Uniforum’s Pass huge Debacle – Who is to save African Union from itself?

An African internet showdown that has refused to end is looking once again.

According to DotConnectAfrica, the Company bidding for .africa alongside the embattled Uniforum ZACR, DotConnectAfrica whose application was flagged as “incomplete” due to the fact that it did not go to the Geographic Review Panel, despite passing highly all the other panels has asked for an accountability hearing with ICANN.

Uniforum’s pass has come out as a controversial move based on the timing and announcements of the application status. Uniforum evaluation dubbed at 307 has waited until DotConnectAfrica’s evaluation of 1005 to announce a “pass” by ICANN and DCA “incomplete and “unapproved”.

Questions everyone was asking at Durban was why the delay and how a “Pass”?   What happened to the Public comments of DCA? From the records of ICANN priority, Uniforum comes at 307 while DotConnectAfrica comes as 1005. However DotConnectAfrica received its evaluation results way before Uniforum making any person wonder what was cutting.  It bemuses the entire Africa to think that a priority number 1005 received results earlier than a number 307.  In a normal queue, 307 would have all its results before 1005 which is way ahead.

Uniforum has been viewed as a favored bid due to the affiliations of some of its members and backers who are said to have close ties at ICANN, to include the DotAfrica Taskforce members Nii Quaynor (VP of AU Taskforce) and Pierre Dandjinou (now employed as staff of ICANN and former Chair of AU Taskforce) to everyone’s surprise who infiltrated the ICANN structure after they have consolidated the endorsement for the Uniforum bid at the AU under the newly formed africainonespace.

A media report recently stated that:

“It’s not clear, but it’s visible like a very open secret that UniForum’s application, though rated to have had many challenging issues got through a “pass”.  Even so, what many thought would have resulted in a negotiated outcome between two applicants, as per the guidelines, this has raised a key question if ICANN is shoving competition away in directly selecting Uniforum by eliminating the “Contention set” hurdle, a guidebook process which allows bidders who are running for the same string to compete.”

DotConnectAfrica was the darling of the global internet industry participants and a favorite applicant in the new gTLD  process; this is due to the main fact that it is the organization that has first fiercely campaigned for the idea by initiating it at ICANN, introducing it and getting early endorsements from the PanAfrican organizations like the AU and UNECA, and setting the stage for the very first African Registry to sponsor an ICANN forum and among other widely acclaimed International Internet Fora, including Internet Governance Forums.

However the platform on which the organization has been passing through has mostly been full of challenges and setbacks, firstly due to the wrong attempted withdrawal  of its AU endorsement, and to follow a widely reported faulty AU Dotafrica RFP that was used as the mainstay to boost Uniforms’ bid.

Some of the companies that were relegated as redundant as a result of sharp criticism by DotConnectAfrica are ARC from South Africa, dotAfrica.org,  and AFTLD, who all had anticipated an endorsement from the AUC, which was defeated as an unfit vehicle to run .africa registry.

Despite all the reportage on Africa Union’s foul play that started by reneging on the 2009 endorsement, which was followed by reports that AU had chosen Uniforum as the applicant for .africa through “a transparent process” that was more or less, effected through an undisclosed RFP that handpicked UNIFORUM – a  process of selection that will come back to haunt the handlers at the African Union; the  future will ask dire questions on accountability of the process.

ICANN being a US company that must abide by very stringent code of ethics may also be thrown to the work of unearthing how a fraudulent application least to say where there is a huge misrepresentation, is being processed while its emanating from an illegitimate procedure.

Question that is now rattling and baffling is could ICANN be part of a grand scheme to deny Africa a chance for a competitive process that will eventually give the continent the best unquestioned services?

Africa only submitted 17 applications in the new gTLD round but as the battle for .africa has turned out, it will be discouraging to note that the words and endorsements of African Union cannot be trusted, even when they are on paper and seal of the Africa Union.

Why has AU the continental body allowed such manipulation and politics to be perpetrated in its own system?  Who is to save African Union from Itself?

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