The CEO of DCA Trust has written a cautionary letter to the ICANN following an unsolicited letter by the Africa Union Commissioner of Infrastructure, Elham Ibrahim to the independent geographic names evaluation panel on 29th August 2015 following the July 2015 ruling where DCA Trust successfully fought and won against ICANN for the .africa handling.
The Commissioners letter which was viewed as lobbyist was termed as of inappropriate interference designed to undermine the objectivity and independence of the GNP. According to the guidebook,
“Contacting individual ICANN staff members, Board members, or individuals engaged by ICANN to perform an evaluation role in order to lobby for a particular outcome or to obtain confidential information about applications under review is not appropriate.”
The letter also warned that, there is no place in the new gTLD procedures or governing policy for this type of letter. It is neither a legitimate challenge to the ‘resumed evaluation’ by ICANN of DCA Trust’s .Africa application; nor is it a solicited input that would aid the process.
The AUC Infrastructure and Energy Division letter also claims unequivocally that an open and transparent process was followed in appointing ZACR as the winner of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process on .Africa. DCA trust therefore challenged the AUC Commission to support its claim of an “open and transparent” process by proving to the entire world that the RFP was conducted under that circumstances, and asking AUC to respond to the following questions:
- How was the AUC .Africa RFP conducted?
- Where is the complete list of firms/companies that responded to the AUC RFP on .Africa?
- Where are the official minutes of the AUC Tender Board meeting that had been held to deliberate upon, and give consideration to the RFP outcome; and subsequent approval of the evaluated RFP results?
- Was the .Africa RFP handled by the AUC Procurement Division? And if not; why was the RFP not overseen by the AUC Procurement Unit as per AUC working procedures and official policy regarding RFPs, RFQs, and such like processes that are used to administrate procurement actions?
DCA Trust also stated that since Energy Division letter has mentioned several points pertaining to GAC Early Warnings, GAC Objection Advice, Governmental support, AU RFP, the .africa applicant emphasized that it has always questioned the validity of the GAC Early Warnings, questioned and disagreed the validity of the GAC Objection procured against DCA Trust’s .Africa application, and the ICANN Board decision in that regard.
The purported withdrawal of its valid endorsements ‘after the fact’ was also underplayed by DCA Trust who reminded that:
In 2009 DCA Trust received a letter of support from the AUC Chairperson the highest office of the institution. We have always maintained that this endorsement for the .Africa string remains valid.
On the UNECA Endorsement, DCA noted the following:
“ we are surprised at UNECA’s statement coming more than seven years after the endorsement was first written and given to DCA Trust in 2008, by the highest offices of the UNECA; and more than three years after the closing of the new gTLD application window in 2012.” And as such attributed this to that “UNECA has not acted independently, but has been unduly pressured by the AUC Commissioner to write this letter.”
DCA Trust also questioned the opinions of the Secretary of the Commission of UNECA, Ms. Sandra Baffoe-Bonnie who claimed that UNECA is not a public authority, and added that “UNECA cannot suddenly cease to be a public authority because of the issue of endorsing a geographic name string under the ICANN new gTLD Program”. The letter states categorically that “The Secretary of the Commission, Ms. Sandra Baffoe-Bonnie is also not in any position to interpret the New gTLD guidebook for the GNP. The GNP is to do their work independently”.
On fair treatment that is expected of the independent geographic panel, DCA emphasized that
“since the UNECA endorsement has already been considered positively for ZACR/AUC Infrastructure and Energy Division – our competitor for the .Africa new gTLD string it would be an act of discrimination and unfair evaluation, if the same UNECA endorsement which DCA Trust has submitted was rejected based on the AUC’s Infrastructure and Energy Division’s unwarranted intervention in the process.”
DCA Trust concluded that it “has no faith in this “resumed evaluation by ICANN”. And “would not normally participate in an evaluation process which we already think is prejudiced, but have participated in order to satisfy due process requirements, and complete all necessary formalities, even though it is crystal clear that DCA Trust has already satisfied all necessary criteria at the time of application.”
It appears that the .Africa journey is bound to take a very complicated route and may not be available soon due to the numerous controversies that have bedeviled the process.