How US Court scuttled plans to delegate DotAfrica gTLD at #ICANN55 in Morocco  

The global internet policy community and internet freedom activists were last week gathered in Marrakech, Morocco for the ICANN55 meeting.

The conference, which ran from March 5 – 10, was important for various reasons. One was that it’s finally being held in Morocco after the first scheduled meeting in Morocco was cancelled and moved to Singapore over Ebola fears in 2014 and secondly, this was the last meeting to be addressed by out-going ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade.

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Mr Chehade is a Lebonese-born Egyptian IT expert who has led the global internet body from 2012 and who many viewed with a lot of promise for the continent’s internet policy development as he’s African.

Just two days to the opening of the ICANN55 meeting in Marrakech, the ICANN Board published new resolutions which had alot significance on the issue of the dotAfrica gTLD. The resolutions, published on Thursday March 3, stated in part: “Whereas, on 17 February 2016, an Extended Evaluation report was posted and indicated that the resumed evaluation of DCA’s application for .AFRICA had concluded, and that DCA had failed to submit information and documentation sufficient to meet the criteria described in AGB Section, rendering it ineligible for further review or evaluation… the Board authorizes the President and CEO (of ICANN), or his designee(s), to proceed with the delegation of .AFRICA to be operated by ZACR pursuant to the Registry Agreement that ZACR has entered with ICANN.”

Coming just two days to the meeting, the ICANN Board resolutions was welcome news to those supporting South Africa’s ZACR on the dotAfrica while it left a sour taste in the DCA Trust’s corner.

This prompted DCA Trust to immediately seek legal redress on the matter, moving to United States District Court, Central District Of California, – Western Division. The District Court then granted an Interim Relief for DCA Trust, issuing a decision compelling ICANN to hold off from delegating the dotAfrica to ZACR until the hearing of the matter on April 4, 2016.

In its Ruling, the Court stated: “Upon review of the parties’ arguments, the Court finds serious questions going to the merits. Plaintiff has demonstrated that once the gTLD is issued, it will be unable to obtain those rights elsewhere. Moreover, the injury it will suffer cannot be compensated through monetary damages. In opposition, Defendant states in conclusory fashion only that the African governments and the ICANN community will suffer prejudice if the delegation of the gTLD is delayed.”

The Court ruling thus scattered any plans to delegate the dotAfrica domain to ZACR, with many now convinced that the intention was to have the delegation ceremony at the ICANN55 meeting. This ceremony could have in effect acted as a crowning moment for the outgoing CEO – with Mr Chehade emerging as the African ICANN CEO who through his tenure ensured that dotAfrica gTLD was successfully delegated. But this has now been dealt a permanent blow.

For now, all the teams – ICANN, ZACR and DCA Trust – can only wait for the hearing of the case on Monday April 4 and in which direction it will send the matter.


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