Why the NRO is defending AFRINIC  

26/07/2022

By Paul Wilson – Director General at APNIC

Originally published here 

In recent weeks, the NRO has released two letters in support of AFRINIC, the Regional Internet address Registry for Africa. This was prompted by the recent series of challenges to AFRINIC, entailing some 40 different legal actions which have included a lengthy injunction suspending AFRINIC’s bank accounts, lawsuits against individual staff and directors, and a widely reported damages claim for USD $1.8 billion.

At APNIC we believe that this situation has seriously challenged the stability of AFRINIC, and in fact threatened its very existence. As an RIR, AFRINIC plays an extremely important role in the global management of the Internet, and these threats to the organisation also threaten the Internet in Africa, and elsewhere. This is of vital concern to the NRO and to APNIC, and we believe to all members of the RIR communities.

The NRO’s first letter appealed to the African community to come together in support of its RIR, AFRINIC; affirming that “the regional activities and policy process of an RIR are solely in the hands of [the AFRINIC] community, but the health of those processes is of paramount importance to the global Internet community.”

In the second letter, the NRO addressed the Government of Mauritius, at AFRINIC’s request, to draw attention to the seriousness of the current situation. With this letter, the NRO felt that it was essential to highlight the risk of disproportionate damage to the Internet which may be caused, inadvertently or not, by individuals pursuing private interests through legal processes (whether or not they are entitled to do so).  We also felt it was appropriate and necessary to reiterate the reasons for AFRINIC’s original choice of Mauritius as its operational base.

We respect and understand that RIR Members may sometimes have disputes with the decisions or governance of their RIR; and also, that there may be concerns with governance and operational decisions of any RIR which may legitimately result in legal actions.  While those processes must of course be resolved through established mechanisms, we felt strongly obliged to highlight the current risks and try to have them better understood.   

As a co-author of the NRO letters, I recognise there may be parts which community members do not agree with; but in writing this post I hope for your understanding of why APNIC has stood in support of AFRINIC on this matter.  This is not only in support of one of the NRO’s members, but moreover in support of the health and stability of the RIR system, which is in turn in the interests of all APNIC Members.

Readers will no doubt hear more about the situation at AFRINIC from various sources as the legal process progresses.  I urge members of the community to take an active interest in these events, and a critical approach to information which is received.  But moreover I urge community members to continue to support the vital role of all RIRs, including AFRINIC, to join its community of members in defence of its stability and continued operations, and to seek positive solutions to whatever challenges are faced.

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