The new ICANN gTLD process has received quite unlikely request from an applicant for .africa string DotConnectAfrica which is headquartered in Mauritius, but has a strong base of representation in Kenya, Addis Ababa, California and the United Kingdom. DotConnectAfrica has applied to set up the registry in the Kenyan capital should ICANN delegate it to the applicant.
In a winding revelation, DotConnectAfrica has published a letter on its website ” appealing directly to the United States Senate as the Upper House of the United States Congress, its Judiciary Committee, and other important Congressional committees that have a relevant stake in a successful outcome of the new gTLD process; to give the necessary approval and official impetus for the establishment of a new gTLD Program Ombudsman that would handle and look into different forms of grievances reported by new gTLD applicants; and investigate any forms of alleged irregularities and acts of illegality committed by applicants, especially of the sort that DCA Trust has outlined against its direct competitor for the .Africa gTLD, UniForum ZA Central Registry.“
This letter also follows several other letters sent to the ICANN CEO and Board addressing the Conflict of Interest issues, the first letters were sent on 12th July 2012, followed by another in October 2012 and a direct request from DCA to the ICANN Ombudsman to investigate the matter. The ICANN Ombudsman’s report however reported a negative on the conflict of interest matters as he was only able to make his opinion on matters of current activities and not future potential conflicts. Though, in a twist of events the complaint caused the concerned board members Chris and Mike to review their Statements of Interest, this review incensed DotConnectAfrica who wrote a fourth letter urging ICANN to act on the two officials.
The letter to the US Congress has been strongly worded requesting Senator Rockefeller, Honorable Chairman Walden and Congressional Leaders, to intervene in the matter, so as to perhaps coerce ICANN into acting effectively on such matters and beyond and flatten any doubts of unfairness. The letter also mentions the immuneness of the ICANN process as regards to protecting an applicant saying “The program has been designed in such a way that an applicant (participating in the program) cannot sue ICANN on the basis of its application or matters relating to the new gTLD program, thus constricting any possible avenues of legal redress for any aggrieved applicant”
DotConnectAfrica says “if ICANN fails to demand accountability from the erring/miscreant applicant. Indeed, it is quite troubling to note that an aggrieved new gTLD applicant has no guarantee of justice or legal avenues to seek justice and redress under these circumstances”, and identifies the main problems saying “apart from public comments and the formal Objection filing, there is no mechanism within the ICANN new gTLD program to address grievances that are related to what one would consider lack of ethical transparency and accountability or illegality in the process of winning an endorsement;”
DotConnectAfrica pegs its claims on mainly the “preponderant evidence to now suggest that UniForum ZA Central Registry was not appointed by the African Union Commission based on the outcome of a truly transparent and accountable RFP-based tender process” and that “if UniForum is not held accountable for its actions, as the beneficiary of a corrupt process, that enabled it win unfair advantages in the new gTLD program; then an applicant that has benefitted from a willfully corrupt process, that has also submitted a misleading and fraudulent application will also, having reneged on the commitment implicit in its endorsement, would, in the full view of the entire world, also win the mandate for the management, administration and operation of the .Africa gTLD from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a U.S.-based organization.”
This probably sends a word that ICANN has to courageously address the flurry of complains that have been put forward by the concerned applicant whose entire letter is attached here