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AFRINIC accused of unlawful lobbying and interference in African governments

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Whistleblowers reveal attempts by the suspended CEO of AFRINIC to unlawfully influence governments across Africa.

(31 August 2022, Abuja Nigeria) AFRINIC, the African Regional Internet Registry, has been accused of excessive abuse of power and unlawful interference in the rule of law and democracy by targeting multiple African countries in an unauthorised and unlawful lobbying campaign. The revelations of unlawful activity by representatives of AFRINIC, a private Mauritius based business, were made during the International Telecommunications Union preparatory meetings being held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Evidence of AFRINIC’s unlawful behaviour has been provided to Number Resource Society , the Nigeria based pan-African non-governmental organization, dedicated to protecting and preserving the integrity and stability of the internet. The evidence of unlawful government lobbying by AFRINIC's now suspended senior management targeting multiple African governments have been provided by whistleblowers and through the disclosure of legal documents.

Members of AFRINIC have continued to express alarm at AFRINIC’s attendance at the preparatory meetings of the African delegation at the ITU Meetings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Whistleblowers have given NRS evidence of a concerted lobbying campaign targeting sovereign governments attending the event, despite having no legal power to do so. Senior government ministers and officials from across Africa have privately expressed alarm at being lobbied by an organisation that has no legal basis to do so.

Speaking from Kenya, Erick Renson of Number Resource Society said: “the revelations that AFRINIC are in Riyadh claiming to represent the interests of Africa’s internet users are alarming. Representatives of AFRINIC have no mandate to speak on behalf of Africa’s internet users because AFRINIC is suspended as an entity. Governments should remind AFRINIC, and its suspended CEO Eddy Kayihura, and any member of staff that they have no mandate to speak until free and fair elections are held for the AFRINIC board.”

Mr Renson continued: “in normal circumstances, lobbying African government countries on behalf of the interests of all members would be welcome but this can only happen after free and fair elections take place and the board of AFRINIC is reinstated. In the meantime, those claim to be representing AFRINIC are either unlawfully acting via a shadow organisation controlled by the suspended CEO and others controlled by him or representing their own personal interests. Either way, they have a historic track record of unlawful activity including allegations of corruption. Africa’s internet users deserves better than AFRINIC's discredited leadership.”

The accusations of unlawful lobbying follow explosive revelations that AFRINIC has attempted to interfere in the rule of law and democracy in the Republic of Mauritius by attempting to publicly intervene to influence ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court of Mauritius. The unlawful move supported by CEOs of other Regional Internet Registries has been widely condemned globally by those who believe that the internet governance should be free from government interference.

Documents obtained by the NRS, show that the former CEO of Afrinic, Eddy Kayihura, colluded with the the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to appoint Directors to AFRINIC to the head of the African Regional Internet Registry in an attempt to bypass the free and fair election procedures provided for in the organization's governance. The suspended Eddy Kayihura, whose tenure concludes at the end of October 2022 decided to sue AFRINIC asking the Supreme Court of Mauritius to appoint the candidates of the ATU to the leadership of Afrinic, on the grounds that the Regional Internet Registry is unable to form a quorum. The revelations sparked outrage globally that internet governance, traditionally governed by a bottom-up member lead approach, was being turned over to government control by the very organization tasked with protecting the rights of internet users.

NRS revealed that Eddy Kayihura, a Rwandan national, unlawfully put forward candidates to the board of AFRINIC including one individual, Lucky Lavender Waindi, who has been accused with other co-accused of having conspired with the intention to defraud a construction company in Kenya, by writing a false investigation report. The seven accused were formally charged by a Kenyan judge and released last March on payment of bail. The appointment – otherwise irregular – of such an individual at the head of the African RIR poses a serious threats to the Internet and Internet users on the continent.

AFRINIC has also been accused of launching an unprecedented attack on one of their member organisations - Seychelles-based Cloud Innovation - making baseless and libelous claims against the organisation in hosting websites containing illegal content, including images of child pornography. Cloud Innovation is an IP management service provider, which does not provide hosting services of any kind. Its customers, including ISP and telecom firms, are hosting millions of websites on Cloud Innovation's IP range. Such hosting service does not give Cloud Innovation or its' customers the legal right to police any of their content on millions of sites across 60 different jurisdiction. Cloud Innovation's customers are solely relying on reporting from third party such as law enforcement agents, and others such as AFRINIC, to act against illegal content. AFRINIC have been reported to authorities in the United States of America and Republic of Mauritius for failure to report the websites to be removed.

It is understood that Africa on Cloud, a South Africa member of AFRINIC, have condemned the behaviour of AFRINIC, calling into question their legal and moral failures in refusing to name the websites hosting illegal content including child pornography. NRS understands that the third largest member of AFRINIC, Cloud Innovation, have been forced to launch legal proceedings against AFRINIC, their suspended CEO, agents and media outlets publishing the allegations.

A spokesperson for Africa on Cloud accused Eddy Kayihura of being “an out of control, illegitimate and discredited figure who is so desperate to cling onto power that he is prepared not to report child pornography websites meaning that they are free to continue to publish their illegal and despicable content.

Whistle-blowers have claimed that AFRINIC have spent in excess of $1million in member's money in campaigning for their unlawful pan-African influence and fake news campaign. Court documents show member's funds of $10million being held in AFRINIC accounts in Mauritius. Questions have been raised by members of the use of their funds for sponsorship of multiple events in Rwanda and attendance of inter-governmental conference despite having no mandate to do so.

It is understood that attempts have been made to secure diplomatic immunity status for AFRINIC in an attempt to protect individuals from prosecution. Reports indicate that these requests have been dismissed by multiple governments.

The amount of money available to the unautorized shadow management team have raised concerns about further allegations of coruption, money laundering and misuse of funds opening up AFRINIC staff to potential prosecution.

AFRINIC's Mauritius based staff are understood to have expressed concern that they are being instructed to undertake unlawful activities, including the use of member's funds, by senior managers under the influence of the suspended CEO. NRO have urged that junior members of AFRINIC staff should be given legal protection from the instructions given to them.

The further allegations against suspended CEO Eddy Kayihura compound a disastrous period at Africa’s regional internet registry that includes allegations of corruption including the resale of addresses on the black market along with proven cases of sexual harassment that has tarnished the image of AFRINIC.

International delegates met in Riyadh from August 28-31 to discuss the future of global digital communications ahead of ITU's 2022 Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest Romania from 26 September-14 October 2022. Hosted by Saudi Arabia's digital regulator, the Communications & Information Technology Commission (CITC), and chaired by Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, the Preparatory Meeting will help the ITU craft the next four years of its global agenda ahead of the 2022 elections.

About Number Resource Society

The Number Resource Society (NRS) is the vanguard for registering the IP address of members of the Number Resource Government Body and everyone who has a shared interest in preserving the stability of the Internet. The establishment of NRS and its ideals represent the advanced growth and understanding of internet numbers registration. Society’s fundamental interest is to protect the Internet’s stability, a fundamental foundation of social stability. NRS’s core beliefs and values are an unlimited, unrestricted, and united Internet that relies on a global free market and enterprise with excellent transparency and accountability. The establishment of the Society is an advocacy of the Internet’s stability, which can only be achieved by individuals and private companies having complete freedom in managing their networks and recognizing the Internet as “one”, beyond nationality, race, religion, and ideology.

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