The fight for the right to run .africa as a top-level domain has been heating up in recent weeks, culminating today in claims of “corruption” and “large-scale illegality”.
The contest has already degenerated into quite a fierce war of words, with allegations of corruption coming from one side and counter-claims of FUD coming from the other.
DCA claims the AfTLD initiative is using “double-dealing” to “unfairly” win the endorsement of the African Union, while AfTLD says DCA is using “intimidation” to get its way.
Under ICANN’s proposed rules, any entity that wants to apply for a TLD purporting to represent a large geographic region must secure the support of 60% of the nations in that region.
It’s not explicit, but it’s quite possible that African Union support may cover this requirement. Backing from the AU therefore could be the deal-breaker for .africa bidders.
DCA has a letter, signed by AU Commission chair Jean Ping, dated August 2009, which offers to support the DCA application.
But there’s good reason to believe that this support may have been revoked last year, and that the AU Commission has opened up its options once more.
The Commission last November annnounced (pdf) a new Task Force, charged with finding an entity to act as the official applicant for .africa when the ICANN new gTLD program opens.
DCA seems to believe that this Task Force has been captured by supporters of the rival AfTLD bid. In a press release today, it says:
there is a dangerous nexus between a certain cabal within the AU Task Force on Dot Africa and the AfTLD – and this nexus has been established in order to disingenuously facilitate ‘insider’ help for AfTLD’s Expression of Interest to the AU and prospective bid to ICANN.
The release goes on to make a number of allegations, such as:
AU Task Force members on DotAfrica are also advisors and confederates of AfTLD. DCA believes that such affiliations are unwholesome and foster corruption, nepotism, abuse of office, and large-scale illegality.
DCA appears to be concerned (to put it lightly), that some of the members of the AU Commission Task Force appear to have conflicts of interest.
The Task Force’s chair, Pierre Dandjinou, and its vice-chair, Nii Quaynor (a former ICANN director) have both previously put their names to a different and now apparently defunct .africa project that also intended to compete with DCA for .africa.
Another member of the Task Force, Abibu Ntahigiye, manager of Tanzania’s .tz domain, also appears to sit on the executive committee of AfTLD as its treasurer.
I’m not sure if any of this cross-pollination meets the definition of “corruption” or “illegality”, but I can understand why DCA is worried.
The DCA press release follows an AfTLD meeting in Ghana last month at which attendees were urged to “don’t believe what others claim” and “entertain no intimidation” when it comes to the .africa contest.
A presentation (pdf) delivered by AfTLD general manager Vika Mpisane says: “AfTLD, just like the AU, recognizes no any alleged pre-endorsements of any alleged bidder by the AU.”
Mpisane has been quoted recently heavily implying that DCA plans to put its commercial interests before the good of Africans, saying:
On one side is the self-serving commercial interest that some entities are already championing; these are entities that are in it purely for the money; on the other side is a community-serving commercial interest that most of the African internet community prefers.
AfTLD says it recently closed an RFP for a back-end registry provider to join its bid for .africa (and .afrique, which it also plans to apply for) and will announce the winner soon.
The AU Commission is expected to launch an RFP for a registry manager to endorse.