritism, conflict of interest and corruption involved.

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