DotConnectAfrica in a spirited effort to secure its application on .africa that has lately been a victim of GAC advice during the just concluded ICANN Beijing 46th meeting has called the GAC Advice anti-competitive saying:
“we see the GAC Policy Advice as a wrong step, and against the explicit commitment to fair competition as enshrined in the Core Principles, against the backdrop that the AU is a sort of ‘co-applicant’ that has already mainstreamed itself as part of the UniForum ZACR application and applying structure. To simply drive home our analogy: the GAC Objection Advice portends to tie our hands behind our back whilst asking us to participate in a boxing match. Such a pugilistic contest would be very unfair and unbalanced, since it would be rather obvious to all the spectators that the hamstrung boxer has been pre-designed to lose the match. It is even more significant and absurd to observe that the boxer whose hands have been tied, have actually been tied by his opponent in the boxing match!”
In the 1st part of the 15 paged response submitted to ICANN Board, DotConnectAfrica have complained that AU’s involvement as endorser and co-applicant has further complicated the entire process and has made the UniForum ZACR application more opaque than ever. Meaning the African Union has been dragged into the competition ring and has been relegated to the role of a fighter and a referee unfortunately. This situation makes the grounds under which the issues are being analyzed a very complicated situation.
DCA’s response further elaborates on issue of transferability of endorsement writing
“In a situation where the African country governments have not endorsed UniForum but have only supported the position of the African Union on .Africa; it is highly questionable on philosophical grounds, whether the political support that has been indeed granted by African countries to the AU as an inter-governmental body representing African country governments can directly translate into an endorsement for a .Africa new gTLD that has been applied for to ICANN under the auspices of the globally approved new gTLD program.”
DCA in its last public statement has accused Uniforum of hanging to African Union by the Apron straps, while using AU’s perceived cumulative position as an umbrella body overseeing African affairs albeit poorly to cause a lock-down where all countries are assumed to be in tandem with the AU opinion.
A keen observer will note that these agreements that were crafted post DotConnectAfrica’s expression of Interest to ICANN about dotAfrica years before 2009 were clearly only attempts to block DotConnectAfrica’s bid. It is to be noted as well that the said endorsements were only a support to the Dakar pre-ICANN Senegal meeting request to ICANN to reserve some names to the AU, namely .africa, afriqiya and .afrique in favor of the AU, permanently blocking anyone from participating in .africa bid, an attempt that failed when raised as an exception by DCA and which ICANN rejected.
Therefore, DCA’s GAC response reinforces the same issues saying “Moreover, the African country governments have only expressed support for the African Union’s position regarding the official request that was made to ICANN for the reservation of the .Africa gTLD name string and related name strings in other languages.” It brings to fore
“ For example, the letters written by the Namibian and Kenyan governments to the African Union tend to confirm this assertion. When these letters are compared with the straight-forward Letter of Endorsement granted by the Kenyan government in support DCA’s application, it soon becomes clear on closer examination that a letter that has been written by an African country government in support of the AU’s position on .Africa is quite different from a Letter of Endorsement that has been written by an African country government in support of an application for .Africa new gTLD.”
DotConnectAfrica has again mentioned the presence of a representative who belongs to the Uniforum camp and as is a former GAC representative of Kenya but is said to continue advising on the .africa matter. The response quoted says that
“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”
She stands accused of attending the “the GAC meeting to assist the UniForum ZA Central Registry application, we question the validity of her attendance and maintain that her vigorous participation in the GAC proceedings with the sort of open bias demonstrated against DCA Trust led to the GAC Objection Advice that was accomplished.”
DotConnectAfrica’s response also highlighted the lack of consensus on the GAC advise, a fact that strengthens the issue of anti-competitive nature, Principle 47 specifies that:
“The GAC works on the basis of seeking consensus among its membership. Consistent with United Nations practice, consensus is understood to mean the practice of adopting decisions by general agreement in the absence of any formal objection.” However it appears that in the Beijing meeting there was an attendance of “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” Bearing in mind that the GAC consists of a membership of 120 governments.
Given that a new representative from Kenya also circulated his response as stipulated by GAC principle 41 that “Representatives wishing to develop their position on a particular matter in fuller detail may circulate a written statement for distribution to Members”, it is important to note that Sammy Buruchara’s position on the matter circulated via email was not taken to consideration further emphasizing unfair anti-competitiveness, the letter read
“This is inform you that Kenya does not stand by what Alice states in the GAC since she ceased to be the Kenyan Government advisor for GAC on the day of my appointment. Further, should the situation arise, Kenya does not wish to have a GAC advise on DotConnectAfrica Application for .africa delegation.”
The response therefore puts the GAC advice on an unprecedented position where the ICANN board as urged by DotConnectAfrica must decide carefully and neutrally on the negative impact of the advice on a transparent applicant and not support the anti-competitive structure of processes that is being fronted through its GAC arm, by individuals carefully driving their personal agenda at the expense of the continent.