DCA’s Response to Mr. Neil Dundas of UniForum ZA Central Registry on AfrICANN Email List
August 30, 2012
Dear Mr. Neil Dundas plus other interested interlocutors gathered in this forum;
There is no argument regarding whether .Africa (DotAfrica) is a geographic name gTLD or not. Everyone knows that a gTLD application for the ‘Africa’ geographic name will be treated by the ICANN Evaluation as a geographic gTLD application. The new gTLD guidebook requirements and stipulations are quite clear regarding how geographic TLDs will be evaluated, and DCA Trust therefore expects its application for the ‘Africa’ geographic name string to be evaluated accordingly. The issue of ‘.Africa’, ‘DotAfrica’, or ‘DotdotAfrica’, is actually immaterial because the matter was immediately brought to the attention of ICANN in June, and we expect that the string name issue will be sorted out very soon based on ICANN’s acknowledgement and confirmation of the report made by DCA Trust.
However, Mr. Neil Dundas has spent a lot of time trying to explain that .Africa is by definition, only a geographic TLD. Neil Dundas has deliberately tried to avoid providing the pertinent clarification that was required of him to explain why his organization, having received support to apply on behalf of the African Community, failed to submit a Community TLD application based on its answers to ICANN Evaluation Question Numbers 19 and 20. DCA Trust has already articulated the issues clearly enough in its initial posting, and there is no need to restate the facts of the matter for anyone’s benefit. One early contributor had also asked UniForum to clarify for the interest of the community, but this request was intentionally ignored.
We believe that it is also important for everyone to know that a Geographic name string could also be a Community name string. In other words, the same TLD can be considered both ‘Geographic’ and ‘Community’ at the same time. For instance, there were a total of eleven (11) Geographic Names that were applied for as Community-based strings in this current round. (See for example, http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/statistics) We believe this is what the African Union Commission and its Task Force advisers probably had in mind when they unambiguously stated inter alia in their RFP document (to select a registry operator for DotAfrica): “the winning bidder should bear in mind that “this is a geographical TLD which should be run on behalf of the community”, and “Collaborate with the Internet community on the project” and “Lead the effort to create an active domain name community in Africa” .http://www.au.int/en/content/request-proposals-african-union-commission-operation-dot-africa
Moreover, the Community TLD designs on DotAfrica have always been evident. For example, Nii Quaynor, a self-appointed African Internet Community leader who is active in this forum, and one of the most unrepentant arch-opponents of DCA and the chief architect of the ‘AU leadership and ownership of DotAfrica’ paradigm had written in a public email: “I think its more responsible for the regional organization (AUC) to hold the string in public trust and have policy oversight, especially so with these likes of practices of DCA. This has been what the African community has helped to achieve.”
Thus, from both the AU RFP document and the above statement that has been attributed to Nii Quaynor, who was also a member of the AU Task Force on DotAfrica, we can tell that the African Community has been led to believe that it can exercise both ownership and leadership of DotAfrica as a community-owned gTLD string, and that the appointed registry operator can run the geographic TLD on behalf of the community. Therefore Neil Dundas’ attempt to insist that DotAfrica is only a geographic TLD is clearly inconsistent with the AU’s position and the position that was earlier advanced (either rightly or wrongly) by Dr. Nii Quaynor regarding what he believes the African Community has helped to achieve.
It is obvious that UniForum is the principal beneficiary as a recipient of a Community TLD endorsement for a geographic name string that it was supposed to apply for on behalf of the African Community, but now insists that .Africa is a geographic TLD only and not a Community TLD. If it is not a Community TLD why did the AU and Dr. Nii Quaynor adopt their positions regarding Community leadership and ownership of DotAfrica? If DotAfrica is not a Community TLD, why the overt Community interest in owning it; or the Community clearly insisting that the geographic TLD must be “run on behalf of the community”, apparently for its sole benefit?
Neil Duncan Dundas, who now speaks for UniForum (as the principal applicant contact) and ‘Africa In One Space’ cannot claim to be ignorant of the above antecedents. For reasons best known to you, you have clearly elected to characterize your application as not for any Community, the African Community included, even though you continue to insist on having the support of the African Community for this non-Community TLD application that you have presently submitted. Leaving aside for a minute, the manifest incongruity of UniForum’s application “not being designated as a Community TLD application, but having Community support because the resulting TLD must be run on behalf of the Community”, there are two possible conclusions that could be immediately drawn:
(1) either the Community is wrong for thinking that it can legally own a geographic TLD because the selected registry operator has been asked to run it on behalf of the Community; or,
(2) UniForum, by not submitting a Community TLD application on behalf of the Community as it was supposed to (or as was expected of it), has attempted to cheat the Community by committing an outright fraud. Whatever conclusion is drawn, the purported endorsement of UniForum as the selected applicant on behalf of the African Community can no longer remain valid after the fact. If the Community is wrong by getting the AU to select a registry operator for a geographic TLD that must be “run on behalf of the community” the purported endorsement cannot remain legitimate, and in similar manner, if UniForum has been fraudulent, this should legally invalidate the purported endorsement that it received.
The truth of the matter as we know it is that UniForum received a letter of appointment (either equivalent to, or substituting for an endorsement) from the AU Commission to apply for a geographic TLD on behalf of the African Community. The AU Communiqué on DotAfrica that was published around the 29th of March 2012 is very unambiguous to the extent that it unmistakably mentions: “the AU Commission selected UniForum SA (the ZA Central Registry Operator or ZACR), to administer and operate dotAfrica gTLD on behalf of the African community.” The same Communiqué also indicated that: “Shortly after its appointment, the ZACR, in consultation with Internet Community representatives from all over Africa, at a meeting held in Johannesburg, established a Steering Committee to exercise moral and ethical oversight over the dotAfrica project. Representatives of the broader African Internet community are currently participating in the project through the Steering Committee and which comprises African Internet experts, Country Code managers, Registrars and others volunteering for a better Internet for Africa.” http://www.au.int/en/sites/default/files/AUC-dotAfrica-Communique-.pdf
No one is fooled: The AU Commission appointed UniForum to apply on behalf of the African Community, and as soon as it received the appointment, UniForum had consulted with the Internet Community regarding their involvement and participation, so this has community written all over it, even though the only thing now missing is an actual Community TLD application which UniForum did not submit to ICANN on behalf of the African Community.
Like they say, if it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and behaves like a duck, chances are that it is a duck. Simply trying to explain it away as not a duck, but a water-bird will not suffice.
Now, the crux of the matter is that UniForum has not submitted any application on behalf of the African Community, but keeps insisting that it has community support even though such support has been clearly nullified by its failure to submit a DotAfrica application on behalf of the African Community. This is why we insist that UniForum’s application is absolutely fraudulent, and if the people in this forum, because of their partisan leanings fail to see it for what it truly is, perhaps, the ICANN Evaluation will, or perhaps a competent court somewhere will be able to make the juridical determination that UniForum’s endorsement is no longer legitimate following their failure to submit a DotAfrica (DotAfrica) application on behalf of the African Community. It is quite evident that UniForum has reneged on the understanding that it was selected to apply on behalf of the African Community and did not make a Community TLD application as was expected of it, and this needs no further elaboration. We are quite confident that the necessary legal proofs can be established in due course, but not in this forum since most people here are deliberately refusing to admit the truth to themselves.
Finally, DCA hereby insists that Africa In One Space as a community-defined group whose interest relates to the ownership of DotAfrica is not a legally registered organization. We would like to see proof of its establishment, such as registration papers and other credentials. The registration documents of UniForum as a legal/corporate entity operating in South Africa cannot serve nor substitute as the registration documents for Africa In One Space. As Africans, we must try to ensure that whatever we do should satisfy any form of legal scrutiny.