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Why African Telecom Union (ATU) Proposal Should be Rejected

The ATU’s sponsored Tunis “Africa Proposal” is the same as Uncle AUC’s Dakar “Africa Agenda”, proposed to circumvent global ICANN policy, and should be rejected!

My attention was drawn to the recent African Telecom Union (ATU)‘s proposal for the modification and expansion of Resolution 47—Country code top-level domain names and geographic names. As an affected party to the proposal, I feel obliged to make a comment:

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Recalling my last article to The Hill titled “ICANN is already under the influence of Foreign Governments”, I drew an example of how ICANN allowed the African Union Commission, an Intergovernmental body to heavily interfere in the .Africa application so as to delegate it to itself, which led me to take ICANN to Court.

ATU, as described on its website ‘, is a group in Africa that provides a forum for stakeholders involved in ICT to formulate effective policies and strategies aimed at improving access to information infrastructure and services’. Although never visible at ICANN before, the ATU had came out of the woodwork to sponsor an “Africa Proposal”, which effortlessly dances around the already known policy over sovereignty of ccTLDs, but masquerading its main intention to support the position of “Uncle AUC” and its .Africa proponents, in their long-term illegitimate attempt, to reserve .Africa geographic name for themselves.

The fact that the ATU decided to get into ICANN politics at this instant, and the first foreign entity to voice its opinion so expeditiously post-ICANN IANA transition, is no surprise to those of us who know the ICANN-Africa insider politics. It is obvious that it has been in the works behind the scenes for a while, but to merely make it look like a big challenge and threat to ICANN’s global policy making, for the external spectator. The renewed conspiracy and the illegitimate push could be emerging again due to the historically known interested parties visible frustration of not obtaining .Africa via an already established procedure. They are again knotting a tale of exception to circumvent international policy!

History of AUC’s failure to get the .Africa legitimately in the face of the International community

  1. AUC has already failed to get the .Africa name reserved for itself under a special legislative protection at an ICANN meeting in Dakar Senegal in October 2011. DCA fought against it and prevailed.
  2. AUC again failed to get it through the application it put through at ICANN in 2012, as its proxy applicant ZACR failed to apply on behalf of the “African Community”, per the call for the AUC RFP.
  3. During the ICANN application process, ZACR then employed a failed campaign trying to convince the ICANN Independent Objector (IO) of filing a false “community” objection against DCA’s application, as well tried to blackmail ICANN by arguing that AUC will “lose faith in ICANN and its structures” if .Africa was not delegated to ZACR. DCA also fought this actions and won.
  4. Concurrently, the “self-endorsing” AUC decided to accept the ICANN Chairman’s advice and the invitation of ICANN GAC Chair to join the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and was allowed to flex its governmental muscle, in first, coordinating a spurious GAC Early Warning, followed by an illegitimate Objection advice against DCA, which ICANN undoubtfully accepted. Subsequently, ICANN lost this decision in its own Independent Review Process (IRP), as an international tribunal of three respected judges told ICANN that they have not followed their own rules, and that DCA did not break any local or national rules to warrant an objection, which turned out to be a victory for DCA.
  5. ICANN losing face against its own long-term advice to the AUC, thus not capable of accepting the IRP outcome and should have passed DCA to the delegation stage, tried to fail DCA again by asking DCA to obtain a second approval from the self-endorsing AUC and its sister organizations. As a result, in January 2016, DCA filed suit against ICANN in California court and won two injunctions enjoining ICANN from delegating the rights to .Africa to ZACR.

Another illegitimate attempt of the AUC, already rejected by the voice of the International community

In reading the high-handed proposal drafted by ATU, typical of an Intergovernmental posturing, it is very obvious it is attempting to come to the rescue of AUC and not necessarily Africa by proposing inter alia,

“the revision of Resolution 47 is to encourage Member States to enhance national reference in the ISCO 3166-2 list with different divisions and subdivisions in order to satisfy the national requirements and needs. It also invites ITU-T to explore ways and means to maintain the right of Member States to request the reservation and to oppose the delegation of any top-level domain (even if it is not included on that list) on the basis of its sensitivity to regional and national interests”.

More perturbing was the quid pro quo voice of the ICANN GAC Chair Thomas Schneider, who was quoted on a conference call between the ICANN board and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) on Thursday, saying

” I’m just urging you about considering what happens if many governments consider that this system does not work. They go to other institutions. If we are not able to defend public interest in this institution we need to go elsewhere, and this is exactly what is happening currently at the ITU Standardization Assembly”. Similar to the actions of ZACR above, Milton Mueller, referred to the statement of Schneider, trying to blackmail ICANN to attain policy objectives that don’t have consensus.

Other voices that have come up against this ATU sponsored proposal include the ICANN Cross Community Working Group on Internet Governance (CCWG-IG) who in a statement have expressed serious concerns about the ATU proposals that it is not a telecommunications standardization issue, and that international law and policy regarding the use of geographic indicators in top level domains is within the remit of ICANN and not the ITU. John Poole, Editor, Domain Mondo also wrote an analytical piece in his News Review: Post-transition ICANN Yells For Help From U.S. Government.

The ATU “Africa Proposal” is the same as the failed AUC “Africa Agenda” Dakar

For the close observer, it is very obvious that this ATU sponsored “African Proposal” is similar to the failed AUC sponsored “Africa Agenda” of Dakar in October 2011, which proposed to reserve the .Africa name and its equivalent in other languages such as .afrique and .afriqya, to the AUC as special legislative protection, in contravention of International policy.

This contravention also extended on the so-called “transparent and open call” for AUC RFP, which called for “Community Application” for what should have been an RFP for a “Standard gTLD”, all in favour of securing the endorsement of those special interest groups. Both ICANN Board and ICANN GAC have ignored this issue, but keep ramping about AUC RFP as part of a legitimate argument to DCA.

DCA is not a “Private Actor” any more than ZACR : Stop Mischaracterization DCA for your own end game!

In an embarrassing mischaracterization of the gTLD process as well as the .Africa application submitted by DCA Trust, the ATU position boldly describes DCA as a “Private actor”. The ATU then lends itself to the voice of the “dotAfrica Foundation” proposed by AUC’s Proxy applicant ZACR to serve the African ccTLD community.

For the record DCA was never invited or asked its opinion or input in this ATU report, that seems to have engaged in the wholesale sponsorship of the partisan views and claims. For an African Intergovernmental Organization that is forcing its views on global policy and on the 1 billion Africans, it would have been respectful to have requested the participation of DCA Trust, the relevant African entity that also has a voice in the matter.

Therefore, we ask the global community to reject ATU’s proposal in its entirety.

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica Group

Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

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