Pride goeth before a fail: African Union and UniForum SA.should beware of Wrongdoing on dotAfrica
March 6, 2012
The attention of the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign has been drawn to various media reports published on Internet web sites (for example, www.mybroadband.co.za and www.businessdailyafrica.com regarding the putative selection of UniForum S.A. as the registry operator of the DotAfrica gTLD by the African Union Commission (AUC). Some other Internet media reports also mention that UniForum has received an ‘endorsement from the AU’ for the administration of the DotAfrica gTLD.
Most of these reports are quite misleading since a firm cannot be selected to administer a domain that has not yet been delegated, even as we understand the very impossibility of the African Union mainstreaming itself strategically within a particular proposal in a policy-oversight role whilst also playing the tactical role of a ‘self-endorsing’ entity in order to singularly control the fate of DotAfrica. It is therefore important to set the records straight in the global public interest
Against the backdrop that DCA already received the AU endorsement for DotAfrica since 2009, and despite several dishonest attempts to deny or invalidate and withdraw the endorsement through various acts of sabotage including using a forged letter of unknown provenance, DCA has remained steadfast and undaunted; and has continued with its independent promotional campaign in pursuit of its objective of applying for DotAfrica through the ICANN new gTLD programme, .
Therefore, DCA would like to issue this statement in reaction to these misleading and deceptive news reports that have been published (or ‘planted’) on Internet web sites with the sole objective of manipulating public opinion and giving false momentum to UniForum’s DotAfrica application prospects.
- 1. We hereby denounce the entire exercise as illegitimate and all those who are party to it, including the members of the AU Task Force on DotAfrica, have participated in an act of illegality. In the not too distant future, they will all be called to account fully for their actions.
- 2. In addition to this public denunciation of a very illegitimate exercise that only gives credence to the fact that UniForum is now the principal beneficiary of wholesale illegality, we hereby warn any prospective collaborators not to associate themselves with this tainted process; and also use this opportunity to unequivocally warn SEDARI not to cooperate with them and allow itself to be used to render any strategic, technical, or registry management services advise in connection with the DotAfrica gTLD; but to stay away from this initiative, and not soil its international image in a corrupt process that we believe is already associated with the selection of UniForum. By openly announcing its cooperation with UniForum in this matter, we believe that SEDARI will be joining itself to illegality by cooperating with UniForum, and the expected benefits of such cooperation will pale in comparison to the reputational risk that it will suffer.
3. The Yes2DotAfrica Campaign had already identified many problems with the AU RFP in December 2011, and DCA has decided at a very early stage not to participate in the AU RFP process to select an operator for the DotAfrica registry. For this reason, Yes2DotAfrica will not accept any questionable endorsement or selection of UniForum that is the putative outcome of a flawed and illegitimate exercise.
If it is generally accepted that the DotAfrica gTLD does not belong to the African Union (AU) but to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), how could the AU legitimately select a registry operator for a gTLD that it does not own?
4. If the as yet un-delegated gTLD namespace rightfully belonged to the African Union, then ICANN would have given it to them following their official request in Dakar Senegal to have the DotAfrica name, and similar strings in any language included in the Top-Level Reserved Names List for their sole benefit. In our view, the ICANN Board’s equable decision not to reserve this name for the AU was a total repudiation of the e-sovereignty concept. If ICANN by its very decision during the last quarter of 2011 not to reserve the DotAfrica name for the AU already determined, ipso facto, that the un-delegated DotAfrica gTLD does not belong to the African Union, why should we give any credence to the questionable selection of UniForum as the registry operator of DotAfrica in a process overseen by the AU DotAfrica Task Force acting under the aegis of the African Union?
5. We strongly believe that the AU is simply one stakeholder in a multi-stakeholder process, and cannot single-handedly outsource, or contract with any organization or participate in the process of selecting a registry operator for a DotAfrica gTLD that it does not own, nor is within its right to delegate. The AU cannot mainstream itself within a particular proposal and endorse the same proposal when it does not possess any sovereignty or ownership over DotAfrica gTLD as an Internet resource that belongs legally to ICANN.
6. We wish to inform the global public that the entire process was fraught with irregularities and injustice, favoritism and conflict of interest, when critically examined from every angle, completely falls short of the proper ethical standards of probity and accountability. First, the executives of UniForum SA had attempted to use Domain Names Services (Pty) Ltd. (DNS) (a company wholly owned by them) to perpetrate a questionable tie-up with Convergence Investment Partners (CIP) and consummate the formation of the African Registry Consortium (ARC), and when this was exposed by the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign as a potential BEE scam that reeked of rent-seeking and business opportunism, the ARC arrangement failed.
7. The question that we should all ask is: how did the executives of UniForum who had attempted the formation of ARC with the BEE Group, and when that effort failed due to lack of community support and AU endorsement, the same executives are now claiming in the media that they have been selected and endorsed by the AU to run the DotAfrica registry? It is quite obvious that these same management – and directors of DNS (Pty.) Ltd. – who failed in their potential BEE scam over ARC have now decided to run the gauntlet themselves and try to launder their image afresh with the African Union Commission. These people should be thoroughly investigated, and not lionized for having been illegitimately selected to operate a DotAfrica registry that is not within the powers of the African Union to delegate.
8. We believe that it is important to sensitize all those who believe in justice, truth, honesty and accountability all over the world to hold the AU up to the strictest ethical standards in this matter, and let them explain how this matter was handled that resulted in the selection of a discredited special interest group that comprises of potential BEE scammers and their cohorts in the AU DotAfrica Task Force, a Cabal that, following the failure of the ARC proposal (‘Plan A’), is now using UniForum, a non-profit, as a convenient existing vehicle (‘Plan B’) to foster their illegitimate objectives with a view to gaining respectability before the global public.
9. We urge the AU Commission, as a respected inter-governmental organization, to act like ICANN whose gTLD programme activities in the global public interest compels it to be transparent and accountable in its transactions including recording and publishing every necessary information such as Board discussions and minutes for the consumption of the global public.
10. Therefore, we hereby challenge the African Union to act immediately in the greater interest of global public transparency and accountability, to release forthwith, the details of the EOI process and the RFP;
- indicate which firms and organizations participated in it,
- what they had each proposed;
- how they were evaluated,
- what merit-based system was employed in the evaluation of the respective proposals,
- the relative scores obtained by each evaluated participant,
- the final rankings and how the decision was arrived at to select UniForum South Africa as ‘an African-based registry’;
- the final evaluation committee minutes that were taken during the meeting to decide on the selection,
- the names of those who assented to those minutes;
- the decision of the AU Tenders Board to approve the selection of UniForum S.A.
10. and the official signatories to that decision
11. and finally make a full disclosure of all these through a public media announcement.
11. We also call upon the ICANN Governmental Advisory Council (GAC) and all African governments including those represented at ICANN to hold the African Union Commission satisfy all these aspects of probity and insist that it conforms to these ideals of transparency and accountability over DotAfrica and make full disclosure as detailed under (10) above.
12. We reaffirm our faith in the ICANN-led process as the only transparent structure that we shall follow over DotAfrica, and insist that the eventual fate of DotAfrica can only be determined by ICANN, the only organization empowered to create DotAfrica and introduce it into the root zone of the Internet.
Until the application season is over, and all gTLD applications are subsequently evaluated and legitimate winners announced by ICANN, we believe that it is very premature for UniForum to presumptuously undertake any unnecessary self-promotion in the media that it has been selected to operate the DotAfrica registry by an inter-governmental organization that does not have the pertinent rights to the resource.
No one is fooled. Pride goeth before a fail. If UniForum had indeed been selected by the African Union, then a formal announcement should have been made by AU. In the absence of any such official confirmation, we think UniForum has simply been seeking cheap publicity whilst engaging in media manipulation.
13. We reiterate that the AU’s selection of a registry operator for a gTLD resource that it does not own is legally problematic, and does not in any way constitute a legitimate endorsement, and, as we shall continue to demonstrate, these types of activities by UniForum and their cohorts within the AU DotAfrica Task Force only highlight the difficult road ahead for DotAfrica.
14. We hereby call on all the supporters of DCA in Africa and other continents and regions to remain steadfast and unperturbed, since we remain totally committed to this struggle for the achievement of an open and independent DotAfrica gTLD and keep it free from the clutches and sinister influence of the Cabal which intends to hijack it by any means necessary.
Having therefore issued this open warning to UniForum and the AU to beware of wrongdoing over DotAfrica, if the eventual delegation of DotAfrica is continuously delayed, or Africans are denied the opportunity of realizing their vision of having the first ever geographic TLD for the benefit of the people of the continent, history will record the role played by these two organizations in this matter for the harsh judgment of posterity. We also believe that the executives of UniForum S.A. will be severally and collectively called to account and will not be spared the same harsh judgment for whatever role they have played in this saga.
The harshest judgment will be reserved for the members of AU DotAfrica Task Force who inveigled the AU to deviate from the right path over DotAfrica. First, they preached the idea of uniting all Africans under a community-driven agenda, but have now turned around instead to promote a South African agenda that is now represented by UniForum and its self-serving executives.
Public Communications Team
Nairobi, Kenya, 05 March 2012
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