CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

27 April 2014

Kenya: AUC Blocks Sophia Bekele From ITU Event Over Dotafrica Dispute

Even after ICANN recently moved a step closer to controversially delegate the DotAfrica domain to South Africa's ZA Central Registry NPC - which is supported by the African Union - last month, another storm has erupted.

And the new disagreement doesn't involve any new players - it pits DCA's Sophia Bekele against the Africa Union Commission.

Here's the lowdown: Sophia Bekele had been invited to Addis Ababa by the ITU's Regional Office for Africa to deliver a speech during this year's "Girls in ICT" day event held on Thursday April 24 at the AU headquarters.

According to the programme, Ms Bekele was to deliver her speech after the opening remarks by ITU's Regional Director of Africa Andrew Rugege as well as Bethelhem Tilahum, MD, soleRebels. Bekele was to be followed by Dr Elham M.A. Ibrahim, AUC Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy.

However, just before she could deliver her speech, Bekele alleges that the AU - through its Infrastructure Commissioner who was meant to speak after her - blocked her presence, saying that she (Bekele) has a dispute with them (AU).

"I was informed by the organizers that the AU blocked my presence, saying I have a dispute with them on '.africa' including their partner ICANN, so I should not be permitted. They said it was Infrastructure Unit after they saw my name on the invite. However, this was an ITU event and not an AU. They just used the AU premises for holding the event," states Bekele.

DCA has commenced an independent review process (IRP) over its ".africa" domain bid with ICANN which is being facilitated by the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR). DCA Trust sent its Notice of IRP in October 2013. The Notice of IRP came after DCA's dotAfrica application was not allowed to complete processing to the end of Independent Evaluation (IE) by ICANN as a result of GAC Objection, which DCA stated was "unfair, discriminatory, and lacked appropriate due diligence and care" as well as "anti-competitive". Its rival - UniForum's (now renamed ZA Central Registry NPC or Registry.Africa) - application however passed through the IE process.

"Recall I was invited for the ICANN Africa Strategy even at the UNECA, supposedly organized by the AU earlier last year as one of the Experts in the DNS business. Additionally, I was invited as a delegate at the EU/Africa meeting in Brussels few weeks ago and made my comments which were welcome," adds Sophia.

"Bottom line is if the AU conducts itself in such manner over an African, why should the AU deserve to get the '.africa' pan African TLD identity, as it could also block anyone they do not like either from having the identity or simply from blocking a .africa identity should the person have divergent views?"

The ITU's "Girls in ICT Day" aims to help inspire girls to consider a future in technology. It was established in 2010 and supports the global organization of activities every year on the fourth Thursday in April. Over 100 countries held events hosted by governments, private sector and NGOs to mark the day last week.

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