On July 7, Eddy Kayihura, the suspended CEO of Africa’s regional internet registry AFRINIC – was served an official notice warning that, if he continues to exercise his functions in defiance of his recent suspension decreed by the Supreme Court of Mauritius, he will be sued for contempt of court.
The warning represents the latest in a long series of setbacks and scandals for AFRINIC, a non-profit organisation responsible for keeping records of IP addresses allocated within Africa.
Background of the AFRINIC story
In 2016, its former CEO, Adiel Akplogan, was forced to apologise following a racially-charged outburst ahead of the registry’s board elections.
Two years later, sexual harassment and workplace mobbing allegations were levelled at AFRINIC’s chair, vice-chair and financial director by the company’s then head of external relations, and the organisation faced yet another major scandal in 2019 when AFRINIC co-founder, Ernest Byaruhanga, was fired over his role in the embezzlement of IP addresses worth $50 million.
Kayihura, who was appointed Chief Executive Officer in 2019 to clean up AFRINIC’s troubled reputation, has, however, found himself in the middle of successive controversies over the organisation’s governance.
In May, after a majority of AFRINIC’s board resolved to extend the term limits of several board members instead of holding new elections, the Mauritian courts intervened by issuing a temporary injunction to prevent further board appointments.
New concerns surrounding Kayihura and the running of AFRINIC emerged during the organisation’s annual general members meeting (AGMM) that took place in early June.
Throughout the meeting, several members raised questions about apparent irregularities in AFRINIC’s finances and management, opting to vote down the organisation’s financial statement and its choice of an external auditor.
According to reports, the meeting was also marred by allegations of deliberate attempts by the board to deliberately suppress member participation by conducting parts of the session in the absence of a quorum.
The most controversial aspect of the AGMM, however, concerned the composition of the board of directors.
Since four out of nine seats elapsed during the meeting – and with the injunction on new elections still in force – AFRINIC’s board was left without the quorum it needed to continue legally operating and running the organisation. Following the AGMM, however, the remaining members of the board saw fit to appoint a new Chair and Vice-Chair of AFRINIC.
The current makeup of AFRINIC’s board subsequently came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of Mauritius, which ruled on June 30 that the Board, as currently composed, is not lawfully constituted and suspended Kayihura from his post until elections are held to establish an AFRINIC Board of Directors in accordance with the law.
According to the notice issued on July 7, Kayihura has continued to act as CEO despite his suspension by the Supreme Court, opening up the door to proceedings to find him in contempt of court.
The tumultuous events following the AGMM have therefore shrouded AFRINIC’s future in uncertainty. Not only does it remain to be seen whether Kayihura will comply with the latest notice, but AFRINIC’s employees remain uncertain as to who is effectively in charge of the organisation.
With a court-suspended CEO continuing to exercise his functions and a half-empty Board that the Supreme Court of Mauritius has found is not “in existence as per the law”, the regional internet registry is in rocky waters; something which is particularly troubling given its essential role in African internet governance.
As the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa and the Indian Ocean region, AFRINIC is responsible for the distribution and management of Internet number resources consisting of:
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