[AfrICANN-discuss] Breaking News: DotConnectAfrica Trust WinsResounding Victory against ICANN in IRP Accountability

Seun Ojedeji seun.ojedeji at gmail.com
Fri Jul 17 16:16:40 UTC 2015

Hi Mwendwa,

You may want to read this as well and note that both are from individuals
who are not ICANN staff


*Did the African Union Commission really use a letter written by ICANN to
express its support for ZA Central Registry’s .africa bid? *

Having now obtained and read it, I have my doubts.

I’m publishing it, so you can make your own mind up. Here it is (pdf)

That’s the letter that The Register’s Kieren McCarthy reported yesterday
was “ICANN-drafted” and “duly signed by the AUC”

“Essentially, ICANN drafted a letter in support of ZACR, gave it to the
AUC, and the AUC submitted the letter back to ICANN as evidence that ZACR
should run dot-africa,” The Reg reported.

I don’t think that’s what happened.

What I see is a two-page letter that has one paragraph indisputably written
by ICANN and whole bunch of other stuff that looks incredibly remarkably
like it was written by the AUC and ZACR.

And that one ICANN paragraph was drawn from the new gTLD program’s
Applicant Guidebook, where it was available to all governments.

The Reg reported that ICANN, in the unredacted ruling of the Independent
Review Panel, admitted it drafted the letter.

What The Reg didn’t report is that ICANN merely admitted to sending the AUC
a letter based on the aforementioned AGB template, and that it was
subsequently heavily revised by the AUC.

It was not, I believe, a simple case of the AUC putting its letterhead and
John Hancock on an ICANN missive.

I believe that ZACR had quite a big hand in the redrafting too. The
stylized “.africa (dotAfrica)” is not how ICANN refers to gTLDs, but it is
how ZACR refers to its own brand.

The letter was written in order to satisfy the requirements of the
Geographic Names Panel, which reviews new gTLD applications for the
required government support.

The original AUC letter (read it here
<http://domainincite.com/docs/AUC_ZACRLetterofAppointment.pdf>) was simply
one paragraph confirming that ZACR had been appointed .africa registry, as
the winner of an African Union RFP process.

It didn’t have enough information, or was not specific and formal enough,
for the GNP, which issued a “Clarifying Question”.

In response to the CQ, it seems AUC reached out to ICANN, ICANN sent over
something not dissimilar to its AGB template, the AUC and ZACR redrafted,
edited and embellished it and sent it to ICANN to support their .africa

Did ICANN act inappropriately? Maybe. But I’m losing my enthusiasm for
thinking about this as a massive scandal.


On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 4:40 PM, Mwendwa Kivuva <Kivuva at transworldafrica.com
> wrote:

> Interesting read
> *Unredacted: ICANN's hidden role in fierce battle over .Africa rights*
> *Damning review was censored – but we've seen the full report*
> 15 Jul 2015 at 14:02, Kieren McCarthy
> <http://www.theregister.co.uk/Author/2886>
> Domain-name overseer ICANN's pivotal role in a controversial fight over
> .africa is today revealed in full for the first time.
> An independent review
> <https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/dca-v-icann-2013-12-11-en> into
> the .africa saga, which was two years in the making, concluded that ICANN
> had broken its own bylaws: the organization had failed to properly
> investigate claims made by one of the two applicants battling for the
> rights to own the top-level domain.
> But before the 63-page final report [PDF
> <https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/final-declaration-09jul15-en.pdf>]
> was published last week, repeated references to ICANN's own involvement in
> favor of one of the applicants were systematically removed by the
> organization itself.
> The report contains no less than 39 redactions, many pulling out entire
> paragraphs of text. *The Register* has obtained a non-redacted version of
> the report [PDF
> <https://regmedia.co.uk/2015/07/16/icann-dca-irp-final.pdf>], and we can
> say that most of those redactions concern the fact that ICANN's head of
> operations, Dai-Trang Nguyen, drafted a letter that was then used by ICANN
> to advance a competing .africa bid.
> There were two applications for .africa. The first came from
> DotConnectAfrica (DCA), which originally received support from the African
> Union Commission (AUC), Africa's equivalent of the European Commission.
> Subsequently, however, the AUC decided it wanted to be in control of the
> .africa internet space, and so rescinded its support for DCA and ran its
> own process to find a company to run the top-level domain. DCA refused to
> participate in that process, and applied through ICANN's processes for the
> rights to the dot-word itself. As a result, it ended up in conflict with
> the company that the AUC eventually chose: South Africa's ZACR.
> In an effort to push its choice, and eliminate the DCA bid from ICANN's
> process, the AUC then carried out an extensive lobbying campaign, including
> lodging formal objections to the DCA bid. In response to that campaign,
> ICANN rejected DCA's application. And DCA appealed the decision.
> More than two years later, an independent review of ICANN's rejection
> decision found that ICANN did not properly investigate DCA's claims and so
> had acted unfairly.
> However, what the report also revealed – and which ICANN then removed
> before publishing – was that ICANN's staff had assisted the AUC and its
> competing bid.
> *Questions raised*
> An early letter to ICANN from the African Union Commission (AUC) in
> support of its own candidate to run dot-africa did not fulfill ICANN's
> criteria, was not in the correct format, and sparked a "clarifying
> question" from the third party that ICANN tasked with checking that the bid
> had the requisite support.
> In response, the AUC privately asked ICANN staff for help, and no less
> than ICANN's head of operations obliged, drafting a new letter that,
> unsurprisingly, fulfilled all the necessary criteria.
> That ICANN-drafted letter, duly signed by the AUC, was then used as the
> key piece of evidence to show that ZACR had sufficient support for its bid,
> and just a week later ICANN signed a contract with ZACR to run .africa.
> Essentially, ICANN drafted a letter in support of ZACR, gave it to the
> AUC, and the AUC submitted the letter back to ICANN as evidence that ZACR
> should run dot-africa.
> *Not exactly Switzerland*
> This process in which ICANN engineered approval of a particular
> application, and so undermined its own requirement to act "neutrally and
> objectively with integrity and fairness," was repeatedly referenced in the
> independent report.
> In one redacted section, ICANN admits it wrote the letter, but argued that
> it "did not violate any policy in drafting a template letter at the AUC
> request." Later on it said that there was "absolutely nothing wrong with
> ICANN staff assisting the AUC."
> However, ICANN's failure to act neutrally may put the entire ZACR
> application at risk.
> ICANN also redacted mention of a number of other related accusations: for
> example, ICANN allegedly told InterConnect – which was, along with other
> consultants, scrutinizing dot-word applications – to take the ICANN-drafted
> AUC letter as evidence that all African governments fully supported ZACR
> for the dot-africa job.
> If true, it is another clear violation of the organization's neutrality.
> *Broader problems*
> While the redactions made by ICANN have highlighted its own culpability,
> the fact that ICANN staff intervened in favor of one applicant forms just
> one part of the reasoning in the decision against ICANN by the independent
> review panel.
> The report spends most of its time digging into the rejection of the DCA
> bid by ICANN, which sparked the review in the first place.
> Overall, the panel found that since DCA "was never given any notice or an
> opportunity... to make its position known or defend its own interests," and
> that "both the actions and inactions of the Board with respect to the
> application of DCA Trust relating to the .AFRICA gTLD were not procedures
> designed to insure the fairness required... and are therefore inconsistent
> with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of ICANN."
> DCA's claim to have been unfairly treated was rejected repeatedly by ICANN
> – first by the ICANN's Board Governance Committee and then by its New gTLD
> Program Committee (NGPC), which feature many of the same members.
> In both cases, the board failed to dig into DCA's claims. It did not, for
> example, ask ICANN's head of operations about the support letter drafted
> for the AUC, nor did it ask ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)
> why it had formally opposed DCA's bid.
> During the course of the independent review, ICANN staff also tried
> repeatedly to limit what the panel was allowed to review or do, even going
> so far as to try toprevent its key witnesses from being questioned
> <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/28/internet_bylaws_dot_africa/>,
> claiming the panel did not have the right to do so.
> In subsequent questioning with the chairwoman of the GAC, Heather Dryden,
> the review panelists were amazed to discover that the GAC did not provide
> any rationale for its decision to reject the DCA bid, even though it
> explicitly listed the three criteria that it would need to meet to justify
> such a rejection.
> And despite the fact that the decision was formally questioned through its
> own appeal processes, ICANN's board did not ask the GAC for a rationale
> either: it simply took its statement at face value and rejected the bid.
> *Other accusations*
> Within the report are a wealth of other accusations from DCA over
> collusion between ICANN's staff and AUC representatives. Since the panel's
> overall decision was that ICANN must reevaluate DCA's bid, it steers clear
> of making any judgment about those accusations ("the panel does not find it
> necessary to determine who was right, to what extent and for what reasons").
> However, while DCA has been widely mocked within the DNS industry – one
> industry blogger even running the headline "DotConnectAfrica still barking
> mad after IRP win" after the review found in DCA's favor – the fact remains
> that ICANN has redacted the formal report of an independent panel, and many
> questions remain unanswered.
> When asked about the redactions, ICANN's vice president of global
> communications Duncan Burns said:
> >
> > Redacted portions are those that reference the info provided during the
> proceeding that was marked as confidential by one of the parties. The
> parties have an obligation to maintain that confidentiality. [They] are
> consistent with the redactions found in the parties' briefs that are posted
> on the website.
>  This saga is just one more sign that ICANN, as a body, continues to make
> a mockery of efforts to introduce accountability into its decision-making. ®
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*Seun Ojedeji,Federal University Oye-Ekitiweb:      http://www.fuoye.edu.ng
<http://www.fuoye.edu.ng> Mobile: +2348035233535**alt email:
<http://goog_1872880453>seun.ojedeji at fuoye.edu.ng
<seun.ojedeji at fuoye.edu.ng>*

The key to understanding is humility - my view !
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